Friday, 7 December 2012

A week in Negril Jamaica

This was a last minute booking to have a break from work and a week in the sun, so nothing much had been planned for this trip.
In this blog I try two of Jamaica's national dishes Jerk chicken rice and peas. (We were particularly thrilled to learn our own hotel had it's own Jerk chicken hut on the beach). 
And ackee and saltfish.
We visit the famous Ricks cafe for sunset drinks and watch the local boys cliff diving.
And take trips YS falls and visit the Appleton estate rum factory. And have drinks at the local beach bar called (and I loved this ) "The office of nature".
Having great dining experiences or a night out is not only found at Michelin starred or high end restaurants. Street food stalls and roadside shacks have served up very tasty and memorable eating experiences on many occasions during our travels. And the best nights out drinking has always been out of the resort and with the locals.
Out of interest a quick Google search of high end restaurants in Negril did not yield any results anyway, instead only offered gourmet dining in other hotels resorts. Not seeing the point in doing this we were happy to just eat off the cuff whilst out and about when not at our own resort.     
We were staying at the Club hotel Riu Negril in bloody bay. Our hotel rep (our new Jamaican mother) told us there was some debate about how the beach claimed its name. Some argue it was the site of a vicious pirate battle, but most believe hunters used to massacre whales there, turning the sea blood-red.
Jerk Chicken Rice and Peas
On our first full day we had a taste of authentic Jerk chicken rice and peas, this was served at the Jerk chicken hut on the beach of our hotel. The chef there was never short of any takers at lunch time, so much so I never felt I could hold up the queue by asking him the ingredients of his Jerk marinade, I doubt he would have told me anyway !

Jerk chicken with sauces hot hot hot or BBQ.

Chef on the beach at Negril
Chopping the Jerk chicken
One flick of the wrist with his clever and the chicken was sliced

Jerk chicken with rice and peas, sauces hot hot hot or BBQ.

YS Falls, St Elizabeth, Jamaica
Next time we had Jerk Chicken was at the little open air restaurant and bar at YS Falls.
YS Falls is one of the most secluded and beautiful spots in Jamaica, boasting seven layers of waterfall which cascades over several natural pools and swimming in natural springs within a beautiful jungle setting .
YS Falls, St Elizabeth, Jamaica

Natural spring water pools for a jungle swim. Great for working up an appetite.

Jerk chicken rice and peas at YS Falls restaurant, Jamaica

Ackee and Saltfish
This is the other national dish we tried. Typically served at breakfast, we tried this at our hotel. The ackee fruit should be allowed to open and naturally ripen on the tree. When it ripens it turns from a green to bright red to yellow orange then splits open to reveal three large shiney black seeds, surrounded by sorft , creamy or spongey white yellow flesh.

This Ackee tree was growing just outside the restaurant of our hotel.

Ackee and saltfish, for breakfast at the hotel, Negril, Jamaica

As you can see from the picture it really does reassemble scrambled eggs, probably the reason it's widely eaten for breakfast. But it didn't taste as nice as it looks. In fact I thought it tasted quite bland it was the salt fish that seem to overpower the delicate Ackee.

Appleton Rum Factory
You can't go to any Caribbean island without being introduced to RUM.
Rum is made from molasses, the byproduct of converting sugar cane into granulated sugar. The Caribbean with its perfect climate, fertile soil, and just the right amount of rainfall is the perfect environment for sugar cane to flourish.
When in Dominican we drank Brugal, in Cuba it was Havana club, in Jamaica it was all about Appleton. So when we discovered there was a trip to the factory where they make this fantastic drink it was not to be missed.
We travelled to the Nassau Valley in St. Elizabeth where the Appleton RumEstate is located.The tour began with a meet and greet at the bar on the estate where you are offered to try some sugar cane by chewing and sucking out the sweet liquid, and a Rum punch. After pairing up with out tour guide Norman a very likeable chap who with incredible knowledge mixed with a good sense of humour made for an interesting tour.
He told us about the history of rum before giving us a tour of the grounds and factory for an inside look at how the rum is made.
We were also taken inside the distillery to see the Copper Pot Stills and the ageing house where the rums rest in oak barrels. I did not particularly enjoy as the smell in this room it was horrendous like a very dirty musky smell, all very interesting but I couldn’t wait to get out. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take our cameras into the distillery.
After the tour it was on to the real business of tasting!
Eleven rums where on offer, starting with the 12 year old, at which point one older lady of the group had to be helped off to the sidelines coughing and spluttering. Next up was the over proof white rum then several fruit rums, pineapple, coconut etc.. Honey , Blue mountain coffee liquor and Rum creme. A very enjoyable experience and great fun. (Our guide joined in ) what a great job he has!

Ricks cafe
I had heard of Ricks cafe before I went to Jamaica and no matter what part of Jamaica we would end up in I knew we would make the trip to this place. As it happens we were staying not more than 20 minutes taxi ride away.
Voted as one of the top ten bars in the world so all the Jamaican billboards would have us believe?  It does however boast the number six spot on the ten most dangerous cliff jumps in the world says Google.
Opened in 1974 by Richard Hershman and known then as a hippy hangout it now attracts most people for the fabulous sunsets and cliff diving.
To be honest the Sunset was amazing but so was the sunset viewed from our resort right on the beach as it hugs the same coastline. 
What Rick’s Cafe does have however is Location Location Location.
You just can’t get a better setting for a beach bar, restaurant, live music venue and spectacular cliff diving all rolled into one glorious place.
We arrived at 1.30 and spent the whole afternoon enjoying place before the hoards of holiday makers arrived on their coaches and Catamarans to watch the famous sun set. There is just something so special about catching the perfect sunset and hearing a couple of hundred people cooing and clapping did make it memorable.
There is a restaurant here at Rick’s but we didn’t think it good value for money everything was very overpriced for an ordinary sounding menu. We did have some snacks just the usual nachos and a couple of chicken skewers portions were tiny and again overpriced. But we enjoyed the ice cold bottles of Red stripe beer!

75 foot dive! Pretty cool place to sit and sip on a nice cold beer.
This is what most people come here for, nothing nicer to have a drink watching the sun sink into the sea

Rick's Cafe at sunset
Office of Nature
It was during one of our morning strolls along the beach after breakfast that we noticed a wooden shack like structure and a sign outside called "Office of Nature".
Being early in the morning it was deserted but on closer inspection we worked out it must be a bar of some kind and next to it an area for cooking. So we planned to pay it a visit later that evening. We were so glad we did !
The kitchen at Office of  Nature
The bar , Office of Nature
Office of nature is run by Ital, Bingey and Gritty. They are the nicest guys who made us feel very welcome. Alas to say so welcome we stayed for lot of beers.
Having a beer and a chat with Bingey
Watching the sunset from the bar with a nice cold Red stripe.
Bringing in the Lobsters for super.

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  1. Beautiful post.