A ‘Cove’ away from home
Traditional flavours fused with Mexican street favourites take taste buds on a gastronomic getaway
In the middle of the busy Winchester thoroughfare of the capital’s Corporate Area is a dining space that despite the rise of delivery, take-out, and online ordering technologies, still values the physical, in-house experience.
The Cove Coolout Restaurant and Bar, an intrinsically Jamaican food and lifestyle destination that started in 2010 in Kingston, not only wants to bring people together with food, but has its sights set on redefining the culture of cuisine by fusing new flavours into its menu, and expanding the selections that “motivates gathering”, said Tara Carroll, owner and operator in an interview with Food.
“It is something Jamaicans, and people around the world, had lost sense of for some time. I believe in food bringing people together. Born and grown in Jamaica, we’ve been accustomed to Sunday dinners being the one time of the week everyone would come or be expected to dine as a family. I watched my grandmother religiously preparing that dinner for the entire family and back then it really brought us together,” she continued.
On a typical day, the flow of traffic in and out of 3 Winchester Road will probably have persons wondering what sort of treasure is hidden there. On entering the gate, the bamboo décor immediately inspires the mood of a cool beachside setting but as one explores further inside, it is contrasted with modern elements. Named appropriately, it is literally a ‘cove’ away from home, inviting everyone and anyone to come in and dine.
“The catalyst for starting the restaurant is my love of food and coming from a family of foodies. I mean, I used to wonder why grandma, after preparing all the food, would sit down and watch us eat and just smile. And here I am 12 years into the business finding myself sitting back to observe people eat and enjoy the food we prepare here with the same silly smile on my face,” Carroll shared.
In the daytime, it’s the barbe-fried chicken and the curried goat that have people lining up outside, but as it turns to night or early evening, the firepits send smoke signals that jerk is just about to be ready.
The fried fish, which is Hellshire style without the drive, is a crowd favourite. The restaurant also prides itself on being a part of the Blue Economy which focused on the sustainability of the world’s oceans and seas. The owner explained, “We don’t do parrot fish, we stick to snapper, and the importance of that, and I can’t stress it enough, is because parrot fish help to keep our beaches clean.”
Scrolling down the menu, taste buds will be tempted to try one or more tacos from the selection. While still combining the traditional jerk seasoning, blended with pimento, thyme, and Scotch bonnet peppers, Carroll and her staff have achieved the perfect balance between simplicity and creativity as it explores other cultures.
“We do call ourselves the premier spot for Jamaican cuisine because we utilise traditional ways of preparing meals, most, if not all, are done on a wood fire and our jerk done on our special box, where it has a smoky flavour and crispy textures people are used to our jerk having, but we also dabble in different foods from other countries,” she said. “We do a fusion of flavours from Mexico, with our Jamaican and Mexican style tacos from the jerk chicken and pork tacos, the crispy fish tacos to the pan-seared shrimp tacos that are served with our special mojito salsa and signature sauce. Our Birria tacos are fully Mexican though. In the evenings, when we open, say on Friday, Saturday and Sunday or while events are happening on the weekend, customers can catch tacos on those days and we have so many plans we want to launch in the near future which we believe our customers will enjoy.”
For Mexican food lovers their taste buds “will certainly be taken on a gastronomic getaway” as all the flavours hit the right notes. All the person who is indulging in the tacos needs to do, is imagine themselves sitting outdoors in a Mexican cantina close to the hour of sunset, with a margarita or mojito in hand, smelling the distinct aromas of freshly made tortilla, cayenne, and cumin along with nuanced herbs such as cilantro to get lost in the moment.
The Birria tacos come highly recommended and it is served with a soup, referred to as a consommé, a concentrated broth with noodles that is consumed by dipping the tacos into the bowl. Don’t knock it before you try it!
“We’re dedicated to making our creativity come to life through our cuisine. I’m blessed to have staff that has been with me for years. Things are easier too, especially with a great team, and with loyal customers. To our future customers, the next time you drive on our street, turn on your indicators and come cool out over good food and drinks with us,” Carroll said.