Monday, October 29, 2012

Queenies: Jamaican me hungry

The chopping and changing in Surry Hills restaurants continues with the rise and rise of focused, themed eateries.

An ambiguous, middle-of-the-road bistro can hardly compete with the likes of modern Spanish tapas, authentic Mexican or fun-filled Jamaican - the latter of which is found at Queenies; the transformed upstairs floor of the renewed The Forresters pub and restaurant.

Coconut daiquiri at Queenies, Corner of Foveaux and Riley Streets, Surry Hills
Boasting "pan tropical specialities", the Queenies menu is designed by Drink and Dine Group's executive chef Jamie Thomas who is also responsible for eats at The Carrington, The Norfolk and soon-to-open Santa Barbara in Kings Cross (where Piano Room used to be - Thomas spills that it will be a "USA-sian barbeque" style menu).

Invited to sample Queenies' Jamaican food offerings, it was a feast littered with jerk hot spice mix and all manner of new ingredients and flavour combinations that gave unique insight into Caribbean cuisine.

The cocktail menu features various tropics-inspired drinks, such as the quite sweet coconut daiquri of white rum and probably Malibu liqueur, served in a margarita glass with a chilli salt rim.

Pickled cucumber
We were started on drinks (including 440ml cans of Jamaican Red Stripe lager) and some chunks of lightly pickled cucumber, daintily spiced and garnished with toasted coconut shreds - the latter which are scattered regularly across the menu.

Prawn, mango and ginger bammy
The tortilla-esque bammy is served much like a taco: a flavourful protein and vegetable filling with a flat bread which in this case is made of ground cassava.

The grilled, thick bammy isn't heavy or stodgy as it may look, and is a filling platform for some whole, grilled prawns, sweet sauce, mango and coconut shreds.

Pulled pork and pineapple bammy
The pulled pork bammy is served with a pineapple and coriander kind-of salsa, where the ripe fruit pairs exceptionally well with the tender pork, while radish and coconut slivers add further freshness.

Coconut soft shell crab
A basket of soft shell crab received a welcome reception, served with "hotstepper" sauce which Thomas explains is pretty much a Thai nahm jim chilli dipping sauce.

The crunchy batter isn't particularly strong in coconut flavour but is sure to satisfy Sydney's soft shell crab obsession.

Curried oxtail patties
It was chef Thomas himself who highlighted that the curried oxtail patties bore a strong resemblance to the oxtail empanadas at Spanish-themed The Carrington, but then, Jamaican food does take inspiration from a very wide range.

These hot, golden packets were my favourites from the snacks portion of the Queenies menu, filled with juicy, yielding oxtail meat and vegetables, and with not too much of a noticeable curry aroma.

Calypso coffee ribs
The snack-sized serving of pork ribs looked incredibly tender from appearances alone. They get that way after a 48-hour water bath at 65 degrees Celcius, to then be basted in a sweet barbeque marinade with just hints of coffee bitterness.

Bbq jerk corn with coconut
The corn on the cob on a stick was a pretty sight, though not the neatest to eat. Coated with more shredded coconut and I think a jerk mayonnaise, the barbequed corn was an unexpectedly sweet offering.

Hellshire ceviche - snapper, avocado, mango and chilli
The advent of mango season is making me very happy indeed, and the sweetness it added to the snapper ceviche was right on the mark for a summery starter.

The sliced, lime juice-marinated snapper was fresh and tinged with not hot chillies, coriander and avocado, eaten Mexican tostada style on tortilla chips, where every crunchy mouthful was a party of sweetness, zing, spice and creaminess.

Pushcart chicken wings
The not deep fried chicken wings are a relatively daring move in a city covered in fried wings. The trimmed drumettes were basted in a sweet sauce similar to the ribs' marinade and seemed pretty simple compared to some of the more ambitiously authentic dishes.

Sweet potato fries with spiced mayonnaise
The sweet potato fries are textbook specimens; thick cut and all sweet fluffiness on the inside. They're served  in a fantastically heavy black bowl with a yellow, spiced mayonnaise that's barely necessary.

