A Sweet Escape, The Beach House at Blackbeard’s Hideout
By Brigitta Wohlmuth
Even paradise can feel crowded sometimes. During peak season when all the major beaches are congested with sunbathers, and the “hot-spot” restaurants are all packed to maximum capacity then head to Achilles’ Bay for a sweet escape. The secluded cove is supposedly where Edward Teach, the infamous pirate better known as Blackbeard, spent some time hiding from the Governor of North Carolina in 1718. It’s located right beside Fort St. Catherine in St. George’s Parish – a UNESCO World Heritage Site steeped in history some fact, some myth. Legend has it that Blackbeard’s ship – the Queen Anne’s Revenge – anchored in the waters off of this little gem of a beach. Named after the Greek hero Achilles, the bay is shaped like the heel of a foot, and it’s no surprise that here Blackbeard found his weakness for Bermuda’s beauty. It is alleged that he and his crew may have basked in the turquoise waters where they swam, fished and even built a small hut on the shore to shelter from the sun. It’s a lovely spot and the view from the shore truly looks like a scene out of Pirate’s of the Caribbean. Few people know what that old hut actually looked like but what stands there today is a delightful restaurant known as The Beach House at Blackbeard’s Hideout.
“I always say that even if you’re in a terrible mood after half an hour here you’ll be in the best mood of your life,” beams the Manager, Piero Casalicchio with a glowing smile. Even if you don’t drink he promises that under his care you’ll be as merry as a drunken sailor, intoxicated with good vibes and the surrounding beauty. Piero’s story resembles Blackbeard’s a little, as a passionate Captain he has also sailed the seven seas and was forced to lodge in St. George’s after a bad storm wrecked his ship back in 2013. Although originally from Italy he spent many years in the US, first working in fashion and then in hospitality. He owned and operated a chain of restaurants on the East Coast, 26 of them to be exact, but during his stopover in Bermuda quickly decided that he would convert to island life. “This was a good retirement plan for me” he reasons, admitting that there are many things about the island that captivate him but the local hospitality is what convinced him to trade in his urban success and make the move. “The friendship and warmth of the people is just so overwhelming,” he reflects and owes his new lifestyle to Suzanne and Steven Hollis, his partners in management of The Beach House. They own the sail loft, known as Ocean Sails, where they repaired the storm damage done to Piero’s ship. During that time the three developed a friendship and decided it was a smart idea to go into business together, with Piero’s culinary background and the Hollis’s life-long dream of owning a restaurant. They introduced Piero to the St. George’s Club – a colony cottage hotel with two restaurants, “This restaurant used to be Blackbeard’s and here we are, we took over three years ago and changed the feeling.”
The new restaurant has a cool, coastal vibe- thanks to Susan Hollis’s decorating skills- with pastel colors, seashells adorning the menus, and Bermuda-inspired art hanging from the walls. Piero’s Italian influence comes through in the menu, marrying flavours of the Mediterranean with local fare. The seafood is exceptional, as well as their Bermuda Onion tart with, caramelized local onions and goat’s cheese from Tucker’s farm, “We have a lot of local guests who really enjoy the feeling and the blending of the cuisine. We brought it to a very nice simple, but interesting level”
I had to admit I had never been to the old Blackbeard’s before, but the Beach House had me feeling pretty darn good on a Monday. A place “where elegance is comfortable”, it’s a restaurant made for the beach and the genius is in it’s simplicity. This is a place where you can stay all day, bask in the sun, snorkel around the reefs and even grab a cocktail from the Tiki Bar on the beach, then later migrate on deck for a bite to eat (like Blackbeard and his crew) and get some shelter from the sun. A place where bare feet isn’t a faux pas, “there’s no other place on island like this honestly” gushes Ashley Ross, the Head Waitress, touting that from the deck of the Beach House you can simultaneously watch the sunset and the moonrise. She and Shirley Baker keep the place running, it’s totally worth the trip, even if you live all the way in Somerset, Piero laughs “ some people think it’s too far away, but that’s exactly where you wanna go, far away!”