Attention, tastebuds… We’re going to Soldier Camp

Jon Baker

Thursday, May 07, 2015

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Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards for the parish of Portland Jon Baker pulls up at a bootcamp... I reckon he has your full attention...

Everold Daley, an ex-US army man who had been based for years in New York, has been running this fascinating restaurant on the Nonsuch Road out of Port Antonio for 12 years.

When Everold returned to Jamaica from service in the US, he found a lot of the local restaurant cooking bland, and their usage of low-quality cooking oils and MSG unacceptable. His decision was made to cook in a style that he himself would enjoy.

Starting out with a small tent in the yard of his own home, Everold has increased the capacity to 20 seats which, judging by recent demand, is still not enough for the non-stop traffic of locals and increasing numbers of foreign visitors who are often on repeat visits.

Soldier Camp, as its name suggests, is a little strange for a restaurant.

It boasts a décor of military signage, flags and insignia; one from the Vietnam war was donated by his friend, a retired Major from Nonsuch.

However, within the context of the rustic nature of the 'inside/outside' dining area, seating on comfortable bamboo benches at solid wooden and artily broken tile mosaic tables, its ambience cannot be denied, lit by myriad white pepper lights strung from the ceiling.

The Soldier Camp menu is currently committed to memory. The friendly and casually dressed wait staff simply reel it out to you, repeating if you need to ponder for a moment, and the food is brought promptly and served hot.

I always start with a cup of crayfish and bussu (local river snail) soup; it firstly slakes that craving one has developed immediately on arriving at Soldier Camp and smelling the delicious aromas emanating from chef Shelton Tomlinson's nearby kitchen; secondly it is a ravishing assault on the taste buds, preparing them for the next course.

The cup empty, even to the last whole pimento at the bottom, it's time for the main course, which for me is always crayfish cooked in fresh coconut milk.

The crayfish is brought to Soldier Camp every morning by Rio Grande fishermen -- that's every morning whenever possible, because when it rains heavily the force of the river prevents the divers from being able to swim in the torrent or even see into the rocky parts where the crayfish like to hide. The coconut is freshly grated, the milk prepared and the crayfish simmered until well done. One orders crayfish by the half pound and that's where I start, but often make an immediate repeat order as they are simply delicious.

If it is one of those extremely wet days at the restaurant, you can opt for either the curry goat or the baked chicken, which is incredibly succulent and almost drips off the bone. The curried shrimp is amazing and when washed down with a cold beer or 'bring your own' wine, everything works for me.

The food is all deliciously rich and so moreish it is easy to overindulge. Perhaps Everold should consider opening a Boot Camp!

Soldier Camp Bar & Grill

(Head out of Port Antonio, south on the Breastworks Road, take a left on the mini bridge towards Nonsuch. It's about 500 yards on the left)

83 Red Hassell Road

Tel# 351 4821/773 5704

Excellent Prices:

Crayfish and Bussu soup: Cup :$100 Bowl$200

1.2 lb Crayfish $600

Baked Chicken $450

Curry Goat $500


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