Rev up your little scooter and your appetite, and take off to discover Bermuda’s amazing range of restaurants and cafés, which offer everything from traditional Bermudian dishes — such as fish cakes and onion tarts — to international cuisine, including Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, French, Cantonese, Portuguese and Middle Eastern. Everywhere you look, you’ll discover delectable cuisine that will tempt your taste buds.
Though you can enjoy food of all types in Bermuda, you must try the local traditional meals whenever possible during your visit. Bermudian food combines the best of the Old and New Worlds and mixes it with mid-Atlantic goodness. Because of this, for most new arrivals, our food seems oddly familiar, even if it might be the first time they try it. Let’s start with the basics.
Fish chowder is the backbone of every Bermudian kitchen. Thought to have arrived with settlers in the 17th century, this savoury dish — which has more of a soup quality than a true chowder — consists of a stock made with local fish, such as rockfish, in a tomato base. Fish fillets and a number of vegetables and spices may be added, and variations on the recipe run the gamut. There is only one rule to follow with Bermuda fish chowder: It must be seasoned with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers Sauce. Go easy on both of these condiments if you’ve never used them before; though they enhance the flavour of the dish, a little of either goes a long way.
Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers is the hot sauce of Bermuda. Centuries ago, sailors used a mixture of sherry and hot peppers to season their spoiled rations in order to mask the taste.
Bermudians adopted this condiment and introduced it to their cuisine. But it was not until the 1960s, when Yeaton Duval Outerbridge developed his own version of this sherry peppers sauce, that it became a true icon of the island. You’ll find this hot sauce in just about every restaurant on the island, and the fiery concoction can be added to almost any dish, not just fish chowder.
Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, meanwhile, is one of the unofficial ambassadors of Bermuda. Used in many dishes and cocktails, it has been made since 1857. It received its “seal” in the early days, when purchasers stopped by the Gosling store in Hamilton to fill their own bottles with rum straight from the cask. These were then sealed with black sealing wax. As mentioned, the rum is used not only in drinks but also as a seasoning in many dishes, including fish chowder and rum cake. Rum cake is very much a dessert that’s cherished in Bermuda. Whilst the English rum cake tradition is not exclusive to Bermuda, only Bermuda’s cakes are made with the distinct flavour of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.
Portuguese red bean soup has given Bermudian fish chowder a run for its money as the signature dish of the island because of its popularity with locals and visitors alike. It is believed to have been brought by sailors and immigrants from the Azores and has since become a staple of Bermuda’s cuisine. This hearty dish includes beans and chorizo, which can already be seasoned to be hot, and often includes an extra kick of cayenne pepper. And if that’s not enough, you can always add some sherry peppers sauce to it for good measure.
Cassava pie is not something that you’ll find on the menu every day, but if you’re visiting around Christmastime, you may see it offered, as it is part of a traditional holiday meal. This concoction dates back to 1612 and is not a dessert but, rather, a sweet and savoury main course consisting of cassava, eggs, chicken, pork, sugar and nutmeg.