Belinda’s Riverside Restaurant sits on the banks of the Rio Grande waiting to serve the best meals in Portland.
Operated by Belinda Grey, affectionately called Ms Belinda, this rustic riverside eatery boasts a unique history spanning more than four decades. Miss Belinda tells the Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com that it was her mother Ms Betty who first decided in the late 1970s to take deliciously prepared meals closer to the people enjoying a raft ride down the river.
Watch the video here.
As a young girl, Ms Belinda would accompany her mother to what was then Ms Betty’s Riverside Canteen. Though she had no intention of ever cooking professionally, the young Belinda was eager to help by lugging wooden logs and food items to the location.
After her mother became ill, Ms Belinda decided to take over the business and make a name for herself.
That was 23 years ago and since then people from all walks of life have travelled down Jamaica’s longest river to get a taste of her mouth-watering meals cooked over a wood fire.
“We have [had] a whole lot of big stars,” Ms Belinda says proudly.
Among her more recognisable guests are Jonny Depp, Sylvester Stallone, and American pop icon Beyoncé.
“They all come for the food,” she adds.
Lunchtime at Belinda’s Riverside Restaurant is an experience all by itself. From her traditional dutch pots, Ms Belinda carefully plates curried goat, freshly-caught crayfish cooked in coconut milk, fried fish, fricasseed and fried chicken as anxious visitors wait to devour their meals. With a wide variety of sides to choose from, foodies are in for a delicious treat at the Port Antonio-based riverside restaurant.
Ms Belinda’s ‘super power’ is her use of fresh, organic ingredients to prepare her meals. The fish are caught by local fishermen and the chickens are reared in her backyard. She purchases the mutton for her curried goat dish locally. As for the crayfish, she tells LetsTravelCaribbean.com that she personally catches them in the nearby Rio Grande.
Though visitors are always eager to get a taste of whatever is being cooked in Ms Belinda’s dutch pots, she notes that there are two dishes, in particular, that have had foodies begging for more.
“A lot of people go crazy for the crayfish and some go crazy for the curried goat. Those two dishes are the main ones,” she says.
LetsTravelCaribbean.com understands why. During our recent visit, we could not resist trying both of these dishes and they lived up to the hype.
After ordering our meals we grabbed a seat on one of the wooden benches at the riverside restaurant to admire the green, open space of our surroundings. There is a feeling of serenity and peace that comes from sitting on the banks of the Rio Grande listening to the water passing over the rocks.
Our meals were brought to our table in less than 10 minutes after ordering. That’s because Ms Belinda does most of the preparation in advance, based on reservations.
The crayfish cooked in coconut milk and freshly hand-picked herbs was delicious! It was the perfect bend of flavours and hands down the best crayfish meal we have had. We couldn’t help but tell Ms Belinda that, as the saying of admiration goes, she put her foot in the dish.
Her curried goat was no different. Served with rice and peas, the meat was tender and flavour-filled after being slow-cooked on Ms Belinda’s wood fire. It went well with slices of fresh avocado she brought from home. This was every foodie’s dream. We washed it all down with cold fruit drinks and water from a well-stocked cooler.
It was a hard task leaving Belinda’s Riverside Restaurant as we had grown comfortable and at home just sitting around chatting with the friendly woman who makes it all possible. But our raft ride back to Port Antonio was ready to go.
For those who want to experience this outdoor restaurant, catching a raft ride at Rafters Rest in Berrydale, Portland, is a must. And Ms Belinda warns that a reservation for the restaurant is also critical as she only fires up the wood fire under trusty dutch pots if she has a certain number of guests.
“You can call two days or a day before,” she says with a wide grin.
Address: On the banks of the Rio Grande, Port Antonio, Portland
Cost: Food and drink for four, about JMD$9000
Raft ride: US$90 per raft, which holds two
Opening hours: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm