Follow Me Foodie to Resort Dining in Jamaica
Dining around Sandals Royal Plantation & Resort Restaurants
This is the view from my bedroom on a cloudy day of October in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Can’t complain. The water was still sparkling blue and crystal clear and had it been sunny it would have been even nicer. Oh, how I miss Jamaica!
If you prefer staying on resorts when you travel, then you’re likely familiar with the luxury Sandals resort brand. I was invited on a culinary tour in Jamaica and the Sandals Royal Plantation was where I stayed for a portion of the trip. The purpose of this post isn’t to brag about the fancy accommodations or even promote them, but I was able to try some of their restaurants and it did help me better understand authentic Jamaican food in various styles.
Honestly, the accommodations at resorts excite me more than the dining options. Being a foodie in Jamaica a hotel restaurant doesn’t really appeal to me. However, I understand that I’m not representative of their clientele who would prefer familiar foods and flavours that are closer to home. Needless to say they are touristy restaurants for tourists in paradise settings.
On the other hand, I’m not sure how many of you would go to Jamaica just for the food and I think many would choose to stay on a beautiful resort like Sandals, where everything is all inclusive. Sure it makes things a lot easier and some of the food I tried here was impressive and enjoyable, but I do encourage travelers to explore beyond the resort to really see and taste what Jamaica truly has to offer.
If you need a little guidance please see my posts for authentic Jamaican Jerk chicken from Scotchies, authentic Jamaican seafood from Prendy’s on the Beach, and an authentic Jamaican breakfast from Jamaica Pegasus.
In the end, I dined around three restaurants on the Sandals Resorts which included one flop, one solid authentic Jamaican gourmet breakfast, and a memorable 5 course fine dining dinner.
Sandals Grande Riviera – Dinner at Bayside Restaurant
The fist night was a buffet dinner at Sandals Grand Riviera’s Bayside Restaurant. Featuring an international menu including a sushi bar, nacho bar, salad bar, pasta bar, sweet and sour chicken and a few Jamaican specialties, it was just not for me. There are 14 other casual and fine dining options on the resort, and unless any of the above excites you, then I would advise you to check out the other options, or be adventurous and try something off the resort.
Sandals Royal Plantation – Breakfast at The Terrace Restaurant
Sandals is a luxury resort, so in terms of ambiance, it doesn’t really get any better if you want to dine literally by seaside. The next morning featured their breakfast buffet, but it was much more impressive than the buffet dinner at Bayside Restaurant. The breakfast was actually very representative of a fancy Jamaican breakfast. It didn’t feel as home style and authentic as the one I had at Jamaica Pegasus, but it was still very enjoyable on another level. It was presented gourmet, had more variety, and the fruits were more exotic.
The flavours were a bit Westernized, as expected for a resort, but it was still very good and included all the standard Jamaican breakfast items like Ackee & Saltfish, Callaloo (similar to spinach), boiled plantains, breadfruit, and Escovitch (made with Lionfish) as well as other American breakfast items.
Lionfish is actually a poisonous fish, but after it’s handled and cooked (in this case deep fried) it becomes safe to eat, and the same goes for the ackee fruit in Ackee & Saltfish. I don’t know what’s up with Jamaican ingredients being poisonous before it’s cooked, but they make it work and taste great! For more on Ackee & Saltfish see my post here.
This Ackee and Saltfish (looks like scrambled eggs) was more refined and catered for Western tastes, but it was still delicious. In Vancouver it’s often served for dinner in our limited Jamaican restaurants, but it is traditionally a breakfast item.
This was a breakfast item I really wanted to try and I hadn’t come across it yet, until I saw it being offered at The Terrace. It’s a Jamaican peanut porridge I had read about. It’s pretty much a peanut flavoured oatmeal made with freshly ground peanuts, evaporated milk, flour, sugar and nutmeg. It tasted more almondy than peanutty and it wasn’t creamy and didn’t resemble any qualities of peanut butter at all. It tasted like that hot walnut soup they serve for dessert at Chinese restaurants, but mixed with the listed ingredients. Just like American oatmeal you can top it off with dried fruit, coconut and nuts etc.
Sweetsop or Custard Pear – These are my favourite! I know them as Custard Pear, what they’re called in Asia, but in Jamaica they’re called Sweetsop. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other. I was so happy. It pretty much tastes like a gritty, grainy, overripe and creamy Bartlett pear. It’s richer than a Bartlett pear in texture and flavour and custard like. I think I ate at least 6 of them at breakfast. The white part is the fruit and you spit out the black seeds. The bumpy green skin isn’t meant to be eaten. It takes a bit of effort to eat, but they’re amazing and worth it!
Sandals Royal Plantation – Dinner at La Papillon
My last meal in Jamaica was a hosted 5 course dinner at Sandals Royal Plantation’s La Papillon Restaurant. Since it was my last day (not my last post for Jamaica) I had crammed in as much food as I could. After Jamaican Jerk chicken at Scotchies, a feast at an Irish Pub (I know that’s random, but it was on the itinerary), six scoops of Devon House Ice Cream (considered the best ice cream in Jamaica) and three Jamaican patties from Juici Patties (considered one of the best patties in Jamaica), I was not necessarily starving for dinner, but I was ready.
