If “beginner’s luck” was personified, it would manifest as St Andrew-based Belgian expats David Janssen and Cindy Reliszko — the couple behind Kingston Reggae Garden.
Since their first visit to the island in 2008, the couple visited annually before making The Rock home a couple of years ago. They are passionate about reggae music and experience a swell of creativity and peace here on the island. This led them to property hunting.
They wanted a multi-purpose space with river access that could be their home, a guest house, a cultural space, a bar, and host artist residencies. If you’re a fan of House Hunters International, you’d probably think this wish list was impossible. But it wasn’t. Janssen and Reliszko found their Eden in the cool environs of Golden Spring.
Kingston Reggae Garden is located a minute from Golden Spring Square or 14 minutes from upper Manor Park Plaza. The directions on the website (www.kingstonreggaegarden.com) are spot on. If you depend on your GPS, Google Maps will guide you there.
The location is not yet a full-fledged restaurant. However, Janssen and Reliszko partner with people like Sharda Bepat of House of Roti to ensure tasty food options are available Friday through Sunday after 1:00 pm. Often the menu comprises jerk chicken, jerk pork, fried festival, and red peas soup with beef. The menu may include curry goat and roti, curry chickpeas and roti, and fried or steamed fish with bammy on weekends. Though simple, the food is very good.
Every Friday, there’s an after-work jam, and on the last Sunday of each month, Kingston Reggae Garden hosts Chill Pon The Hill. The monthly event shows the full potential of the space. It can host numerous groups simultaneously without people getting in each other’s way. There’s a river a few steps from the bar in which you can wade or take a dip. And there’s no loud DJ, just Janssen’s well-curated reggae playlist pumped through the custom speakers at the right level. You can sway to Chalice, Beres Hammond, Black Uhuru, and Gregory Isaacs songs and have a conversation without feeling that you’ve given up something.
Thursday Food must highlight the beverage selection at Kingston Reggae Garden. In addition to cold bottled beers and traditional mixed drinks, there is a selection of well-crafted cocktails made by veteran mixologist Curtis Spence. During our visit, Spence treated the Thursday Food team to a few of his favourites — apple martini, strawberry margarita, Dark and Stormy, and Purple Rain. Each was well-balanced and delightful.
Kingston Reggae Garden, especially the paved riverside area, is ideal for corporate events. The property’s owners and the team have ensured that getting to the river is safe. There are bamboo railings, and the steps are not too steep. Even those with weak knees can take their time and make it down.
Kingston Reggae Garden offers a bucolic respite from Corporate Area life without having to go on a journey. Whether it is a midweek jaunt or a weekend link-up with friends and family, Kingston Reggae Garden offers a place to cool out and recharge.