‘Rona has turned many travel blogs into food and lifestyle blogs, and Adventures from Elle is no different. I’m actually fine with that though. It’s been fun exploring other topics on my blog and sharing a bit more about myself, plus I like to think that the Earth is rejuvenating herself during our time indoors. With that said here’s a follow up to last week’s Eating My Way Through Kingston. If you missed that post, please go back and read it. It was a great article. 🙂
My Relocation to Mandeville
Mandeville is a cool suburban town located 2,000 feet above sea level on a plateau in the parish of Manchester. It’s home to some 72,000 inhabitants and is Jamaica’s 5th largest urban area. A rather large town and parish capital, it’s one of the few to be located inland as 10 of Jamaica’s 14 parish capitals are coasted by the Caribbean Sea. I’m a proud product of Kingston & St. Andrew, born “under the clock” as we say, but these past ten months I’ve gladly traded Kingston’s hot dusty 34°C streets for cool breezy Mandeville which has an average daytime temperature of 25°C and gets to as low as 15°C at nights during the cold foggy months of December and January. When I’m asked about how is Mandeville for internship, I always mention the temperature first, followed by the lack of traffic. It’s almost laughable when Mandeville residents complain about the 10 minute traffic they sit in on Caledonia Road, while I’m used to taking nearly 2 hours to reach home on a route that could easily be traveled in 20 minutes without traffic in Kingston.
Mandeville is a relatively sleepy town, often dubbed as the town for the “newly weds and nearly deads”, alluding to the fact that it’s mostly inhabited by young families and senior citizens, who are often expatriates and returning residents from the UK and USA who retire here. It’s hardly the town for a young unmarried professional like myself, but I guess I’m married to my internship (which is thankfully almost finished) so I haven’t noticed the lack of activities thaaaat much since I seldom have free time anyway. I’m low-key enamored with the small-town suburban life. If you drive even 5 minutes, you’ll land in “country.” The town is cool and clean, the roads are winding and the public buildings quaint and historic. There is a lot of wealth here too; the houses are often quite grand.
I also thought Mandeville would grant me the perfect springboard to explore more of western and central Jamaica, but my internship has almost come to an end and I didn’t do much of that. I spent nearly all my free weekends returning to Kingston to be with my family. I did accomplish a few day-trips though like Negril and parasailing, Bluefields Beach, Pelican Bar and I revisited the Black River Safari and YS Falls where I went ziplining for the first time.
That being said, I do miss several things about my home town– some of which are the dining options and nightlife. Kingston has a wider selection of restaurants and the city never sleeps, whereas the latest place open in Mandeville is KFC which closes at midnight. All other places close at 8 or 10pm if you’re lucky. However, I have had the pleasure of dining or getting takeout from several places in Mandeville, so here I am highlighting the dining options in my new home, both five places I’ve tried and another five I’d like to try once it’s safe to dine out again once more.
1. Voila Cafe (📍Pear Tree Village Plaza, by the Knutsford depot) A small but chic space located in the same complex as Knutsford Express, Jamaica’s largest coach with stops in several parishes, Voila serves as both a quick to-go cafe for hungry passengers and an a la carte stop for diners with a bit more time on their hands. Their quesadillas and burgers are great, as well as their pastries. Yummy!
2. Gizmos Chill Spot (📍2nd floor, Elethe Mall) I’ve been here three times with different company, well to be honest– once on my own because I was craving a margarita and a nice meal. Gizmos is a great chill-spot at night for couples and friends. My only complaint is that I didn’t get the margarita because it’s NOT on their drinks menu, and the bartender said he was unable to whip one up for me specially. I took some other drink instead which had tequila in it. The mashed potatoes and pork below was simple but tasty, and their 2-for-1 pasta nights on Thursdays with live music is something to look forward to. Check out their Instagram account to stay updated on their other weekly specials.
