Words and Photos by Ravi Lloyd
The Lime Keel House is a locally-run bar and grill on the east end of Anguilla, British Caribbean. We host live music, show films weekly, have art exhibitions from time to time and offer surf and eco-tours throughout the week.
Lime Keel is a project I have been working on with my family for about half a decade now. It began with a hundred-year-old wooden house that was initially built on the west side of Anguilla.
My dad, John, has this thing of re-purposing old things that have fallen out of use, and preserving historical items that might otherwise be discarded or forgotten. The house that became Lime Keel is just one of the many things he has collected. Inside, the bar is decorated with pieces from his collection: Centuries-old woodworking tools, pieces from shipwrecks, precolonial Amerindian tools and pottery.
Amerindian artifacts found on Anguilla by John Lloyd are part of the décor at Lime Keel House
When you finish something and time passes, sometimes you forget what it took to get there. But it can be amazing to look back. My father moved the Lime Keel to our property around 2016. We lifted the entire house with a crane onto a truck, took it cross island, and placed it onto a foundation we had built to fit. From there, we replaced each rotten part of the house piece by piece, keeping it as original as possible.
For the pieces we replaced, we would find the wood, doors and window shutters from other old wooden houses that had fallen down. After Hurricane Irma, when they were throwing away knocked-down buildings, we salvaged as much as we could — like the over-100-year-old East End schoolhouse that we used to build most of our bathroom. The walls came from Diane Norris (Chuck Norris’s ex-wife and our former neighbor) re-modeling her house, and throwing out the flooring from her villa. We took it out of the bush, and processed each piece to bring it back like new.
“Everything we need is right here,” my dad always says. This is a guy that, when a hurricane hits and electricity is out for six months, simply says: “Back to the old days.” He grew up without electricity until his late teens.
An old piano, found derelict on Anguilla and reclaimed, forms the base of Lime Keel’s bar; the countertop was made from recycled vodka and gin bottles.
The basins in our bathrooms my dad carved from a single stone, the counter from driftwood that washed up on Savannah Bay after Irma. We believe it came from villas in St Barth’s or St Martin, but who knows. The light fixture is a piece from a shipwreck dad found.
In the bar, we made the countertop from recycled vodka and gin bottles and sand. We had to collect tons of blue bottles, which are very hard to find, for this one. The base for the bar is an old piano we found somewhere. We stripped it down and took out the keys to make shelves.
The “everything we need is right here” philosophy goes for nearly every aspect of the Lime Keel. The plates we serve the appetizers on were mostly salvaged from old houses. Our main dishes are presented on repurposed South American hardwood that we found, and made into serving boards. We make our cocktail glasses ourselves by reusing bottles of Acqua Panna, San Pellegrino and various wines and liquors from the bar. We don’t use any plastic at the Lime Keel, and try to eliminate as much waste as possible.
The $5 Crayfish Special is a favorite among diners at Lime Keel House
Our menu is sourced almost completely locally. If I could source everything in Anguilla year round I would but, unfortunately, on our small island we rely mostly on imported goods. Something we would definitely like to change for the future. However, what we can grow or catch here in Anguilla makes it onto our menu. We have a garden out back growing lettuce, arugula, mint, cucumber, watermelon, eggplant and other herbs. Our seafood all comes from the bay, two minutes down the road.
We’re fortunate to be located in the preeminent fishing village in Anguilla, Island Harbour, where I’m able to pick directly from fishermen’s coolers. I’m talking 30-70 pound tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, blue runner, grouper and shark.
One of our signature items is the crayfish my brother, Akio, dives for. Crayfish is sort of like a rock lobster but much smaller — about three come in a pound. The meat is more delicate and much sweeter than lobster. Right now, we have a special with one crayfish for $5, and people love it. We do these on the grill with a garlic butter sauce poured over them when served.
We show films every week and have live music regularly at the Lime Keel House. The shows range from five-piece bands down to two-piece acoustic combos and jazz nights.
We like to have musicians that you would not see playing everywhere on the island. A lot of the time, we call in friends to do special shows for us. Like last Friday when we had Nukiid and Diquan. Nukiid is a locally-known songwriter and vocalist and Diquan plays guitar for one of the soca bands in Anguilla, Exodus HD.
Nukiid and Diquan perform at the Lime Keel House on a recent Friday night
My background is in film, and no one was showing movies in Anguilla so I figured we could start. We built a massive, 12-by-8-foot outdoor screen from two-by-fours and plywood, and we play films under the stars. Staples like The Graduate to new stuff like Jojo Rabbit and Parasite, and Caribbean classics such as Country Man and The Harder They Come.
I am thankful for everyone that has supported the Lime Keel over the last two years, and helped us keep the door open. We are open three days a week for the rest of this year and into 2021.
Ravi Lloyd is the co-founder of Surf AXA, a surf and eco tour company in Island Harbour, Anguilla, and a LargeUp contributor since 2013. For more about Surf AXA and surfing in Anguilla, visit their website or some of Ravi’s past stories on LargeUp.