Tranquil, private and very exclusive, the French Caribbean island of St-Barthélemy exerts a powerful draw for both American pop stars and wealthy Europeans around Christmas and New Year. But the island's arid climate, and the exacting demands of his clients, pose no small obstacle for the chef at the Carl Gustaf Hotel, Emmanuel Motte. As a result, he flies in his produce from France several times a week - and for a four-star luxury hotel, that means only the finest foie gras, caviar and some 500 of the world's top wines.
Motte prides himself on "international, artistic and abstract gastronomic haute cuisine", so expect plenty of squiggly jus and coulis adornments. Yellowfin tuna tartar with basil (€35/£25) is a signature dish. My passion for the green, oily stuff was sated by cold avocado mousse with pink grapefruit and gazpacho sauce. Dessert offerings include Guadeloupe mango tart with pink pepper and caramel ice cream, plus an array of French cheeses.
The Carl Gustaf's hallmark is its blend of European sophistication and style with American standards of service. Most nights there is live music; mostly classical guitar or a francophone diva.
The Carl Gustaf occupies a cherished position high above Gustavia harbour. A diner's gaze may first survey the infinity plunge-pool by the restaurant, before slipping downhill to the red tin roofs of the weatherboard cottages, the spire of the Anglican church and the tiny main drag lined with Hermès, Dior and Chopard. Then the harbour, full of monstrous pleasure boats. In the distance, the isles of Saba, a scuba-diving hotspot, and St-Martin, St-Barthélemy's big sister.
Such high standards don't come cheap: appetisers start at €24 (£16), mains at €33 (£22), dessert at €16 (£11), and beluga caviar is available at €295 (£200) for, oooh, around six teaspoons' worth. If that's too much of a stretch, you can slip into the bar at sunset for a cocktail (from €8/£5.70). Lunch 11am-4pm, dinner 6-10.30pm.
Carl Gustaf, rue des Normands, Gustavia, Saint-Barthélemy, French West Indies (00 590 590 29 7947; www.hotelcarlgustaf.com). Book through Great Hotels of the World, 0800 032 4254