Grand Bahama, with its world-renowned beaches and resorts, tends to bring to mind rum cocktails, cold beer and fresh seafood, perhaps after diving one of the island’s many reef-lined coves or playing a round of golf. But in the city of Freeport, Flying Fish GastroBar makes the thoughtful case that wine can take center stage in the Bahamas experience for tourists and locals alike.
The restaurant, which won its first Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2022, pairs some of the island’s best seafood and casual bites with an ambitious wine list its website fairly describes as “one heck of an experience.” At Flying Fish, a touch of whimsy and a tropical, laid-back atmosphere play well with a tightly curated list one would expect in a more established wine destination.
Husband-and-wife team Tim and Rebecca Tibbitts, who moved to Grand Bahama from Canada 15 years ago with a promise to stay “as long as we were having fun,” run the restaurant together, though the kitchen is Tim’s principal domain. Chef Tim’s menu has evolved over the years, from a focus on elaborate fine-dining experiments to a more casual, approachable style offering elegant, well-prepared takes on classics.
After Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Flying Fish worked with World Central Kitchen for several weeks, an experience that “really put supporting and accessing our local community into perspective,” Rebecca told Wine Spectator. The restaurant shifted from “being a tourist destination only to being more community focused,” and the menu reflects that concern for approachability without compromising craft.
Mainstays include grilled calamari (served with confit garlic, brown butter, Kalamata olives and capers), seared mahi mahi with coconut rice and mango slaw, chicken wings with scratch-made sauces and burgers, which are ground in-house. A variety of tapas, including sweet chili and lime conch bites and honey garlic lamb ribs, make for elevated snacking, shared or solo. Tim’s fine-dining bent shows in dishes such as truffle tart, escargot and a signature beef short rib with blue cheese gnocchi; a recent special prix-fixe menu featured a tempura lobster roll followed by lobster primavera pasta.
The wine list evolved out of the couple’s personal interests, with a focus on areas, especially Spain and Austria, that are sometimes overlooked. The couple seeks out producers “whose ethos we appreciate”—such as the Rhône’s Stéphane Vedeau, Wachau’s Pichler family and Argentina’s Mi Terruño—with a focus on “family wineries without any corporate backing and [with] absolutely no compromise on their winemaking philosophies.” Highlights include slam-dunk seafood pairings from Rías Baixas and a stellar selection of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner from across Austria. Fine selections of Fontodi, Caparzo, Bruno Giacosa and Ceretto will please any palate inclined toward Italy.
For Rebecca, “stories and experiences are what make food and wine taste better,” and she believes that working largely with winemakers she knows personally allows their stories to shine during a meal. In keeping with the Tibbitts’ commitment to accessibility, more than 60 percent of the list is priced at $60 or less—a particular challenge in the Bahamas, where duties are high, but one they feel is worth the effort.
Flying Fish GastroBar is located on Grand Bahama’s extensive canal system, and the patio and dining room are on the waterfront. Don’t miss “casual Sunday,” a Flying Fish tradition for over 10 years, when chef Tim plays live music on the restaurant’s floating dock. Flying Fish is open from noon to 9 p.m. every day except Thursday, when it is closed during the summer.