Journeying through verdant mountainous areas of Mt Peto, Knockalva in Hanover, the expected food offerings would include jerk chicken, roast yam or boiled corn but seeing a sign announcing seafood is an attention-grabber. That's exactly what piqued Thursday Food's interest in The Thatch Café & Restaurant.
Adrian Smart, proprietor and lead chef, explained that he wanted the restaurant to be an expression of his love for food and a platform for experimentation with flavours and influences from different cuisines.
"Our mantra is 'Satisfaction Guaranteed with a Difference'. For this particular location, we opted to be very creative with seafood and pastas while keeping our local dishes, but with a wow factor. I'm big on the difference stated in the mantra, so it comes out in all we do. Having a location with its focus on seafood in the mountains has more to do with the influences that inspire me and less on the location. Our popcorn rabbit, seafood boil, cashew pork, alfredo mash, plantain mash and jerk chicken pasta are examples of what we want patrons to appreciate," Smart explained.
"The restaurant is a melting pot of the signature taste profiles from the ethnic groupings in the Jamaican population. We are still fine-tuning, and customer feedback will play an important role, but we hope they get what we're going for. From Chinese ingredients, Indian food spices, texture, and of course to our succulent Jamaican flavours, all creations are made for satisfying the palate. Attention to the natural ambiance, quiet mountains, slower pace of the area, all giving inspiration for the 'Thatch' name," Smart added.
Smart, a teacher by profession, is originally from Mandeville but migrated to Westmoreland via the classroom. He got involved in entertainment through food festivals which would eventually influence his segue into the restaurant business.
"My first memory of cooking was playing house at age seven with my siblings and cooking from a milk tin, small dumplings with butter. I grew up in the kitchen rubbing cake mixture for my mother and developed a passion from then. Cooking and experimentation in the kitchen I've maintained throughout my life. My cooking style is a modern, food-scientific approach with an irie type of vibe. That must be the teacher side influencing that. Areas such as plating are important to me, because you eat with your eyes first, then the smell, followed by the taste. I'm from Mandeville but my meals are influenced by great chefs around the world and thinking outside the box; that way my customers get a feel of something different for their appetite," Smart expressed.
"Experimentation is key. That's the flair that people will appreciate. In-depth research of spices, keeping up with world-renowned chefs, who are creative and share the same take on dishes. I believe these are key factors that keep me on track. My coconut-popcorn rabbit in a spicy blue cheese sauce and my cashew pork were influenced by an Italian chef from a popular TV food series. I love the fusion of Jamaican authentic spices and Italian cuisine for my pasta dishes, but for seafood it's the American and Chinese techniques for me," Smart reasoned.
The Thatch Café & Restaurant had its grand opening on August 6, 2022.
— Text & photos by Aceion Cunningham