Restaurant: Sandals Royal Plantation Resort & Restaurants – La Papillon
Last visited: October 7-8, 2011
Location: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Address: Main Street, P.O. Box 2, Ocho Rios 2, Jamaica
Price Range: All inclusive
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Although La Papillon was a resort restaurant the food was actually very good. I know! I was quite surprised. It was French inspired Jamaican food so it was something different, which I can’t get at home. Authentic Jamaican food isn’t gourmet and it’s very home style, so “fine dining” for authentic Jamaican cuisine is almost a contradiction. The chefs are Jamaican and professionally trained, so they still brought Jamaican flavours and fused them with French techniques. Therefore I appreciated it on another level that wasn’t authentic, but just unique, refined and good. If you want something like this, you basically have to get it at a resort. I did also go to EITS Cafe (Europe in the Summer Cafe) in Jamaica which was another European take on Jamaican food, but on a more casual level and in the mountains – see here.
On the table:
- Red Stripe is the most popular beer in Jamaica and it’s a very light beer with characteristics of a lager.
- I found it very representable of a Jamaican meets French dish and it was excellent.
- There was no bitterness, but I could still taste a bit of the beer and it was a switch up from the classic wine.
- It was more buttery than anything, sweet from some onions, and a little tangy from some lemon juice, followed by a hint of beer to give it a spark and dynamic flavour.
- The broth was rich, but drinkable like soup, and the mussels were tiny, but not gutsy and still sweet and tender.
- I’ve had beer steamed mussels in Vancouver before, so the idea wasn’t new to me, but it was still great!
- A complete Jamaican meal will almost always include a soup for starters, just like many Asian cuisines. They’re all cultures that are big on soup.
- It reminded me of split pea soup, but instead of peas it was Gungo Peas, or Pigeon peas, and red kidney beans which they also call “peas”.
- It was made with Gungo peas, kidney beans, kale or callaloo, carrots, onions, potatoes, beef, chicken, pork, thyme and coconut milk.
- It was a hearty soup and had all of Jamaica in it. It’s a meal in itself.
- Traditionally it should be made with salted ham or pig tails, but this one had pieces of boneless skinless pork, and the beef and chicken was in the form of stock.
- It was a bit spicy from some scotch bonnet peppers and the coconut milk cut the heat and gave it a little creamy richness.
- The broth is very meaty tasting with the peas, beans, and vegetables cooked down to thicken it.
- There were also some dumplings in it that looked like short noodles and tasted like chewy rolled perogie skins. It was almost like thick, doughy, and short pieces of dense udon.
- This was French in style, but the ingredients were seasonal and representative of what Jamaica has to offer.
- The lettuce was wrapped with a thin strip of cucumber to hold the green leaves together.
- The tower was composed of cucumbers, June plums, and pickled beets and there was a nice sweet and tangy balance. I loved the texture of juicy fruit and crunchy vegetables too.
- The June plums tasted like mango and papaya and they were dyed in the beets and that’s why they’re pink.
- I had a June plum fresh and it actually tastes like a green apple meets a green mango and it’s more tart than sweet.
- There were two Jamaican orange segments on the side and the dressing seemed like a balsamic vinaigrette.
- The Jamaican goat cheese tasted like salty feta and it wasn’t very gamey at all. It was creamier than feta and not crumbly and it was the only salty aspect of this salad.
- It was an interesting set up for a salad and I think the only vegetables I ate all day.
- Served with cinnamon pumpkin and sauteed vegetables.
- The pork chop was a bit dry for me, but the smoky roasted cured flavours were well developed and infused.
- It was topped with a sweet and syrupy fresh pineapple and the sauce tasted like tangy orange juice, pineapple juice and honey.
- It was probably a bit sweet for me, but the flavours were that of roasted ham and pineapples which I’ve always been a fan of.
- The creamy pureed pumpkin mash was spiced with cinnamon and it reminded me of sweet potato pie filling. I think there may have been some pureed apples in it too.
- Curried Lobster – 4/6
- The curried lobster was sauteed in butter, lemon and a simple tomato broth for some acidity, and some fresh parsley.
- The lobster was tender and sweet with a hint of curry and the spice of scotch bonnet pepper hot sauce.
- I loved how it was served and it was quite a gourmet side to a pork chop.
- With stewed June plum and rum sauce
- And where’s the rum sauce?
Oh, never mind, there it is! A free flowing shot or two of it!
- I wasn’t a fan of this dessert, although the presentation was impressive.
- It reminded me of those Asian jelly roll cakes, but dome shaped with a cream filled centre.
- It was a sponge cake with lots of thick coffee flavoured cream and it wasn’t too sweet, but the cream was really rich, buttery, heavy and a bit overwhelming. It just wasn’t my favourite Bavarian cream.
- It was almost soaked with rum and it was all I could taste, so it reminded me of rum balls without the chocolate coating.
- The June plums were stewed, tender and tart so it was nice to have along with the creamy cake, but I ended up eating them alone.
- The spoon tasted like a thin crisp fortune cookie and that was enjoyable.