One Love Jamaican Restaurant brings island flavour to Qatar
When it comes to food, Jamaica arguably has one of the most flavourful cuisines. And luckily for lovers of authentic Jamaican dishes and even for those who want to try it out for the first time, a restaurant serving up tasty meals from ‘Yaad’ can be found just about anywhere in the world. This includes Qatar, home of the 2022 World Cup where the One Love Jamaican Restaurant is preparing to serve up some delicious nyammings’ for local and visitors this season.
The restaurant opened its doors in June of this year, and according to owner, Qatari Nasser Ali, who fell in love with the island over his many trips here and had to take a piece of Jamaica back home.
“I have been to Jamaica many times. I love the people; I love Reggae music and all of that. I realised that in Qatar there is a large Jamaican community but we don’t have anything for Jamaica. There is no embassy, no restaurant or anything. So, I decided to open a restaurant in Qatar and we take it from there. We want to spread the culture and authentic Jamaican food,” he shared.
With just over four months under its belt, One Love Jamaican Restaurant has become a hotspot for visitors from the West who come in to experience a taste of the island.
“I have worked on this restaurant for over a year and a half to prepare and open it. It is located in a very fancy area in Qatar. When anyone comes to Qatar this place is the first or second place you visit so we are sure you will see the restaurant and get to see the Jamaican culture. Most of our customers are Western, Jamaicans and British people and those on the other side like Europeans.” Ali told Food. “People will come to taste the food and end up liking it and always express how happy they are. It is the first Jamaican Dining restaurant in Qatar and they love it here.”
The menu consists of Jamaican favourites, from ackee and salt fish, jerk chicken, rice and peas, curried and fried chicken to escovitch, fried, steamed or brown stewed fish and oxtail and beans. According to Ali, his favourite is the ackee and salt fish and it is definitely a must have for those who come in to dine but it is the oxtail that is most requested off the menu.
“Oxtail is number one! Most people will order the oxtail then ackee and salt fish. The third one is jerk chicken with rice and peas but the top one for sure is oxtail,” he revealed.
But what makes the meals so special? Well, all the staff is straight from Jamaica!
“All out team is from Jamaica. The waiters, chefs, executive chefs, the entire team comes directly from Jamaica. It honestly was not easy finding head chef, Tomlin Graham, but I am lucky to have found someone who is so good,” Ali shared.
Other items on the menu include salt fish and salt mackerel run down; roasted and stewed beef; a range of soups such as manish water, red peas, pumpkin and fish tea; salads and sides such as roasted and fried breadfruit, seasoned pumpkin and callaloo rice; ripe and green plantain, and even turned cornmeal (polenta).
The appetiser menu also carries interesting items such as crackers and salt fish, and usual suspects like beef patty and salt fish fritter. For dessert, there is a delicious sweet potato pudding, and they also have peanut and coconut drops, as well as gizzada on the menu.
NOT AN EASY ROAD
While Ali loves serving delectable dishes, he admits that it has not always smooth sailing running a Jamaican restaurant that is approximately 14 hours away from the island. Ali ships most of his ingredients directly from Jamaica to ensure the quality of the meals but this can often pose a challenge.
“The ackee we have to ship. My country is like a desert. It is very hot, very sunny so most vegetable is difficult to get. We ship it from Jamaica or Miami and it can be very expensive. We bring everything from Jamaica, the seasonings and all of that so that part is not easy,” he disclosed.
The staff also have a difficult time renewing passports and travelling to and from Jamaica.
“There is only one country that accepts the Jamaicans coming to Qatar in transit and that is Germany. The have to fly from Jamaica to Germany, stay a couple of hours then fly from Germany to come to Qatar. It is not easy to bring staff. It has cost me a lot. Then Jamaica does not have airline so they have to go to America and for America they need visa and they do not always have American visa. And in case of emergency the closest embassy is in the United Kingdom. So they have to fly to there to renew their passports. It is rough,” Ali explained.
“I want Jamaica to build a relationship with Qatar because we have a lot of Jamaicans here and they encounter problems,” he continued.
Nevertheless, despite the challenges, he continues to spread ‘One Love’ through food because the restaurant brings joy to many.
“Some people, especially Jamaican when they come here they say they feel at home because the food, the seasoning, the ackee and salt fish, the jerk chicken, the oxtail just reminds them of back home. This is my dream to open a Jamaican restaurant and at least I do something for the country I love,” he said.