French Fusion & All The New Culinary Experiences at Matachica Resort, Belize

by Carolee Chanona

Chock-full of azure-tinged activities, Ambergris Caye has long been a laidback diver’s enclave filled with fresh seafood, lively beach bars, cobblestone streets and and zero ostentatiousness. Belize as a whole has largely flown under the radar in the Caribbean, save for those who enjoyed Mother Nature’s best kept secret all for themselves—until now. These days, the country’s number one tourism destination continues to bubble with hip, smart energy, attracting new restaurants, retail, and even exciting hotels such as Alaia Belize, an Autograph Hotel from Marriott. And with a burgeoning culinary tourism scene on the island beckoning the best fusions in tow, Matachica Resort & Spa is carving its way through with the reimagined Mambo Bistro menu: the beachside casual partner to its reinvented white tablecloth Mambo Restaurant.

France meets French Canada on a beach in Belize

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The chefs at Matachica Resort from left to right: Iris Cerredo, Stephen Lighter, Léon Cerredo.

Spearheaded by Chef Léon Cerredo (right) from Paris, France, and Baker and Pastry Chef Stephen Lighter (middle)—son of resort hotelier, Daniel Lighter—they’re bringing French training to the beaches of San Pedro, Belize with a tropical twist. For those of you unfamiliar with Matachica, the anti-generic beach resort lies just 5 miles outside of Ambergris Caye’s town, San Pedro. Here, its Belize Barrier Reef-facing Northern coast is dotted with 32 self-contained thatched casitas and villas—honeyed with punchy primary hues to match their namesake fruit.

Dripping in unfeigned relaxation with a tranquility that’s palpable, the adults-only stop is private and sustainable by design; visitors ultimately leave fluent in the roar of the tumultuous waves calmed by coral less than half a mile offshore. It’s easy to admire its roar—which seemingly harmonizes with a whistling salty breeze—from your private veranda and swaying hammock out front.

Each dwelling’s reimagined interiors and eco-friendly amenities shine against whimsical, hand-painted bedroom murals by Montreal-based illustrator Cécile Gariépy for an artistic amalgamation. After all, the resort went through a 2019 redesign from fellow Montréalers Byron and Dexter Peart. Beach-chic décor, reliable WiFi and rich white linens all combine for the comforts of the cosmopolitan traveler, but Matachica’s food scene is making it a destination in and of itself. Spoiler alert: the 30-minute ride north by golf cart is worth the trek for two distinct eateries later—Mambo Bistro and Mambo Restaurant.

All about Mambo Restaurant

Open nightly for dinner by reservation only, Mambo Restaurant serves up an elegant yet laidback experience, focusing on beef and fresh, local seafood. Expect their contemporary takes on dishes like surf & turf with Rib & Reef, or Pesce Cartoccio—oven-baked snapper in banana leaves—to handmade lobster ravioli and tuna tartar with house made ciabatta crostinis.

As for dessert? Save space for Pastry Chef Stephen’s mocha tart: pecan praline crunch, milk chocolate ganache, coffee mousse, and house-churned coffee infused chocolate cream. Guests 16 and older are welcomed at Mambo Restaurant.

All about Mambo Bistro

The Bistro—the light fare counterpart for the restaurant—offers fresh, tropical bites for breakfast, lunch and dinner alongside Chef Lighter’s rotating assortment of specialty breads of the day. Think modern, along the lines of totally Instagrammable avocado toast or your choice of sweet or savory cornbread waffles at breakfast (sweet onion marmalade sells the savory option to me, by the way).

Lunch options include flights of tacos or sandwiches and a variety of soups and salads, thanks to fresh produce from Matachica’s sister property GAÏA Riverlodge’s organic garden. At dinner, dive into artisanal sourdough pizza, fiery mango shrimp, fresh fish & chips and locally farmed honey infused hibiscus tart. Guests 10 and older are welcome for breakfast, lunch and dinner at Mambo Bistro.

A Belizean ‘Braata‘: Taco Tuesdays at Danny’s Tree Bar

Belizeans, and most of the Caribbean really, use the word braata as “extra,” especially when it comes to food as an encouragement to be brought back. And trust me, taco lovers are brought back every Tuesday evening for Matachica’s weekly Taco Tuesday in the sand. Pick your flight of fish, shrimp, pork or chicken on fresh corn tortillas at the center of Matachica Resort: Danny’s Tree Bar. Heck, make a day out of it with Matachica’s exclusive Resort Pass for a fully redeemable credit on-site.

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Relax poolside with a drink from the signature cocktail menu by renowned mixologist Lawrence Picard; melt the stress away with a Mayan Coffee Scrub and Chocolate Wrap at Jade Spa; or pull up a beach stool at Danny’s Tree Bar. And not to worry: kayaks, paddleboards and snorkelling gear is on-hand to help you justify that piña colada.

Header image, and all others not captioned, courtesy Matachica Resort

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