My Restaurant Week Jamaica Experiences

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    Oct 27, 2012
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What is this Restaurant Week phenomenon and when did it start in Jamaica? Restaurant week began in New York in 1992 and was a lunch-only promotional event. When dinner was added, participating restaurants offered lunches and dinners at a fraction of their usual prices. Since then it has been appreciated by many and as a result inspired people to create their own version of the event in various cities worldwide.

SSCo Event Management and The Gleaner Company joined forces in 2004 to host Restaurant Week in Kingston then expanded to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios in its fifth year. This year, over 75 of Jamaica’s finest restaurants will offer lunch specials and fixed three-course dinners at a reduced price.

The showcasing of restaurants in Jamaica, especially new ones and what they had to offer for a discounted price is what caught my attention and encouraged me to participate in Restaurant Week.  I have participated for four consecutive years, starting in 2008 with Jewel of India, The Marketplace that is now the home of the recently opened Saffron. The service and ambiance was good and the food was spicy and delicious.

In 2009 I decided to go to Strawberry Hill.  I remember a luscious appetizer with mussels, a ‘basic’ entrée and a tasty dessert. ‘Basic’ meaning a cliché stuffed chicken or snapper fillet. But the attentive staff and lush, intimate atmosphere made up for any shortfall experienced. I have made a few trips to Strawberry Hill before and after Restaurant Week 2009 and they have all been memorable experiences. I would not hesitate to recommend Strawberry Hill to anyone for fine, exquisite dining.

After 2009 I wasn’t ready to take it down a notch just yet. I was staying in Ocho Rios for Restaurant Week 2010 and decided to make the drive to The Houseboat Grill, Montego Bay. It was surely worth the drive. They were filled to capacity that night so it took a little while to be seated, but my beau and I were given a complimentary drink while we waited at the bar on the upper deck, under the stars.

The Houseboat Grill is located in the calm waters of the Montego Bay Marine Park Fish Sanctuary. So when we were seated by the waterside, we were spectators to the aquatic display of game fish. The menu certainly lived up to its expectations from beginning to end. The mouthwatering lobster thermidor with Caesar salad stood out the most for me.

The service was also excellent from we set foot on the raft to go over to the restaurant till we were back on solid ground. I haven’t had the pleasure to return as yet, but have heard from reliable sources that they have maintained their excellent reputation. I strongly recommend The Houseboat Grill, so if you are in Montego Bay or close by, make your reservation early and look forward to a great night.

Last year caught me at a bad time when the pocket was a bit tight. So I decided to choose a restaurant from the tasty ($1450) or savoury ($2200) category. My first choice was The Terrace, Devon House from the savoury category, but I waited longer than usual to make a reservation and ended up choosing Oceans 21 Seafood Restaurant, Grosvenor Terrace from the tasty category. Their menu looked attractive but unfortunately I did not enjoy my experience. Although the restaurant was small, it was not crowded, so I was quite upset when I had to wait between 30 and 45 minutes to be served my appetizer, then wait again for the entrée. Furthermore, the servings were far too small and the taste of their creamy pasta sauce was a bit tainted. This was confirmed by the realization that it did not agree with my stomach (and I eat pasta very very regula).

The outdoor seating and décor was decent but nothing to write home about. Based on my unpleasant experience, I do not recommend Oceans 21 Seafood Restaurant to anyone. I definitely felt incomplete after going there and wanted to make up for it at another restaurant during that week, but my timing was too late. I also started to wonder if only high end restaurants were the way to go. Though small or less expensive restaurants may try a high quality menu, they may not always be able to deliver. However, though a gamble, that’s not always the case. My heart and stomach was filled with regret when a few friends gave The Terrace rave reviews, which had a slightly more expensive menu. I am disappointed that The Terrace is not participating in Restaurant Week this year, as I have only heard good things. They are a prime example of luxurious dining at a reasonable cost.

With my experiences to date expressed, I now wonder where I will be going this year. I would usually know this already, but it is not my choice this year :) I will still take the pleasure of revealing my choices for each category in my next article, as well as the restaurants that may not be as reputable but have presented good menus, forcing them to deliver and prove themselves.

- By Gabrielle Williams 

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