3. OMG Restaurant & Cafe (📍Cobblestone Professional Centre, 1A Brumalia Road) Every year I eagerly anticipate Restaurant Week, an annual event showcasing the best of Jamaica’s dine-out scene where participating restaurants put together special menus, deals and treats. My experience with RW has been limited since I could only participate in the cheapest category before (i.e. Nyam & Scram) with my student budget. Last year I finally had the chance to afford something more but thought it too ridiculous to pop into Kingston one night after work just for food. Well, OMG is an annual participant in the Restaurant Week festivities, and my boyfriend came to Mandeville just so we could check out this place together one night after work. 🙂 For the price point, I left rather satisfied and I still smile when I look back at this aesthetically pleasing fried calamari wonton with sweet and sour sauce. I’ll be back.
4. Best Meals Restaurant (📍Caledonia Plaza) This restaurant doesn’t have the most modest name but that’s fine. Best Meals serves up the best box-food I’ve had in Mandeville, so while they’re not really a sit-down-and-dine kind of place and their food is served in take-out boxes, I had to include them. They serve regular Jamaican lunches like fried chicken, barbe-fried chicken and stew pork, but if you’re willing to wait a bit longer on their pricier Indian food menu, you’ll be happy you did. Their butter chicken is excellent, and I love that I can substitute rice for freshly made roti with all their dishes. Yum!
5. 7 Greens Vegetarian Restaurant (📍Annex Plaza, Caledonia Road) Vegetarians aren’t left out in Mandeville with 7 Greens. I’ve only ever had their food delivered so I’m not sure if they have indoor dining or not, BUT their food is so good I couldn’t leave them off my list. Their menu remains fairly constant with stew beans, okra and saltfish, mashed potato and pasta salad but ackee does make an occasional appearance once available. Your tastebuds– and arteries– will thank you for checking them out.
Restaurants I’m Looking Forward To Trying
1. Regie’s Fine Dining (📍37 Main Street, behind Villa Plaza) I’ve heard that the food and wine selections at Regie’s are great, so say no more. The spot is also owned by a colleague of mine so this should be an interesting stop once it’s safe to resume my past time of dining out. Update: I had their curry goat & mannish water lunch special in March 2021 and it was delicious! Very lovely soft indoor lighting as well, perfect for date nights.
2. Bamboo Garden (📍Inside FosRich Co., Ward Avenue) I haven’t had any Chinese food in Mandeville before and I do enjoy a great lo-mein with sweet and sour chicken or pork, so I’m looking forward to trying this Cantonese-style restaurant. Perhaps Bamboo Garden will be the first place I try dim sum too. Update: I ate there twice in late 2020 and the food was disappointing on both occasions. Wouldn’t recommend.
3. Little Duchi (📍Shop 14 Leaders Plaza) A spin-off of the popular St. Elizabeth eatery Little Ochi, Little Duchi serves up the same quality seafood we’ve grown to know and love. I love seafood (I think I say this about nearly every food ha!) so I’m excited to check out their Mandeville branch some day soon.
4. The Arches Restaurant (📍Mandeville Hotel, 4 Hotel Street) Arches Restaurant at the Mandeville Hotel serves up international alongside local favourites. I’m eyeing several dishes from their online menu which look and sound delicious, and the prices seem pretty reasonable too. That’s always a plus.
5. Timberlee’s PeppaSeed Jerk Centre (📍33 Ward Avenue) Mandeville’s jerk specialist is Timberlee’s PeppaSeed Jerk Centre, or so I’ve heard. The picture below of their jerk pork and festival looks absolutely heavenly too; the only thing bad about this picture is that I don’t currently have my hands on some. Thus, here’s another spot I’ll just have to add to the list of places to try after ‘Rona.
I signed on for a second year of working in this town, and I expect to have more free time on my hands so I’ll hopefully use it to explore more of central and southwestern Jamaica: its eats and the natural attractions. There’s more to do in this side of Jamaica than one may think.
Let’s chat. Have you ever dined in Mandeville? Where are your favourite stops?
***Update: Naufragada’s Bistro is a new spot which opened in late 2020 and it has been a welcome addition to the food scene. They serve tacos, wraps, burritos, gyros, salads, burgers made with homemade brioche buns, loaded fries, smoothie bowls and breakfast foods. They’re only available as take-out, but Naufragada’s quickly rose to the spot of favourite place to eat in Mandeville as these options were not previously available in Mandeville and I missed these options from Kingston. The prices are affordable as well, and they have great customer service. 10/10 recommend.
‘Til next time, walk good!
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