The mood was dire as the truth sunk in: we were going to miss the most important culinary event in Belize, if not all of Central America.
Even the aromatic coffee made from organic local beans and the freshly baked bagel smothered in cream cheese did nothing to lighten our mood as we ambled down the road.
The sleepy beach town is a home from home for thousands of Americans – attracted by their country’s close relationship with Belize, where English is widely spoken in a lilting Creole accent, and the spectacular Caribbean coast.
We strolled down to the tip of town, where the long peninsula trails off into the glass-clear sea. Beach huts advertising boat tours were dotted around, but we were drawn to a small thatched stall, where trails of steam billowed from the eaves. “Whole grilled lobsters available Friday,” said the sign. It was Wednesday. The grinning old lady confirmed our fears – but gave us a glimmer of hope. Local fishermen were already starting to find the spiny crustaceans, which appear in great numbers off the Belize coastline for a short period each year.
“Check out Omar’s tonight”, she suggested. If anyone had fresh lobster, it would be him.
When we arrived at Omar’s Restaurant that night, just after nine, the chef and owner were at the bar, enjoying a post-work beverage. “We’re closed brother,” said one of them. “Come back tomorrow – we just brought in a fresh haul,” he said, gesturing to the stacks of lobster boxes on the terrace.
Our bus left town at 6am. I told him our predicament, hints of desperation in my voice. They looked at each other, then after a long pause, invited us to take a seat.
Twenty minutes later, two glossy, grilled lobsters appeared at our table, swimming in lemon and garlic butter, served with a mound of white rice and fried plantain: simple and perfect. “I hope that’s ok?” asked the chef.
I’ve eaten lobster in posh restaurants and high-end hotels all over the world, but it has never tasted as good as it did that night; fresh from the boat, cooked to perfection, and served under a thatched roof metres away from the Caribbean.
[Images : Belize Tourism Board]
Do Check out Belize according to her here