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How a Bermuda Restaurant Is Using Its Menu to Support Local Reefs

How a Bermuda Restaurant Is Using Its Menu to Support Local Reefs

According to research (and underscored, probably, by your Instagram feed), Americans are seeing the world in record numbers. And while spending money on travel and experiences instead of buying physical things has been shown to promote happiness, the impact it has on the environment is undeniable. As we start taking a harder look at our collective travel habits, hotel brands have begun examining their own practices, with some making both small and sweeping changes that have the potential to be impactful on a larger scale.

Relais & Châteaux, the Paris-based association of luxury hotels and restaurants, is making strides globally, with environmentally focused initiatives that touch its more than 500 properties around the world. But the brand also encourages individual properties to take action on a local level. At the Rosedon Hotel in Bermuda, for example, that environmental initiative can be found on the menu.

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Located in Hamilton, the Rosedon is a century-old estate known for its warm hospitality and charm. (One of the newest Relais & Châteaux members, it’s also one of the only properties, along with Blackberry Mountain in Tennessee, to be entered into the association before it opened.) The largest solar energy consumer on the island, Rosedon is also cutting way down on plastic use, using refillable bottles of bath products instead of single-use disposables (a move that other hotels and hospitality chains are also starting to introduce) and placing glass bottles of filtered water in guest rooms in lieu of plastic water bottles.

Lionfish are an invasive species that harm Bermuda’s reefs. And now they’re on the menu.
Huckleberry/Rosedon Hotel

Huckleberry, the hotel’s Southern-inspired restaurant, is playing its part by serving lionfish. Native to the Indo-Pacific, the venomous fish popped up around Florida in the mid-1980s, thought to have been introduced to the Atlantic waters via cargo ship. The population has since exploded, thanks to the fish’s rapid reproduction and lack of natural predators, spreading to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and first appearing in the reefs surrounding Bermuda about a decade ago. The invasive species feeds on other fish and crustaceans and can destroy entire ecosystems.

For an island surrounded by coral reefs like Bermuda, the ripple effect is powerful: As reefs are destroyed, hundreds and thousands of species of marine life can be impacted, decreasing the fish population and harming the fishing and tourism industries as a result.

“As we started diving more into this, no pun intended, we realized why most restaurants aren’t able to do it,” says Rob Bruni, assistant general manager at the Rosedon. “Sourcing the fish is difficult and expensive, so it’s a big challenge. We’re approaching it differently than anyone has done before.”

The fish are tricky to catch (their venomous spines make spearfishing the best technique), and, according to Huckleberry’s executive chef Matthew Weber, “the yield is so small. You couldn’t have a six-ounce-portion fillet—it’s usually one to two ounces. It’s more like a fish nugget.” With this in mind, Weber prepares the fish as a ceviche, with layers of thinly sliced avocado, oranges, and pickled red onion, topped with caviar and jalapeño, and dotted with sriracha aioli.

Though it’s not financially beneficial for the hotel, serving lionfish is part of the restaurant’s initiative to remove the fish from local waters—by not only putting it on its menus but also training employees on spearfishing techniques—creating a healthier, more sustainable marine ecosystem.
Rosedon Hotel

Though it doesn’t make sense from a purely financial perspective, by adding lionfish to the menu, the restaurant is encouraging the local fishing community to target the species, thus helping to eradicate the invasive fish and stop it from further harming Bermuda’s reefs.

Between the Rosedon’s efforts and others (including the annual Bermuda Lionfish Derby and Atlantic Lionshare, a group that created a remote-controlled Reef Sweeper to catch lionfish inaccessible to divers), the lionfish population has started to diminish. Now Weber puts it on special at Huckleberry whenever he can get a fresh catch.

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