Tantalizing Dining At The Grog Shoppe
Posted on 27 September 2016
It’s amazing how smiles, a great sauce (or in this case salad dressing that I thought was a sauce), and good company can make a lovely evening! The Grog Shoppe has been rumoured to be too gourmet and upper class to be truly Jamaican. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Indeed, it is a gourmet restaurant, but too upper class? Unenjoyable? Stand-offish (to use a Jamaican turn of phrase)? Definitely not words that described my evening.
The Grog Shoppe is nestled behind Chocolate Dreams on the historic Devon House property, so that you walk by the rich and tempting aroma of chocolate art before entering a little hideaway. Different plants lend their shady green to the outdoor space so that even when it's hot (this is Jamaica in the summer after all), the dining area feels more like a friend's outdoor garden than a restaurant.
Our server, Mr. Thomas, greeted us and took our order: a couple glasses of white wine, Chicken Breast Stuffed with Callaloo in a Light Curry Sauce with Creamed Sweet Potatoes, and Fish Fillet Escoveitch Fish with Bammy, all courtesy of a recent Gustazo promotion. Though we did wait a bit longer than we expected to, our dishes finally arrived. Mr. Thomas served us with smooth professionalism and in real Jamaican style - cracking a few jokes as we all became more comfortable with each other. He politely wished us an enjoyable evening and left us to dig in.
The fish, Basa fillet from Rainforest Seafoods, was beautifully seasoned in the traditional escoveitch fashion: peppery with a slight tang (we'll ignore the ethics of farm-raised fish, especially because I don’t know anything about Rainforest Seafoods’ farm operations). The aforementioned sauce, i.e. the salad dressing for my side salad of spiralized veggies, was an onion vinaigrette. This sauce added caramelized complexity, balancing the pepper of the fish very well. And the bammy! O, the bammy. So crispy, a little oily, but, perfect in its grainy, starchy cassava-ness. Altogether, a beautiful dish.
My dinner guest opted for the chicken and was a bit disappointed. The description was a “light curry sauce,” but we didn’t expect it to be that light! A little more of the spicy astringency of curry would’ve worked well in this dish. However, the sweet potatoes and side of steamed veggies served as an appropriate accompaniment, and quite possibly saved her dish. Our dessert was housemade Rum Cake with freshly whipped cream (real cream, Mr. Thomas informed us, thank God!) - a light sweet cap to end our meal.
I’ve detailed our dishes, but truly the food on its own would not have made my night. The natural feeling of the dining space and our laughs and conversations with Mr. Thomas made the meal relaxing and enjoyable, like meeting an old friend in the most comfortable place for a good meal. The regular price point of dinner at The Grog Shoppe is a bit higher than most middle-class Jamaicans can afford on a weekly basis, so when visiting, make it a special occasion and be prepared to spend a few thousand Jamaican dollars. Gourmet this restaurant may be, but I would definitely recommend it to any Jamaican or visitor to the island for an experience that should not disappoint.