220 Spencer Street
Melbourne Vic 3001
Let me set the scene, walk in, take a seat at the bar and watch the barmen mix cocktails whilst your tastebuds are tantalised by the waft of smoking meat. Island tunes ring out in the background – UB40 and Bob Marley setting the mellow tune. Colourful timber window shutters line the ceiling, the friendly wait staff wear bright Hawaiian shirts and there are fruity cocktails aplenty. Sound like an idyllic holiday spot? Not quite, aptly named Pretty Mama, this Caribbean bar and grill can be found in an unlikely setting between four huge apartment buildings off Spencer Street.
This was my first foray with a Caribbean Grill, so I really can’t say that I know a great deal about this type of cuisine. Having said that, I definitely know good food when I taste it and good this is. All the classic island flavours are present, fresh tropical fruit, seafood galore, rich coconut and fragrant curries.
To try a good cross section of dishes we opted for the 8 course Caribbean feast, which was really well priced at $65 a head and included 5 starters, 2 mains with sides and a dessert. Needless to say, we ate like champions and left with a whole new appreciation for all things Caribbean grill.
The starters rolled out thick and fast, with each new dish being met by lots of ooohs, aaaahhs and wows. The Puerto Rico ceviche screamed of island cuisine, it was light, but still full of flavour thanks to the coconut milk with a hint of lime. Then there was the super juicy corn which packed a real punch thanks to the spicy habanero butter. It only got better with the tender calamari hood and accompanying fresh papaya salad which really was a match made in heaven. We were amazed by how the papaya accentuated the natural flavour of the calamari. The salt fish mousse with plantation crisps was another great dish. The crisps resembled banana slithers, but tasted like plain chips and the mousse, well it was just delicious. Smooth and easy to eat, this was the a great spin on the classic dip and chips.
Next up were our two mains, the goat curry with pico de gallo and their signature Jamaican jerk chicken. The generous serve of goat curry was accompanied by a serve of roti bread and rice with peas. It wasn’t a bad dish, however we found it to be a little bit bland, perhaps because all the other dishes were so flavoursome, once we got you the curry it seemed to be missing the same depth of flavour. But then came the chicken which was finger licking good. Succulent, tender, a little bit smokey and seriously tasty, we ditched the cutlery and like a couple of crazed kids pulled every scrap of chicken off the bones and licked them clean.
By this stage we had loosened our belt buckles and were just about ready for bed when dessert arrived. Our delicious pavlova was served in a little coconut shaped bowl, with the custard, coconut and passionfruit hidden at the bottom under large shards of meringue. It was sweet, creamy and oh so delicious. I’d actually go as far as saying this was one of the best Pavs I’ve EVER eaten. That good people, deelish!
Our first experience with Caribbean grill was an overwhelming success, elevating Pretty Mama to one of our top date night locations. So if you’re on the hunt for something a little bit different it’s well worth a try.