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Pass the jerk: Jamaican food in Dubai

Wah Gwaan? All good, mon, now that we can kick up rumpus right here in the UAE. Debonair’s resident epicurean sits down for Jamaican cuisine

Nowadays, you don’t have to look too hard to get your Caribbean fix.

Any doubt about Dubai’s status as cosmopolitan city can be quickly put to rest by merely looking at the city’s culinary offering. Of course there are the usual European and American staples you expect everywhere big enough to have its own postcode, but recent years have seen an explosion of gems catering to expats from all over the world.

A (depressing) scroll through my bank statement throws up everything from Polynesian to Uzbek to Ethiopian outlets. Since it’s the festive season, I can’t but remember that one NYE a date dragged me to a Russian restaurant. I still mourn the demise of a concept that introduced me to Nordic cuisine. And it’ll take some doing to dethrone a visit to that North Korean eatery as the weirdest experience in the city.

They say you never forget your first, but one first that’ll always stand out is Bluefields. The small Caribbean outlet had a brief lifespan a decade ago, before the Peruvian or Greek crazes were even a thing. Diners were more conservative back then, and it was a sad day indeed when Alison packed away her jerk spice.

Nowadays, you don’t have to look too hard to get your Caribbean fix.

Ting Irie, whose dancehall tracks has cemented it at the top of the hierarchy for eaters who also want to dance on that side of the world

Nowadays, though, you don’t have to look too hard to get your Caribbean fix.

Miss Lily’s has quickly established itself as a celebrity hangout, with everyone from Rihanna and Shaggy to Chris Gayle giving credence to its authenticity. An outpost of the New York original, it takes a modernist approach to Jamaican classics, and it doesn’t shy away from the jerk: you get jerk chicken, jerk lamb, even jerk corn.

Back when it opened in 2016, the city didn’t have much in the way of gastroclubs, and it quickly caught on. Go for dinner at 8pm and the venue doesn’t resemble the party spot it becomes after midnight — welcome relief to those of us too old or lazy to venue-hop.

Nowadays, you don’t have to look too hard to get your Caribbean fix.

It shares this philosophy with Ting Irie, whose dancehall tracks has cemented it at the top of the hierarchy for eaters who also want to dance on that side of the world. The brand recently launched a Caribbean Saturdaze brunch — a great introduction to the sights, sounds and flavours emanating from that colourful region.

Patois flows freely around the restaurant, and what some would consider cultural appropriation is considered cultural exchange and thus permissible — if committed in the laid-back, peaceful style of the islands.

Even the menu is imbued with that spirit, and a sense of humour rarely seen on these shores. Of course my favourite dishes will make the most of jerk spices, like the Spitfiyah Jerk Chicken and Dat Lamb Tho, lamb chops featuring jerk hummus. Unsurprisingly, Puff Puff Pass always gets a laugh, and you won’t get locked up for indulging — even if it corrupts (favourably) a normally healthy option like sorbet with ganache, lime curd and candied macadamia nuts.

Now I want to rewatch Cool Runnings. “Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme!”

misslilys.com; tingirie.com

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