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July 30 . 2017
Buccoo's perfect pair of flavour and fine dining
In Sanskrit, the word Makara is the
name of a sea-creature in the Hindu cul-
ture. The creature is beautiful and unique,
half terrestrial, half aquatic, half belonging
to the land, the other half to the sea.
In Tobago, Makara Restaurant em-
bodies the idea of perfect pairings, a
breath-taking view of the Buccoo reef,
extending to the edge of Pigeon Point is
paired with the cool calm of indoor fine
dining and thoughtful décor reflecting
An international menu marries the
flair and flavour of Tobago cooking, and
features a steak with a dasheen purée and
fish floating on a creamy coconut sauce
that is familiar yet mysterious.
On the sunny Wednesday when the
Sunday Business magazine visited Ma-
kara, the staff were busy arranging for the
delivery of food to Healing with Horses,
a local NGO which neighbours the res-
The staff aren't being paid for the addi-
tional work. The chef, kitchen assistants
and servers all volunteered their time as
the co-owner Ahamad Ali donated the
food and dessert to treat the children.
"I am in Tobago doing business and I
cannot do that without giving back to the
community," he said.
Makara, which opened in 2016 has
quickly been gaining a reputation for
fantastic views and amazing food.
Ali wants that reputation to extend to
being the best in what the restaurant offers
and in being a contributing member of
the surrounding community.
The restaurant already purchases fish
from the local fishermen who labour less
than a minute from its location.
Produce and certain herbs are bought
from suppliers based on the island and
inspiration for dishes are obvious.
It's fusion cooking.
"The name was chosen because we are
by the sea," Ali said.
Ali, who is a businessman in Trinidad,
actually purchased the restaurant in a
clear moment of serendipity.
"It happened by accident. There was
an existing restaurant on the spot and
the owner decided to close it down. I had
known the chef and he asked me if I would
make an investment to purchase and he
would stay on as the chef." Ali explained.
Ali said he and his wife, who had never
been in the restaurant business before,
visited Buccoo and fell in love with the
ambience of the venue.
"I spoke to my friend Derek Soopaya
and after we talked it over, he decided to
join us in the investment."
Tobago doesn't suffer from a lack of
places to purchase good food, but fine
dining in Trinidad's sister island is some-
Ali said the view from the restaurant
inspired him to create a fully fine dining
He changed the open air concept, en-
closing the restaurant in glass and adding
an air conditioning unit. The decoration
was changed to colours that reflected the
scenery outdoors, drapes of blue and aq-
uamarine with sandy brown accents.
The staff go all out for presentation
"A restaurant is such a different type of
business. I enjoy when it is busy and we
see the staff moving quickly to cater to
the diners. I love to see people enjoying
their meal and I love to know when they
have had a good experience. If there are
complaints, I want to hear them as well
because that can only make us better."
On busy weekends, when Ali and his
wife are on the island, it isn't rare to see
them in the kitchen washing dishes or
While the front of the restaurant is un-
derstated sophistication, in the kitchen
it's a familial atmosphere, down to the
husband and wife sous chef and pastry
"I had a meeting with my staff," Ali said.
"I told them that for me, the customer
comes second and that my staff comes
first. I know for them it's different. For
them the customer must come first. But
when it comes to my business, if the staff
are happy, the customer benefits."
The original chef migrated to England
and Ali hired a local chef, based in Tobago,
Kevin Pariag and invited him to present
his own menu, adding his signature to
the Makara brand.
Like Ali, Pariag agrees that the restau-
rant needs to make a commitment to the
"In Tobago, specifically, the people are
more community based. If we operated
here without integrating the community
it would not work.
"I've been here seven years and already
it feels like I know everyone else."
About the food, Pariag said presenting
the local with the international, the exot-
ic with the familiar was key in Makara's
He said people who visit Tobago, do
not come to eat what they already know.
Part of enjoying the culture is tasting it
through the food.
In Tobago, it isn't easy for a restaurant
to survive. Tourism is seasonal.
Ali's business, like many on the island
has felt the effects of the disruptions to
inter-island transport but says it highlight-
ed to him that Tobago needed to improve
It also highlighted the dependency that
Tobagonians have on Trinidad for things
which could easily be produced on island.
While the fish is bought locally, the
shrimp is imported due to consistency
issues. The blue dasheen associated with
Tobago is also imported from St Vincent
because of an inability to obtain it from
The restaurant wants to buy local but
sometimes it cannot.
Still it manages to pull off the fusion of
foreign and familiar to perfection in it's
steak dish and it's perfectly crafted fish
of the day.
As the restaurant establishes itself
more as a force in the tourism industry,
Ali knows its success can only benefit
Buccoo and the island as a whole.
Chef Kevin Pariag at work in Makara Restaurant.
The lobster dish at Makara Restaurant.
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