“We’re going to have to embrace it,” said the industry veteran, who also co-owns Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar in Decatur and Apt. 4B at Buckhead. Likewise, Cyril (nicknamed Belle) ’embraced’ the 40-seat space sandwiched between a laundromat and a temp agency when she first laid eyes on its clay tile floor . Reminiscent of her grandmother’s clay yard in St. Lucia, it was the perfect place for a brunch that celebrates her St. Lucian roots – and those of her chef cousin, Aliyah Cyril, who runs the kitchen and responds to the nickname Lily.
Tropical design elements – faux foliage hanging on one wall, a colorful floral-patterned banquette, a corrugated iron bar front with two djembes as bar stools – take you to the Caribbean, as does a refreshing glass of sorrel house or, for drinkers, a mimosa made with the same syrupy hibiscus elixir.
The little touches evoke Cyril’s childhood, like the modest aluminum plates his grandmother used to serve food. Enjoy the experience with an order of a generously sized, well-seasoned beef empanada that comes with a mojo sauce so magical they’ll soon be bottling it up and selling it.
That same herbal, oily, lemony, and spicy sauce is what sets seafood fritters apart. piled on crispy tostones with a scattering of microgreens.
Belle & Lily’s has also embraced the legacy of the former space occupant, keeping a Cuban sandwich on the menu. His Cuban is serviceable – especially compared to a jerk chicken sandwich which offered more vinegar flavor than spice – and a side of crispy plantain chips and fresh mango salsa hit the mark.
Yet what Belle & Lily does best is brunch. One of the main brunch dishes, the Rude Bwoi, is certainly a stunner. The whole parrotfish, fried to the point of curling up, is perched upright as if still alive and swimming. Chef Cyril deserves kudos for partially filleting the fish into strips so the snapper flavored meat forks don’t come with bones.
Belle & Lily’s strives to attract not only brunch lovers, but also people with Caribbean ties. A dish like Mango Season – a stack of French toast skewers made with thick slices of coconut bread topped with fresh mangoes and a rum caramel sauce – marries a beloved fruit of the nations islanders with a familiar brunch offering that is somehow light and airy, instead of coma-inducing sugar.
On another visit, I ordered a St Lucia classic: salt fish and pastry. I imagine this beloved breakfast staple might make expats go bananas, as they cut a slit into the warm, puffy rounds of puri-style bread and stuff it with a terrific red mix- orange seasoned with dried cod sazon and sautéed onions, peppers and garlic.
I’m also going to eat bananas for Belle & Lily. I can’t wait to try the jerk chicken again, but this time with buttermilk pancakes and ginger hibiscus syrup on the Big Batty Gyal plate; spooned into the Dominican national dish of mashed plantains, aka mangú; to repeat orders for French toast, salt fish and pastries. And, I want to experience the relaxed atmosphere, the calm conversations, the welcoming and knowledgeable service staff and the taste pleasures of a talented kitchen.
There’s no way this quirky brunch spot will put me back to sleep.
BELLE & LILY’S
Food: Caribbean brunch
Service: efficient, competent, welcoming — in a word, exemplary
Best Dishes: Beef empanada with mojo sauce, seafood tostones, mango French toast, Saint Lucia breakfast (salted fish and gratin)
Vegetarian Selections: plantain chips and mango salsa, cheese and spinach empanada, Half Breed (biscuits and passion fruit butter), mango French toast, Ital Vital (ackee, rice and callaloo), buttermilk pancakes, salad with vinaigrette with hibiscus
Alcohol: yes (try the hibiscus mimosa)
Price scale: $$-$$$ (20% automatic tip on weekends)
Credit card: all major cards accepted
Hours: 11am-5pm Wednesday to Sunday
Car park: free in a big mall
MARTA Station: no
Wheelchair access: Yes
Noise level: moo
Exit: Yes; delivery via DoorDash, Uber Eats
Address, phone: 3350 Chamlee Tucker Road, Atlanta; 470-294-2900
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