Jamaican Flava. It’s the striking sign above the door to St Mary’s Kitchen, a family-run restaurant in the shadow of the railway arches of Cheltenham Road.
Right on the sidewalk next to a busy bus stop, it’s as far away as you can get from Jamaica’s golden sunsets and tropical gardens.
No matter. The yellow, green and black flag next to the kitchen and the framed photo of Bob Marley are enough to set you in the mood for a taste of the Caribbean, as are the reggae rock lovers of Beres Hammond drifting into the dining room. airy eating.
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St Mary’s Kitchen was opened three years ago by Lorna Coombs, a chef of Indian / Jamaican descent.
This family business is run with the help of Bristol-born children Lorna, Aaron, Alicia and Adrian, and “Aunt Veronica”, the Jamaican lady who greeted us as warmly as if we were lost members of her. family for a long time. We need more Aunt Veronicas outside the house.
Named after the Jamaican parish the family is from, St Mary’s is the restaurant Lorna had always dreamed of opening. She taught her children to cook from a young age and home-cooked Jamaican food has always been a central part of family life growing up in Bristol.
It was my first visit to St Mary’s Kitchen but I had heard some really good things. A couple of friends told me it was the most authentic Jamaican food served in Bristol – a heck of a treat – and there was a rumor that the goat curry was the best in town.
The restaurant has food, pickup, or delivery options and while it was fairly quiet the night we visited there was clearly plenty of take out ordered over the phone.
The menu is concise and revolves around meat, fish and vegan main courses, all served in two different sizes. There are no entrances as such, just from the sides.
While there are plans for cocktails, the drink list was alcohol-free on this visit, with a spicy bottle of pineapple and ginger “Tropical Rhythm” being an option.
The food here is authentic and in no way anglicized. Meat options include oxtail and jerk chicken or lamb.
Fish choices include ackee and salted fish, boneless snapper and curried fish, with vegans able to choose between a mixed vegetable curry and garlic spinach and butternut squash.
Prices are reasonable – small portions of main courses are around £ 9 and larger dishes are around £ 10-16.
After a plate of light, crispy, fat-free fried dumplings (£ 1 for three) and ‘festivals’ (donut-shaped fingers at £ 1 for three), we tried the fried chicken (£ 9.50 / £ 10 ) – two huge pieces of tender meat coated in a light and crunchy dough with a hint of spice.
The curry goat cheese (£ 9 / £ 10.50) was as good as any I’ve tasted. If there is a better one in Bristol right now, I need to know that.
The meat literally fell off the bones and the dark, aromatic and spicy sauce was heady with garlic and allspice.
Both dishes were served with warm, chewy rice and peas and steamed vegetables – shredded cabbage, crisp greens and carrots and an irresistible, generous touch of freshly ground pepper. No bland vegetables here.
A door-sized wedge of ‘cake’ (£ 3.50) was springy and buttery with a hint of vanilla. It was a real old fashioned sponge like your mother used to make after school.
And that’s the thing with St Mary’s Kitchen. It’s essentially no-frills home cooking with a real sense of place and heritage.
This place might be the dusty old road to Cheltenham, but the flavors are a real taste of Jamaican heaven.
St Mary’s Kitchen is currently open Thursday through Saturday until mid-October when opening hours will be extended.
St Mary’s Kitchen, 212 Cheltenham Road, Bristol, BS6 5QU. Tel: 0117 9241684. More information can be found on the St Mary’s Kitchen website.
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