Here's Why Nassau's Baha Mar Should Be Your Next Foodie Destination
Michael Schwartz is the type of chef who enjoys sharing his food. I mean that literally—he split his own dinner with me.
During the opening of the James Beard Award-winning Miami chef’s Fi’lia restaurant at SLS Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas, when a colleague brought him a plate of food, he insisted a second fork be brought for me as we settled into the end of a couch. Schwartz balanced the plate in one hand while we picked at zucchini and prime rib coated in a parsley sauce, chatting about his first restaurant to open in this Caribbean country.
Schwartz’s flight to the Bahamas was delayed from South Florida, and he unfortunately turned up an hour after the ribbon cutting. He also showed up hungry, which was not unfortunate. Carving stations, meatball dishes, passed hors d’oeuvres, and even the Fi’lia brand’s famous tableside Caesar salad, were all being prepared for guests.
“Fi’lia checks a box the other restaurants don’t,” says Schwartz of his Italian restaurant concept, which complements a roster turning the Baha Mar mega-resort into a foodie destination.
If you think you’ve dined at Fi’lia before, you likely have. It’s part of the sbe brand and opened its first location inside SLS Brickell two years ago. While the chef and restaurateur is best known for Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami’s Design District, and his latest launch of Amara at Paraiso, Fi’lia pays homage to the beginning of Schwartz’s career—bussing tables at an Italian eatery in Philadelphia. It’s also a tribute to his family, as “fi’lia” loosely translates to “daughter,” and Schwartz is the father of two.
His restaurant at Baha Mar joins other sbe brands familiar to South Floridians, like the Japanese restaurant Katsuya and Mediterranean restaurant Cleo.
“The Bahamas is one of the most beautiful beach destinations on earth, and we’re excited to make it one of the best dining destinations,” Sebastien Silvestri, senior vice president of food and beverage at sbe, said in a statement after the Fi’lia launch.
New to Nassau
The Baha Mar is a $4.2 billion beachfront resort comprised of three hotels—the Grand Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood—all connected to the Caribbean’s largest casino.
The property had a bit of a rocky start with its initial opening planned for 2014. However, a bout of lawsuits, bankruptcy and a change in ownership delayed its launch.
Now, much of the mega-resort is open—the Grand Hyatt (launched last spring) and SLS (opened during fall)—with the Rosewood planned to celebrate its debut during the coming months.
Amenities that are up-and-running include the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course; Baha Mar Racquet Club; 100,000-foot casino; convention center; and BOND nightclub. When all is said and done, there will be more than 30 luxury retail outlets, 2,300 rooms and 30-plus restaurants and lounges. That’s not to mention the family- and adult-only pools, and the 2-mile span of white sandy beach, lapped by clear, blue ocean water, tucked behind the resort.
Tour for the Taste Buds
The day should start with coffee and a freshly baked pastry from Café Madeleine, meant to mimic a Parisian eatery with wicker bistro chairs and ceramic tiled tables. “We call it the luxury of choice,” says Baha Mar PR manager Vanessa Christie of the around-the-world dining options spread along the perimeter of the casino, including a Pan-Latin eatery called Drift and a buffet experience with an array of global fair at Regatta Food Hall.
A standout in the Baha Mar repertoire is Shuang Ba, a luxury Chinese restaurant adorned with hand-woven silk tapestries and multi-ton dragon marble pillars. Try the “cherry” foie gras or the signature barbecue Peking duck, served with steamed spinach pancakes, scallion, cucumber and a secret sauce.
And for a taste of local cuisine, the Conch Shack by the pier preps a citrusy conch salad to be washed down with a Bahamian Kalik beer. Or, at the Out Island Bar, which stands in place of the 1950s Nassau Beach Resort, order a Bahama Mama—the cocktail was allegedly first concocted at the site.
Food & Wine magazine recently posed: “Is Nassau the next culinary capital of the Caribbean?” With the arrival of celebrity chef brands to an extensive assortments of ethnic eats, we venture a “yes.”
IF YOU GO
Stay at the SLS Baha Mar, the resort’s chic, mature property with nearly 300 guest rooms set in a pastel-pink building. Each room uses white-on-white decor with light blue accents and comes accessorized with tablets to simplify the making of dinner and cabana reservations. At ground level, visit the lobby’s Monkey Bar to order cocktails like the Lotus Flower, which mixes Grey Goose, blackberries, St. Germain elderflower and fresh lemon. Or step outside to access the SLS’s two designated pools, the Bungalow Pool and Privilege Pool; slshotels.com/bahamar.
Dine at Fi’lia, James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz’s second location for the restaurant brand created for sbe. The meal starts off how any Italian dinner should—with a basket of bread to dip in olive oil and oregano cut right from the stem (the waiter will snip a piece off the plant at the center of the table). Interaction doesn’t end there, as guests who request the Caesar salad get to see it prepped tableside with Parmigiano and toasted garlic croutons. For the main course, it may feel banal to order Sam’s Chicken Parm, but do it anyways. And remember, the gym at the Grand Hyatt is open to anyone staying at the resort, so don’t feel bad about licking the plate; sbe.com/restaurants/locations/filia-at-baha-mar.
Play at Bahamas Jet Boat, a touristy water experience. While the resort offers complimentary kayaking, paddleboarding and sailboating, you may just want to instead board this speedboat and be told to throw your arms up roller-coaster style while crashing into your neighbor. If you’ve ever done doughnuts during a blizzard in a parking lot up north, this is a similar thrill—but on the ocean. It’s also a great way to see neighboring resorts; bahamasjetboat.com.