Sunday brunch is an institution in Jamaica. After church services (around 65% of Jamaicans are Christian) it’s perhaps the second most popular Sunday ritual. Families gather together to enjoy a leisurely meal of Jamaican culinary specialties and enjoy each other’s company. Although Kingston visitors can find a Jamaican Sunday brunch at any number of local spots, perhaps one of the most famous is at the legendary Kingston resort Strawberry Hill.
Nestled 3,000 feet up in the Blue Mountains, just north of Kingston proper, Strawberry Hill makes a perfect day trip to get a taste of Kingston’s culinary culture, musical history and beautiful scenery. Though it originally began its life as coffee plantation, Strawberry Hill was purchased by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell in 1972, who brought the property to its current state. Each Sunday the resort throws its doors open to brunch guests, who can enjoy a taste of Strawberry Hill’s unique Jamaican musical and culinary heritage while simultaneously taking in one of the city’s most spectacular views.
Though Strawberry Hill isn’t within Kingston itself, visitors can easily arrange a day trip through hire of a private taxi or minibus. The ride takes around an hour and makes for an enjoyable adventure from the hustle and humid temperatures of big city Kingston. As your ride winds its way slowly up mountain switchbacks, you are surrounded by a lush tapestry of green jungle vegetation. Your vehicle passes by tiny towns of minuscule one-room storefronts, stocked with ripe mangoes and steaming cold bottles of Red Stripe beer. Meanwhile, the grid of Kingston hides coyly beneath you, shrouded by frequent clumps of mountain clouds.
Soon enough you arrive at a tiny unassuming sign announcing the resort’s entrance. Strawberry Hill doesn’t boast of its presence to visitors – it hides it behind dense layers of vegetation and winding mountain roads, waiting to be discovered like a mountain treasure lost to the ages. Once inside, guests are immediately confronted by the complex and its luxurious simplicity. A series of plain, open-air wooden villas are connected by covered walkways, flanked by small bunches of orange and yellow wildflowers and manicured lawns. A winding stone paths lead to an infinity pool, dropping off to a panoramic view of Kingston far below, the harbor and the surrounding jade-colored mountains fading in the hazy distance.
Don’t let all the natural beauty fool you – inside Strawberry Hill is enough musical memorabilia to stock the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame several times over. Lining the walls are candid black & white images of famous musicians like Bob Marley, U2, the Rolling Stones, Sting and Grace Jones along with numerous plaques of platinum records courtesy of owner Chris Blackwell’s Island Label. Many of the artists are one time resort guests, lending the grounds a distinct aura of musical energy and cool.
If this veritable archive of rock history doesn’t get you singing, the Sunday brunch certainly will. For around $50, brunch-ers can partake in all-you-can-eat meal including variety of Jamaican breakfast and lunch staples like jerk-style meats and the famous ackee and saltfish. Though Ackee is a tropical fruit, when cooked, many people describe it as having the consistency of a heap of scrambled eggs. Complementing this oddly wonderful Jamaican dish are heaping piles of fresh seafood, fresh local fruits and sweet cornbread-style fritters like festival. Finish your meal with a sweet helping of the delicious bread pudding.
As you polish off your plate of Jamaican brunch specialties, a bird’s eye view of Kingston below you and a virtual museum of musical history behind you, it’s hard not to feel just a little bit like a Rock and Roll star yourself. Consider yourself a backstage VIP for the day, courtesy of Jamaica’s overlooked capital, Kingston.
Gadling was recently invited by the Spanish Court Hotel to visit Kingston, Jamaica’s unexplored capital of music, food and culture. All this week we’re bringing you our observations on all this up-and-coming city has to offer. Though the trip was paid, all opinions remain our own. You can read our previous “Big up Kingston” posts HERE.