Consumed by CocoMaya
From the sea, CocoMaya appears to be an oversized beach hut with three tall, thatched roofs supported by wooden poles as big as tree trunks and few walls to obstruct the breeze or the view through the restaurant to the lush, bouldered hillside. Architect Viviana Jenik created a seaside masterpiece that transforms at every turn—from beach bar to romantic restaurant to cocktail lounge. Guests with bare feet can comfortably mingle with those in high heels at this exquisite, multi-level locale that turns its patrons into chameleons, depending on which part of the property they may find themselves.
Owner Jen Bogdany’s exquisite eye for design created a combination of rustic and refined accents to complement the architecture and setting, but this should be no surprise since Jen is also the mastermind who perfected barefoot indulgence at nearby Baraka Point Estate.
The main dining room and its awe-inspiring view.
When I first arrived at CocoMaya, before the sun set, I felt like an explorer among the boulders beside the restaurant on the beach. Beer in hand, I followed a sandy path and discovered benches strategically built-in to the granite boulders—tucked-away spots for lounging in the shade not far from Fort George. The secret alcoves enticed me to hatch some schemes of my own. This is, after all, a place once ruled by pirates, according to HLSCC professor Dr Mitch Kent. Turtledoves cooed and gulls cried nearby, enticing me to head back to the beach where I sat on a sun lounger and enjoyed the view of Beef Island, Tortola and the Dog Islands while the waves wove patterns on the shore.
My solitude soon changed to merriment as friends arrived, so I slipped into my shoes and moved to CocoMaya’s wraparound bar—glass aggregate made from bits of broken bottles found on the site—where mixologist Corey Kidd offered me a cohiba, a vodka cocktail with fresh blackberries, lemon and lime. We ordered a sushi platter at the bar and soon snacked on spicy tuna rolls, salmon rolls and the Virgin Gorda roll—mango, scallions, tomato, cilantro, and panko shrimp—as well as a selection of fresh nigiri and two decorative (but edible) langoustines. As I nibbled on the sushi and complimented Chef Stevie Thompson’s creations, I chatted with co-owners Aaron Seddon and Kim Takeuchi about Virgin Gorda’s newest restaurant. “We wanted to have a fun, chilled out vibe,” Kim said, adding that she thinks the beach access, fire pit, bar and front lawn with a grass stage (where they hope to have mini-concerts in the future) will encourage a relaxed atmosphere. On the other hand, Aaron added, the dining room and upstairs lounge certainly have an upscale, intimate feel.
With sunset cocktails in hand, this time a fruity creation called a Cinnamon Girl, we relocated to CocoMaya’s main dining room for tapas: tacos with halibut and mango salsa; tacos with hoisin duck confit, sour cream and chives; beef carpaccio with marinated mushrooms and wasabi mayo; empanadas of duck with spiced apple puree; and empanadas of short ribs with papaya slaw. A quiet, candlelit table for two allowed me to catch up with one of my pals from Tortola who had recently moved to Virgin Gorda. With the fire pit blazing on the beach, the palms rustling, and the full moon shining through the open retractable roof onto the sea, I understood a comment Kim had made about incorporating the elements into the design of the restaurant.
Friends enjoy a savory sushi platter; the upstairs lounge provides an intimates dining setting.
Though full from the sushi and tapas, I perused CocoMaya’s menu and found many tempting options. There I discovered dishes such as red snapper ceviche with baby grape tomatoes, red onion, lime cilantro and blood orange. Other menu items include chargrilled fillet; pad thai; ginger pork belly; and pan-seared teriyaki chicken supreme with Asian greens, coconut rice and reduced soy jus. While some of the gang continued dining, I joined a small group down on a cushioned lounging platform by the fire pit. Unlike a wood-burning campfire, the subtle blue and yellow gas flames did not get too hot, so we could appreciate the beauty of the flickering fire without having to back away from too much heat.
The upstairs lounge at CocoMaya transported me yet again. While the electronica set the mood, and I settled back into one of the cosy orange sofas with an aloe/cucumber gin and tonic, I couldn’t believe I had been swilling a beer on the beach earlier that evening, aligning myself to the pirates that once walked these shores. Once in the loft lounge, I felt refreshed and energized, like a globe-trotting socialite who had just stepped off a superyacht or private jet.
Unfortunately, a private jet was not waiting for me; rather, a Speedy’s ferry, so I had to depart before the upstairs lounge turned into a dance party—something I would not be surprised to see and something else to look forward to for my next visit.
CocoMaya, in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, is open for dinner, happy hour and late-night cocktails Monday through Saturday and soon will be open for brunch on the weekends.
CocoMaya from the beach. Photo by Charlie Smith. All other photos by Dan O’Connor.
Tel: +1(284)495 6344
Fax: +(284) 495 6397