Goat curry with okra, sweet potato, toasted coconut and dirty rice
My recommendation would be not to gorge on all the snacks (do as I say, not as I do) if you plan to hit up a few main dishes, which all sound deliciously tempting.

The goat curry, a very traditional Jamaican dish, was aromatic and creamy with coconut and hints of spice, while the tender, well-flavoured lamb-like goat meat came off the bone incredibly easily.

Dirty rice with coriander, spring onions, mint and allspice
The bottom of the curry bowl also had some of the awesomely-named 'dirty rice' but we had an additional bowl for good measure.

Cooked to a firm softness, almost Indian style, these individual grains of rice were tossed through with a healthy helping of coriander, chopped spring onion and mint leaves: an ideally herbaceous side to soak up the rich goat curry sauce.

Jungle slaw - cabbage, radish, coriander, lime, jerk mayo
While the rice was a unique side dish, I was smitten with the jungle slaw of sliced cabbage, radish, coriander and mango, in a zingy lime dressing. It was the ultimate refreshing salad that was just the thing with lots and lots of meat.

Bbq jerk chicken with jungle slaw
The barbequed jerk chicken comes with a side of the jungle slaw, balancing its dark, sticky grilled jerk seasoning coating.

Comprising various parts of a whole chicken, the flesh is impressively tender and moist for a grilled bird, while the sweet, spiced coating gave all new, hot perspective to finger-licking good chicken.

Jerk pork neck served with sweet potato fries, jungle slaw, salsa and bread rolls
Given the feast already laid out on the table, there was some disbelief that the jerk pork neck also arrived; itself a full main offering for at least two hungry eaters.

It's served with bread rolls for a DIY bun session: shred some pork (which seemed to be spicier than the chicken's jerk seasoning), add some slaw and cucumber salsa, with sweet potato fries on the side and you've got a full-blown Jamaican slider fest.

Kingston Kreme doughnuts
In normal circumstances, dessert would just not be a consideration for me after so much food already. But with the kitchen conspiring against me, we were presented with hot, sugar-coated doughnuts in an egg carton.

The doughnuts themselves had a bit of spice to them, while the jerk custard was certainly an unusual dessert offering alongside chocolate sauce.

Piña colada dessert
Our other dessert was a piña colada sundae of sorts, with cherry coulis, coconut ice cream, super juicy compressed pineapple and shaved coconut. The coconut ice cream was divine and this is the sort of lighter, not-so-sweet dessert that's right up my alley.

Some of the decor at Queenies
The decor at Queenies, like most Drink and Dine venues, is fun and a bit kitsch with an inexplicable white tiger head, fake fruit and flowers, and wooden bowl light features about the walls. The Jamaican music adds plenty to the restaurant's casual and relaxed atmosphere while the food menu is familiar enough to be undaunting.

So, be prepared for an absolute tropical feast fit for a king, or indeed, Queenies, when you walk upstairs at The Forresters. Many thanks to Jamie Thomas for the hospitality - even just looking at the photos now, Jamaican me hungry.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Jamie Thomas and Queenies.

Queenies on Urbanspoon


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I actually just used that line - jamaican me hungry - on someone elses posts just then. Gotta love the play on words. Definitely haven't seen too many Jamaican restaurants around so its great to see something like this hit Surry Hills!

Ramen Raff said...

Awesome Jamaican bickles! Was just there last Friday! How awesome are the ribs & chicken??!! I wanna get my jerk fix again, yaman!

joey@FoodiePop said...

I don't know what a bammy is but it looks goooood. :-)

gaby @ lateraleating said...

Great to see something new (to me)in the food scene. I was expecting pot brownies :)

Not Quite Nigella said...

I really like Jamie's food so I was upset that I couldn't attend the lunch. Thanks for the report though!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

yummo! my fav place about the forresters is their quirky decor :) queenies looks quite promising though it looks like the food is best shared

Tina said...

Hi Tina - Yes, it may be the start of something new, mah-n! ;)

Hi Raff - Yeah, great picks. I want Red Stripe cans next time :)

Hi joey - It's the new taco ;)

Hi gaby - Hahahahaha, brownies! Not sure those are technically Jamaican...

Hi Lorraine - No probs

Hi Vivian - Definitely food for sharing in a nice, big group :)


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