A guide to food and drink in Jamaica

Jamaican cuisine is a hodge-podge of flavours influenced by the many cultures that have graced this Caribbean island’s shores, including Spanish, British, African, Indian and even Chinese recipes. On the whole, the meals you’ll find on holidays to Jamaica are heavy on seafood, meats and tropical fruit, many varieties of which you might not have even heard of.

Exploring Jamaica's delicacies

The national dish of Jamaica is saltfish – or cod – and ackee fruit, commonly served for breakfast. Curry goat, spicy jerk chicken, fried plantains, Jamaican patties and sides of rice with beans are other dishes you’re almost guaranteed to come by. Vegetarians will find themselves well taken care of in Jamaica, especially within Rastafarian cuisine, as it often borders on vegan.

Those of you with a love of spices will feel right at home on your Jamaica holidays as well. Many of their meals have a cheeky little kick, be it via hot sauce or through spices infused in traditional recipes passed from one generation to the next. And talking of spices, a good spiced rum is a must to wash down your meal when you’re out in Jamaica, although plenty of other variations on that tipple exist too.

Italian fusion at Toscanini Restaurant, Ocho Rios

Tuscany meets Jamaica at this fusion restaurant, whose cuisine is one-part seafood or meat and two-parts pasta.

Tucked away in a plantation-style home, the food here has home-cooked vibes to match, with chefs dishing up homemade pasta spiced with Jamaican flavours and tender rabbit. The menu varies from day to day, ensuring the ingredients are fresh and seasonal, so make sure you speak with the cheerful staff to discover their recommendations.

Garden vibes at Just Natural, Negril

Just Natural is the definition of a hidden gem, tucked amid dense trees. The set-up can look a little ramshackle, but it only adds to the character of this unique spot, giving a funky sense of tropical chic to the whole affair. Plus, the food is incredible, not to mention affordable. It’s made with natural spices, and revolves around veggies and seafood like octopus and lobster. Devout carnivores need not apply.

Jerk everything at Pork Pit, Montego Bay

Remember that jerk chicken we mentioned? The pork pit grills up these famous bites the right way – on giant outdoor grill tops.

Jerk chicken and pork are obviously the stars of this show, though this little restaurant also dishes up grilled prawns, ribs and chips, best topped with hot pepper sauces that’ll send your tastebuds into a tizzy. Take a tour of the menu from top to tail, and you won’t be disappointed.

Cliffside dining at Pushcart Restaurant & Bar, Negril

Pushcart has the gorgeous view factor going for it, tucked alongside a line of craggy rocks and overlooking the waterfront. Chefs here dish up all the classic Jamaican favourites like curry goat, jerk pork and roasted plantains, so you’ll have the chance to sample all of the country’s highlights in one go. The ambience isn’t half bad either, made even more romantic with live music and sunset views.

Lobster on the beach at Leon's Lobster Hut, Falmouth

It seems a bit obvious to say that you should taste the lobster at Leon’s Lobster Hut, but we feel it’s worth emphasising. This restaurant is really no more than a hut on the beach, but that adds to the experience. You’ll dine on the sand – literally – on freshly grilled lobster accompanied by veg, rice and an ice cold Red Stripe, and the whole experience will be so sublime that you’ll probably come back again tomorrow.