Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Enjoying lunch under an almond tree on the island of Jamaica

On Friday, I enjoyed a bowl of gazpacho during a late lunch under an almond tree.


MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica -- We spent a long, restorative weekend at Round Hill Hotel and Villas on the lush, green island of Jamaica, enjoying wonderful food and marveling at all of the beautiful trees and plants on the former pineapple plantation.

The dining terrace overlooking Round Hill Bay is shaded by almond and avocado trees, and there were more almond trees and an ackee tree around the pool in front of our three-bedroom cottage, which we had all to ourselves.

I had grilled snapper over arugula and greens from the resort's organic garden.
My wife chose grilled shrimp over Caesar Salad.
We asked for a fruit plate to end lunch.

The view from the upper dining room, which is cooled with ceiling fans.
Our pool after a brief rain shower on Sunday morning.

All inclusive

We ate well -- very well -- and had the run of al la carte menus under an all-inclusive plan I had purchased from United Vacations.

Menus offer organic chicken, greens and vegetables; naturally raised lamb from the Niman Ranch in the United States, wild-caught  fish and a family style Farm-to-Table dinner on Tuesdays.

Menu prices are what you'd find at Manhattan's best restaurants. 

If ordered a la carte, our four lunches and dinners would have cost from about $130 to more than $260 each.

We found a fruit platter and sparkling wine in our cottage refrigerator, along with beer and soft drinks; popped the cork and finished the bottle while sitting in the pool on Saturday, listening to bird chatter and watching the sun set. 

The next day, staff members prepared a wonderful Jamaican breakfast in the cottage kitchen and served us at a large dining table with a view of the pool.

I drank a few cups of robust Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, then switched to black tea.

Ackee and Salt Fish is the national dish, combining bland fruit with salted cod and hot peppers. An ackee tree outside our cottage had fruit ripening inside bright red pods.

A collard-like green called callaloo is another Jamaican staple.

Our breakfast began with juice and fruit, including sweet mango, left.

We ate our breakfast at a large table just beyond the louvers, rear.
The ackee tree outside our cottage.

Limited selection of seafood

We can't fault the food or service at the resort, which draws an international guest list, such as the family from Paris that signed the guest book of our cottage several days before we arrived.

But as someone who doesn't eat meat, I was surprised at the limited selection of seafood and the unavailability of whole fish.

The two fresh, wild-caught fish fillets offered were deep-water red snapper and grouper, and I also had smoked marlin and farmed salmon, some crayfish and a small spoon of chopped, marinated tuna.

On Jamaican Night, I looked and looked, but couldn't find an island specialty -- steamed whole fish stuffed with okra.

Jamaicans love their butter fish and other small, whole fish so much, they often season and fry them up, and pack them in their luggage when they come to the United States.

Grilled Caribbean lobster was offered only at dinner on Saturday night as part of a Surf and Turf plate with steak.

I asked for two lobster tails and no meat, but the crustacean was overcooked. I ordered two more, and they came out OK. 

Two flops were conch fritters and fried conch. The former didn't taste of conch, and the latter was tough and chewy.

All conch needs is what the Bahamians do: Extract the fresh meat from its beautiful shell, then chop it and mix it with hot peppers for a terrific salad.

 Dancing in the dark to steel-band music during Jamaican Night.
A dinner entree of jerk-style snapper fillets.

Steamed snapper with vegetables and oven-roasted sweet potato.
A wonderful Mountain Crayfish Bisque.

Grilled Caribbean Lobster Tails.
My wife's dessert plate.

We overdid it

We had a peaceful weekend, but overindulged our appetite for food and drink -- one of the downsides of buying an all-inclusive plan.

We loved the lushly landscaped garden surrounding the gently climbing stone path to our suite, and the gently overflowing fountain at the top. 

In contrast to the many hundreds who crowd the big resort hotels along the island's coastline, Round Hill played host to fewer than 100 guests this past weekend.

Trees were a visual feat.


Round Hill Hotel and Villas, John Pringle Drive, Montego Bay, Jamaica; 800-972-2159.


  1. Know of any good Jamaican restaurants in Bergen?

  2. Unfortunately, Mac West Indian Restaurant on Central Avenue in Hackensack changed hands a few years ago, so I can't recommend it.

    I still enjoy takeout from Ashanti in Englewood, where the jerk chicken is cooked outdoors over charcoal on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

    Now, I buy whole fish there, as well as all the traditional side dishes, such as rice and peas, and collaloo.

    There is one table, if you decide to eat your food there.

    227 West Englewood Avenue Englewood, NJ
    (201) 227-8666


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