Queenie’s Jamaican Bar and Kitchen
crunchytiger dined as a guest of Jamie Thomas and Queenie’s
Take an old pub, fill it to the brim with hip up-cycled furniture, sprinkle with kitsch, add a solid food menu, open a twitter account that has a tendency to TYPE IN CAPITAL LETTERS… any of this sound familiar? ;)
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of what the Drink ‘n’ Dine group do – they’re behind some of my favourite bars: The Abercrombie with its deep fried Golden Gaytime, The Carrington with their $3 Pinxtos, and The Forresters and The Norfolk with their sunny beer gardens and beloved $10 lunch menus. Each place has its own little quirks, but the one thing they do have in common is a food menu that is given as much attention as the drinks menu.
The man behind the curtain is Chef Jamie Thomas. Once the head chef of The Carrington, Jamie is now the executive chef of the Drink ‘n’ Dine group – a role that sees him designing menus across all four kitchens (now five, with the new opening of Kings Cross eatery, Santa Barbara!). Busy guy!
If that weren’t enough on his plate, Chef Jamie has invited us to check out Drink ‘n’ Dine’s new venture, Queenies – a new Jamaican bar and kitchen that lives in the once under-utilised space above The Forresters. I’ve heard how popular Jamaican food is in the UK, and it’s no surprise that Chef Jamie is a fan of it too. Jamie tells us he and his mates used to hit up Jamaican restaurants after their late shifts – the only places left open by the time they finished work!
It’s been a while since I’ve been upstairs at The Forresters, and wow is it different. DnD designer Michael Delany has created a cosy and kitsch Caribbean-themed space that includes an abundance of colourful plastic flowers and an impressive tiger head looming over the fireplace. (You can read a bit more about the fit-out and interior design here: Habitus Living – Carribbean Kaleidoscope)
Ahhh… my spirit animal!
We start off with some cocktails – mine’s a Zimboo Juice: aged cachaca, cointreau, tamarind and white grapefruit with a salt rubbed rim – a zesty combination that isn’t too sweet.
First up are the Bammies ($7) – which are a traditional Jamaican flat bread made from cassava. I really love the texture of the flat bread – it’s satisfyingly chewy with a slightly crisp and smokey grilled exterior. The bammies at Queenies come in two varieties, prawn and pulled pork. The savoury pulled pork goes well with the sweet fresh pineapple, but my favourite is the prawn… with whole grilled prawns and a lovely sweet mango salsa on top. I love the use of fresh fruit. I could really eat a few plates of these to myself!
Next up is the Coconut soft shell crab ($16) – it doesn’t quite look like the snow-white tempura soft shell crab that I’m used to. This batter is a deep rich yellow, with a touch of sweetness, though not a strong flavour of coconut like I expected. The Hotstepper sauce gives a bit of a spicy kick.
The Curried Oxtail “don’t call them The Carrington’s empanadas” Patties ($14) are piping hot, crispy envelopes of slow cooked oxtail meat, and come with a surprising Cucumber and Chili Yoghurt – all at once soothing and spicy on the tongue.
Our next dish, the BBQ Jerk Corn ($8) quickly gets nicknamed Lamington corn by the table – thanks to its shredded coconut exterior and surprising sweetness. The corn’s coating is creamy and buttery, with a hint of jerk spice. The presentation is cute too, served in half an egg carton, with skewers that will be familiar to those who’ve eaten The Carrington’s famous Pinxtos!
The Calypso Coffee Ribs ($15) don’t have a particularly strong coffee flavour like I’d expected, but are nevertheless wonderfully smokey and sticky. The just meat falls off the bone. And no wonder too, as Chef Jamie reveals that they’re slow-cooked in a 65˚C water bath for many hours.
The Hellshire Ceviche ($16) is one of my favourite dishes of the night. Thinly sliced pieces of snapper have been marinated in lime juice and are topped with coriander, avocado, mango and chilli. So fresh and lovely. The sweetness of the mango goes so well with the tangy marinade. Pop all of that on a crunchy tortilla chip, and it’s a perfect refreshing bite after the sticky ribs.
Pushcart Chicken Wings ($14), like the ribs, are basted in a sauce similar to the Calpyso ribs. While they’re good (and easy to hold thanks to being ‘frenched’) I think the ribs still win my vote, being just that bit more flavourful.
It’s at this point in the evening when Jamie comes out to see how we’re tracking… and if we’re ready for our mains. WHAT. I don’t know about anyone else on the table, but I’d been eating with a hoggish glee, with no regard for pacing myself. These were just the entrees?!
First up from the mains is a bowl of Goat Curry ($28). The meat is tender, and the curry flavourful and comforting. However, a combination of dark lighting and my own greed meant that I didn’t realise the little chunks of meat were served on the bone… whoops that was a solid bite! The curry is served on top of a pile of Dirty Rice.
The aforementioned Dirty Rice ($5 as a side) is long-grain rice flavoured with chopped coriander, spring onions, mint and all-spice. The fresh herbs make it a refreshing accompaniment to the hearty curry.
Despite my fullness I can’t say no to Sweet Potato Fries ($9). Crisp on the outside and fluffy inside, there’s always room for chips!
Another favourite of the night was the salad, a combination of cashews, cabbage, radish, coriander, mango and lime juice. So refreshing, I continued to eat this crunchy salad by the forkful all night, despite being way past the point of fullness.
Chef Jamie then brings out these trays laden with impressive pieces of jerk spiced meat – first up is the BBQ Jerk Chicken, served with Jungle Slaw ($18). Beneath the deliciously spicy, smokey jerk rub, the chicken is perfectly cooked and shreds into beautiful chunks.
The Jerk Pork Neck ($35) on the other hand, comes out on a large tray just made for sharing. For $35, the Jerk spiced pork is served with an assortment of crusty bread rolls, sweet potato fries, jungle slaw and a spicy Pineapple and Chilli salsa. The menu says it will feed 3-4. I love the idea of this! I can definitely see myself and some friends ordering a tray like this and being perfectly content. Though the Jerk Pork is delicious, I think my favour lies with the Jerk Chicken.
Just when we are contemplating how we will manage to roll back down Foveaux street when this meal is over, Jamie brings out some desserts – just a few to share. Time to engage my dessert stomach!
The Piña Colada sundae is a perfect way to end such a hearty meal. The coconut icecream and pineapple flavours are light and refreshing, with a cherry coulis to keep it from getting too sweet.
The Donuts on the other hand almost defeat me! Denser and smaller than your average donut, they have an interesting chewy texture. Fans of chili and chocolate will enjoy this dessert, thanks to the slight spiciness of the jerk custard and chocolate sauce.
Altogether we had an awesome meal. Though the particular standouts for me were the Bammies and Ceviche, I just love the convivial atmosphere the star dishes like the Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork Neck create. Like a big family dinner, but with cocktails! Many thanks to Chef Jamie for his hospitality. I’ll definitely be coming back… and with friends!
Queenies (on top of Forresters Hotel)
336 Riley St (Corner of Foveaux and Riley)
Ph: 9212 3035
Tuesday – Saturday: 6pm until Late
Also open for lunch on Fridays: 12pm- 3pm