The on-site restaurant at the Bloomfield Great House is one of Jamaica’s preeminent eateries and purveyors of Caribbean fusion cuisine. Frankly, we think the setting and the views over Mandeville from the open veranda may be a bit better than the food, which is not quite as grand as the name it’s built.
Trust us: Jamaican-French fusion means more than jerk croissant –although we were surprised such a pairing could end up being so heavenly before we came to the Charela’s signature restaurant.
The name is both revealing and misleading. ‘Proper’ is located in proper (as opposed to tourist) Montego Bay, but the behavior inside, attire and attitude is totally casual, and we mean that in the best possible way. This is a Jamaican sports bar that’s as friendly to tourists as it is to locals.
On the rooftop of a duty-free shopping center, Passage to India offers respite from the crowds below in addition to very good northern Indian fare. The naan is crisp, the lassis flavorful, the curries sharp, and the menu divided into extensive chicken, mutton, seafood and vegetarian sections. Tandoori options are also on offer.
Built on a submerged sandbar 1km out to sea, this thatch-roofedeatery on stilts provides Jamaica’s – and perhaps the planet’s – most enjoyable spot for a drink. Getting there is half the fun: hire a local boat captain (you can book passage from Jake’s for US$30).
For many visitors, the Pork Pit is their first jerk-in-Jamaica experience. Makes sense; the place smells great, and while it’s an open-air, picnic table sorta joint (shaded by a gargantuan silk-cotton tree that the chef reckons to be 300 years old), it’s on the Hip Strip, so it’s accessible to all tourists.
An excellent barefoot beachside eatery affiliated with Jake’s Place, this appealing joint features vintage reggae posters, an old jukebox and a lively bar scene that spills onto the tree-shaded patio and Christmas-light-bedecked garden area.
Ignore the cheesy name of this place if you can and just focus on the fact that this spot, about 3km west of Montego Bay proper, is romantic as hell, housed in a beautiful mansion that elegantly makes use of colonial furnishings and serves some very fine food.
Fantastic choice: a true local’s spot, essentially a rustic seafood shack (near Sandals Montego Bay) that’s also patronized by some very in-the-know tourists. The food tends to be rich yet refined – layered and pleasantly oily without being overwhelmingly heavy (as is often the case in Jamaica).
Almost too well kept a secret for its own good, Dickie’s – an unsigned seaside hut on the A4, less than 1km west of Port Antonio – offers enormous five-course meals in rooms that look as if they were decorated by Bob Marley after reading Alice in Wonderland too many times.
The in-crowd is in at this former colonial house, long a beehive of cultural and culinary activity. Inside, the walls are beguilingly bedecked with photographs of jazz and blues legends.
Negril is in dire need of an all-day breakfast joint, and Selina’s provides. This outstanding spot enjoys many repeat customers for the callaloo and cheese omelets, banana pancakes, killer smoothies and hand-roasted Blue Mountain coffee. The lunch menu features salads and burgers, though the pièce de résistance is the cheese-and-vegetable quesadilla.
On the hillside at 1280m near Hardwar Gap, just below the entrance to Holywell Recreation Area, the Gap Café Bed & Breakfast's cafe is a fabulous place to rest and take in the vistas over a soda or cappuccino. It offers dining either indoors or alfresco on a wooden terrace. A ‘Jamaican special’ breakfast costs US$12, and afternoon high tea is also served (US$25).
Its existing popularity further boosted by it being the official Knutsford Express stop, the liveliest jerk joint in town serves excellent jerk pork (J$325), chicken (J$295) and conch (J$795), as well as BBQ ribs. There are daily specials, the best being curry goat (J$450) and goat head soup (J$100).