Damian Rosevelt is the owner of the restaurant and rooftop bar Taste Jamaica and Australia's sole distributor of the Jamaican Grace Foods brand. He is also right at home in Geelong, where the restaurant is located. It's an extension of his birthplace, the parish of Westmoreland. Both places are surrounded by famous beaches, chilled out coastal towns and dining experiences that pay homage to tradition.
Situated close to a bay area, the restaurant is an hour's drive from Melbourne. Geelong is Melbourne's quiet sister, never stealing the limelight but softly boasting natural beauty all around, which is why Taste Jamaica belongs right here. It's part of Geelong's natural charm. No need to try too hard. Flavours are already there. The menu transports diners back to Rosevelt's childhood kitchen.
“My mum taught me how to cook from an early age,” he shared. Paulette Lawrence, his mum, passed all her recipes down to him. The produce was fresh, which meant that their dishes were stacked with flavour. It's the same reason customers rave online about the restaurant's food. When he left Jamaica to be with his Australian wife 15 years ago, Rosevelt could never have imagined his culinary journey.
After starting his distribution company, the pandemic hit. “A lot of our customers were saying we've tried the products. You've given us recipes, but where do we find the food?” Unafraid of a challenge, Rosevelt looked for space to house his business venture. “It was a few days after I decided to open a restaurant. I pulled up in front of a gluten-free store and saw this sign saying for lease. I visualised what needed to go in: Music, laughter, food, colours.”
Today, Taste Jamaica boasts a restaurant and a rooftop bar with great views, tropical-themed cocktails and food about which Damian's mum would be proud.
Ackee and salt fish, Jamaica's national dish, is featured on the menu. In Australia, canned ackee is used instead of the fresh product. The canning process preserves the fruit but softens the texture. It's a perfect accompaniment to salted cod. The distinction of the saltiness draws out the mild yet nutty undertones of ackee. Down Under, this dish is a reminder that no matter where Jamaicans travel, flavour goes with them.
Vegan curry is another of the restaurant's top dishes. It's a rice and peas dish that recently won the palate of a toddler whose parents served her Jamaican food for the first time. “Everything was amazing. My 19-month-old is obsessed with your vegan curry,” Rosevelt reads the latest review out loud. For gluten-free customers, the dish is a staple.
As for dessert, that's Jamaican-style too. There is a Jamaican pastry chef who makes desserts, especially for the restaurant. It's all part of the authenticity of the Caribbean experience. The goal is for customers to taste Jamaica whilst tasting the difference. But it's not just the restaurant menu that's the attraction. Customers can also enjoy the rooftop bar with Rosevelt's cocktail creations. There's also the opportunity to go home with authentic Jamaican ingredients from the distribution business. Betta belly buss than good food waste.
To find out more about Taste Jamaica, please visit the website. The
restaurant can be found at: www.tastejamaica.com.au
Address: 6/7 112 Pakington Street
Geelong West VIC 3218
— Bridgett Leslie is an internal auditor by day and a media correspondent by night. She is passionate about Caribbean flavours and the community around this culinary cuisine. She is currently finishing her undergraduate studies in Gastronomy at Le Cordon Bleu.