Roots rocking with culture and food
It is a fusion of fun, food, and festivities, and if you happen to be celebrating your birthday, Roots Rock Restaurant at the S Hotel in Montego Bay, St James, can also throw you a fiesta.
Perched atop the hotel’s sixth floor, Roots Rock offers guests a spectacular view of the historical Doctor’s Cave Beach, the hotel’s infinity pool, and the beautiful courtyard and pool down below.
Inside, the aesthetic is a celebration of Jamaican culture, dancehall, and reggae, depicting paintings of some of Jamaica’s entertainment legends, including Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
It will take a few seconds for guests to realise they have a full view of the kitchen from their tables, and that the stacked wooden sound system boxes affixed to the restaurant’s walls are not the ones belting out the smooth reggae hits to guests.
In fact, they are beautifully carved pieces paying homage to the island’s rich musical legacy.
This is not even the best part. At least, not when the restaurant’s mouthwatering cuisine, also a celebration of Jamaican culture, is fused with its laid-back ambiance and aesthetics.
For appetisers, guests are offered tantalizing tastes of the island with treats such as cream of pumpkin soup, ackee and salt fish bruschetta, and coconut-crusted shrimp.
They can also whet their palate with a jerk chicken spring roll and a jerk barbecue pork slider.
Guests select from a range of jerk, and curried chicken, escoveitch fish, and jerked pork dishes for the main course. For the vegetarians among them, options include a list of garden salads, coconut bean stew, and curried tofu.
For desserts, there are the choices of a passion fruit cheesecake, a chocolate dream coconut cake, and the ‘good ole’ Jamaican cornmeal pudding with coconut rum sauce.
Remarkably, the braised oxtail dish, slow-cooked with vegetables and beans and served with rice and peas, is a favourite among local and international guests. The meat reportedly takes two days to season before it is ready for cooking.
“Oxtail and jerk chicken are our biggest sellers here, and for the appetiser, it is probably the shrimp or the jerked chicken spring roll,” noted Executive Chef Maurice Mullings. Foreigners, he said, tend to love the oxtail.
“It (oxtail) has become an international thing now. Cooking it is like a two-day process. We season it one day and then leave it for the next. Then we pre-roast it to get rid of the excess fat. Then we sit it down to rest for the next day for braising. That process takes about four to five hours on the stovetop or oven,” continued Mullings, sharing that foil and plastic wrap are also used in the braising process.
An aromatic blend of natural seasonings: scallion, thyme, pepper, and onion goes into the more than 264 pounds of meat prepared by the restaurant each week, said Mullings, who is from a family of chefs, and has been working at the S Hotel for years.
Birthday celebrants can expect the dancing squad of staff, singing and chanting with cake in hand. Just inform the food and beverage team when or before making a reservation. And the atmosphere is so relaxed, even guests join the celebrations.
“I absolutely loved the décor. I felt like I was transported back into the ‘90s with the sound system as a focal point immediately upon entrance, and the walls painted with the who-is-whos. I completely forgot I was in an all-inclusive resort,” said guest Keisha Williams, who celebrated her birthday there in May.
“I could see there was great care and attention to detail in curating a space that would pay homage to Jamaican culture. The food was also very remarkable, as our traditional dishes were elevated,” she said.
Roots Rock remains one of the top restaurants at the all-inclusive hotel, which throughout its many rooms celebrates Jamaican heritage, culture, and the legacy left behind by trailblazers. Inside, sculptures of poet Louise Bennett-Coverley and sprint legend Usain Bolt stand tall.
“As you know, Jamaican culture has gone worldwide; obviously, Bob Marley is a legend, and everyone is asking about him and taking pictures. They appreciate that this hotel is Jamaican-owned, Jamaican-staffed and managed, and when they see the historical elements, it takes it to another level for them,” said General Manager Marlon Honegan.