689 By Brian Lumley's Greatly Anticipated Opening Night

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    Sep 10, 2013
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689 By Brian Lumley Photo by Gabrielle Williams

Brian Lumley, a past student of Jamaica College and a graduate of the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel and Training Institute, is the definition of determination, perseverance and success. So it is with no surprise that there is more to the meaning of his restaurant, 689 than just opening at 6pm on the 8th of September and I am happy there was, since it could be perceived by the lowest of minds as a dirty threesome. But nevermind that, the meaning is fully displayed on the interior wall of the restaurant showing different aspects of positive numerology and truly inspiring words such as selflessness, stability, grace and many others, that reflect what one needs to reach and maintain a path of success that I am sure Chef Lumley strives to live by.

I first encountered the delights of Chef Lumley's cooking at a Rotaract Club of St. Andrew's meeting in 2011, where he performed various demos, when he was still an up and coming chef, known mainly for his popular 'Foodies Lyme'. He commanded the keen attention of all with his knowledge and pleasant charm. I had the pleasure of tasting his Pasta Puttanesca, which was bursting with typical Southern Italian flavour and a tenderly cooked chicken breast where he advised us on the proper technique to use to get it just right and not overcooked and dry. He rapidly gained more followers to his Foodies Lyme and Facebook page. I also admired the professionalism and serious marketing ethics of his sister, Stephanie who was present at his demonstration.

My club, the Rotaract Club of Kingston had Chef Lumley cater at one of our annual Inner-city Art Competitions that went flawlessly and all enjoyed. Before I knew it, hardly a day would go by without Chef Lumley in the papers. He has won numerous competitions, local and international, most recently the 'Caribbean Chef of the Year' at Taste of the Caribbean's Culinary Showcase in Miami, Florida this year. 

Chef Lumley is a known perfectionist and has become the favorite chef of many. So you can imagine the buzz created amongst his thousands of supporters, including myself via social media, the papers and television promos when he announced he was following his dream of opening a restaurant. I did not hesitate the minute all were advised to make reservations for opening night and smiled with excitement and relief at my email of a confirmed reservation for 7:30pm.

In no time, I was ready to put on my Sunday best and participate in this milestone event. I arrived at 7:15pm with my beau to be greeted by courteous hostesses and did not have to wait long before I was taken inside. I was instantly impressed with the simple but elegant decor with unique centrepieces. The speakers left over from the previous bar, Christopher's could be painted or cleaned though. 

A third of the restaurant was empty and I was surprised and happy that I went at just the right time in between the initial opening crowd and the latecomers. Our waiter, Junior came quickly to the table and introduced us to the specials of the night, including a fish chowder and Rosemary Roast Chicken. He then told us the lobster dishes on the menu would not be available till 8:00pm. I was slightly disappointed as I have heard the Lobster Spaghettini with feta is a signature dish of Chef Lumley. Nevertheless I was more than open to looking and choosing another item from the menu. Unlike me, my beau went with the special of the day because we both had a jerk chicken pasta the day before and he was disappointed that pastas, salads and vegetarian dishes that seemed to be mostly pastas, were the only other choices. I considered having Jerk chicken pasta again since this one had a coconut cream sauce I wanted to try, but saw that it came with baby shrimps so opted to go with the Chorizo Sausage and Shrimp Fusilli in tomato sauce. There was no fusilli though so I was told I would be getting rotini. 

We waited about 15 minutes before the restaurant gradually started to fill up, but we were not worried because Junior told us we would be getting our food in 4 minutes. That 4 turned into 10 and 2 specials came to the table without my pasta in sight. Junior apologised and returned saying my pasta would come shortly and my choice of dessert would be on the house. That was an unusually nice gesture and compensation for a restaurant to make. My beau went ahead so his food woudn't get cold. He got mashed potatoes and vegetables on the side. His meal looked and tasted like a lovely Sunday dinner his mother would cook. Not even Chef Lumley's well known, tender, sliced Herbes de Provence Chicken Breast? First impressions do count. On a positive note, my Mojito by St. Aublyn the Kidd was on point! 

My dinner eventually came out. However, I was so hungry I dug in quickly then immediately noticed there was hardly any sausage and no shrimp, no visible shrimp that is. I quickly called Junior's attention who said it was noticed by other diners so the chef would be whipping up a small bowl of shrimps for me shortly. Fantasizing about the bowl of succulent, sizzling shrimp that was coming my way, quickly became a full on monet when baby shrimps were placed in front of me swimming in coconut cream sauce, not even the correct tomato sauce. Well I wanted to taste that sauce right. I was also given a free appetizer, the ackee spring roll. Great, but where were my big shrimps?! The meal did cost $2250JMD. Apparently even though baby shrimps were not stated on the menu for that dish, they only serve baby shrimps. That is totally unacceptable. I could go to TGIF or South Avenue Grill and get a chicken and shrimp pasta for approximately $1600 JMD and $2000JMD respectively. Another Mojito please and thanks.

I was hugely disappointed and heartbroken that my expectations were hardly met, to the point where I hesitated to write about my usual restaurant experience. But as a big foodie, I could not hide and many questions were forthcoming the morning after. 

I know an opening night comes with hiccups, but I dont think that is a suitable excuse for that long of a wait with a third of the restaurant empty. Furthermore, Chef Lumley should have the confidence and given himself his well earned credit to be prepared for a full house on opening night and at least for the first 2 weekends of being open. If everyone were to get free dessert and appetizers, the restaurant would have to close in no time. There is also no way he can continue to move forward with baby shrimps in what has been marketed as a classy, unique, top of the line restaurant. I know it may be too early to call, but where was his oh so orgasmic Shrimp Provencal? Also, the Pine and Rosemary Glazed Spare Ribs and his Crusted Lamb Chops? I guarantee there would be no spoilage if that was what he was worried about. I understand there will be one special each day, but items like those need to be considered as staples on the menu.

I also noticed the bartenders were not using a dispenser and had to waste time opening and closing soda bottles. Luckily the bartenders were well trained and experienced and drinks seemed to be going out at a steady pace. I had to shake the Kidd's hand and fully compliment him for his perfect Mojito, after which he pleasantly welcomed me to return. 

I only glimpsed Chef Lumley for a minute across the room for the time I was there. I know the kitchen was pressured and probably in a bit of chaos but there should be another chef responsible enough to be left for a few minutes to run the kitchen so he could greet some of his diners and atleast see who is out there because I believe I was sitting adjacent to VIPs who had a long wait as well.

Due to the high paced turnover rate of customers, a busboy should be assigned to help the waiters so they can concentrate on serving. If any was there, I didn't see them. But props to our waiter, Junior who multi-tasked at many tables and still managed to keep himself and the diners calm with his friendly, pleasant personality.

689 is located at 20-22 Trinidad Terrace in the heart of New Kingston, which may not be an appealing outer environment to many but will hardly matter when Chef Lumley recovers from a shaky opening night. Hopefully he will get quick, honest and helpful feedback along with suggestions to make various adjustments on the menu and to make service run smoother. I am confident he will continue to strive for excellence and perfection, as we all know 689 has the potential to be an international landmark, raising Jamaica's rank as a Foodie's Paradise.

Author's Profile

bookcheflumley@gmail.com; http://www.interestingarticles.com/author/gabrielle-williams/4076/1

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