Having seen mixed reviews on Trip Advisor about Plantation Gardens in Poipu, Kauai, I was torn about whether to go there for dinner but I’m so glad I did as I’d have missed out on the best cocktails in Kauai otherwise. On the one hand the location of Plantation Gardens sounded an ideal Hawaiian hidden gem, a restaurant in an old plantation house. But on the other the food and service hadn’t got the best reception. As I’m always inclined to take what I read on their with a pinch of salt, people love to complain about the silliest of things, I decided it would be worth investigating. I was subsequently thrilled when the Plantation Gardens very kindly invited to host us for dinner as their guests, and even more so after sampling the best cocktails in Kauai.
If you’re staying in Poipu, in the south of Kauai, Plantation Gardens is ideally situated as it’s close to the main shopping centre, virtually across the road from it. From our base of The Grand Hyatt, it was about a 25 minute walk, or a 5-minute taxi ride (around $10). What struck me most about the Plantation Gardens is its setting. As its name suggests, the restaurant, which dates back to the 1930s, was formerly a historic manor house on the grounds of the Koloa Plantation, Hawaii’s first sugar plantation.
One thing people failed to mention on Trip Advisor, or anywhere else, were the cocktails at Plantation Gardens. These alone made Plantation Gardens a hidden gem. They may not look much from my photos but they were by far the best cocktails in Kauai or that we had on our entire trip to Hawaii. I’d definitely recommend checking out the bar here if nothing else.
Our waiter at one of Kauai’s other well known restaurants confided that the staff there often came down after work for drinks as the cocktails are so good. After much deliberation I opted for a Pacific Dragon – Dragonfruit Skyy vodka, tamarind, strawberry served with the piece de resistance, a Hawaiian sweet chilli sugar rim, which gave the cocktail a sherbety feel as the sugar slowly dissolved in my mouth leaving a hot sweet and sour aftertaste. It was so good I just had to order another.
Sharps plumped for the Plantation Breeze – Mandarin vodka, creme de banana, peach schnapps, passion fruit and guava juice. I’m not a fan of creamy cocktails (or banana) but in the interests of research I obliged to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. The banana flavouring was subtle and didn’t overpower the cocktail and it hit just the right balance as it wasn’t too creamy or heavy. So I surreptitiously took a few more sips when Sharps wasn’t looking. How these cocktails were overlooked by diners is beyond me as not only were they the best cocktails in Kauai they were the most inventive drinks I’ve come across in a long while.
Foodwise it has to be said that Sharps excelled himself. A word of warning, portion sizes at Plantation Gardens are massive. His starter of Kuala pork sliders, there were three, was a meal in itself, and he did a pretty good job of polishing them off. Not that I’ve got much room to talk as I devoured a generous serving of tuna ahi poke, fresh raw tune cubes served with avocado, cucumber, seaweed and a mango coulis which for me was the star dish.
Sharps also managed to do some serious damage to the chef’s trio – seafood lau lau which included scallops and jumbo shrimp with brown rice, grilled fresh fish in a red curry sauce and pot roast while I oped for the special of the day. But we were both so stuffed we had to draw the line at dessert. Sadly it also meant we were too full to fit in an after dinner cocktail which was a shame as if our earlier cocktails were anything to go by these would also be some of the best cocktails in Kauai.