Takoo’s Calabash Kitchen – A taste of authentic Jamaican fare
Restaurants promising an appetising Jamaican menu are a dime a dozen, but the most memorable ones are those that are able to provide that authentic, cultural, and comfortable dining experience. It was refreshing to discover a charming café like Takoo’s Calabash Kitchen nestled at the centre of Mount Zion, St James, after veering off A1 on the North Coast Highway on to a rough road which led into a forested area.
The eatery is located on the grounds of the well-kept Takuma Boutique Hotel and is visible from the entrance. The cool country air flows freely through its bamboo and thatch structure, adding that welcoming touch, and somewhat gastronomical sensation, as the flavours of foods being cooked over an open fire gets blended in.
Surrounded by fertile earth and lush greenery, the establishment offers seating close to the culinary activities, allowing guests to observe the preparation or under one of its many ackee and breadfruit trees where food may be enjoyed communally.
Chefs Rall Thompson and Gary Patterson offer their expert services to the restaurant and hotel, never giving up an opportunity to share stories of how they started and the strangest requests they have received.
The appetisers prepared were the traditional bammy, salt fish fritters and plantains, but the signature dip was like none other, a balance between tangy, spicy and sweet and combined with each ‘fried treat’ differently.
The culinary journey is just as exciting as the tour through the hills of Mount Zion that the hotel owners offer. And the chef was not to be left out of it. He prepared a special soup du jour he dubbed ‘Power Wata’, instead of its usual culinary label of mannish water served once the guests reached a certain point in the natural forest of pimento and bamboo trees.
“It’s for stan-ima,” joked Chef Thompson as he shared the hearty mixture into the cups. “Goat head soup is the best choice for a trip or any activity that takes a lot of our energy, especially the men.”
Most of the ingredients used to create the dishes are either grown on the grounds or lands encircling the property without harmful pesticides. “The meals served at Takuma Boutique Hotel and Takoo’s Calabash Kitchen are, if not all, mostly organic, prepared from fresh produce harvested from the gardens of local farmers, and residents with small enterprises walked to our kitchen and crafted into traditional mouth-watering dishes by our first-rate local culinary staff,” said Coleen Campbell-Allen, a manager at the establishment.
Some of the flavoursome foods plated throughout the day included curried goat (the same goat whose head was used to make the potent ‘Powa Wata’), jerked chicken and escoveitch fried fish, with rice and peas, roasted breadfruit and salad.
Guests can also purchase the farm-fresh food items to prepare their own meals or request the services of any of the chefs, Campbell-Allen said. She promised that all guests or customers passing through leave with a full stomach and a wealth of knowledge by the end of any day. And that was true! The chefs also made themselves available to give a quick, hands-on lesson on the steps to take when roasting breadfruits.