Stirring The Pot @ Zest Restaurant, The Cliff Hotel

Counting Down To The 20th Staging Of The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards judges were back on the road Sunday. Negril was their final destination, but not before a breakfast and jumbo malt stop in MoBay at the iconic Pelican and a photo op at the larger-than-life iron image of Usain Bolt made entirely of bolts by German artist Diedel Klooever at Tracks & Records. The stop put all in good stead for the final leg of the journey.

The understated luxe details of The Cliff Hotel, Negril — high ceilings, angular and wooden elements and stunning photographs — never fail to impress. Little surprise that it was voted Best Luxury Hotel in the Caribbean TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards 2017 & 2018.

Would the food be as impressive as on prior visits? That was the aim of this visit.

The fierce afternoon sun made Zest's fully air-conditioned space a welcome option whilst the beverage options — Cucumber Coolers (cucumber and ginger) and the Dark and Stormy (Johnnie Walker Black and a splash of lime) followed by platters of curried conch fritters with a chipotle aioli, ackee and salt fish tarts topped with tomato spiced jam and what Chef de cuisine Johnoi Reid called bruschetta with a twist a mango and tomato bruschetta that lent island flair to a traditional Italian antipasto — made it that much easier to chillax Negril-style.

Be warned: Zest's menu options are diverse, so dine with your own cabal of judges and have them each select from the Jamaican Street Food section of the menu . You'll rave, like us, over the sugar cane skewered coconut shrimp with sweet chilli coconut curry, curried chicken wings with pink peppercorn ranch, carrots and cukes, grilled sweet corn with cilantro with woo aioli and lime.

The mains are beautifully presented and as tasty as they look. Guest judge Janice Allen is still raving about the breadfruit fish tacos, a twist on the Baja California-invented fish taco, black bean hummus with plantain chips, the curried chicken with jasmine rice and Norma's Terrace Salad, a tribute to the chef's culinary trainer Norma Shirley.

The dessert options (we always leave room for dessert) of caramelised Scotch bonnet cheesecake, and Molten Lava Cake with coconut ice-cream found favour with most. A wider range is a suggestion, and something perhaps from our local repertoire.

Did we get it right? Make Zest your next culinary pit stop and let us have your feedback.

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