The juiciest jerk chicken in Negril – Restaurant review: Pushcart at Rockhouse Hotel, Negril, Jamaica

Like brown stew chicken (which I tried at Sips and Bites, Negril), jerk chicken (or pork, beef, fish or shrimps, for that matter) is one of Jamaica’s national dishes – perhaps the most well-known dish to eat in Jamaica! Before I arrived in Jamaica, this was the only regional dish I really knew about.

Jerk chicken and meats are sold both in restaurants, from ‘jerk’ pits, and on the road side from independent vendors who push a jerk pan on wheels (known as a pushcart) along the side of the road, the pan whistling loudly to let everyone know it’s time to get their jerk chicken fix. Buying jerk chicken/meat in this way works out extremely cheap, and often you get a few slices of dry bread to go with it (butter isn’t that big of a deal in Jamaica!)

I tried jerk chicken a few times in Negril (not being a big fan of meat or seafood) but it never compared to the jerk chicken I ate at the Pushcart Restaurant & Bar at the Rockhouse hotel,West End Road. In fact, everything I tasted at this restaurant was fantastic and it soon became my favourite place to dine out in Negril. Although it was more expensive than your average restaurant, you definitely got what you paid for in terms of both the food and the service.

 
My favourite time to visit Pushcart was at night, when it was lit up by lots of pretty fairy lights. 
 
 
As you enter the restaurant grounds, you can see the chef preparing food in the open kitchen to the left.
 

The restaurant sits inside a large wooden shack with brightly coloured walls and an iron roof. The walls are decorated with pictures of Jamaica’s national symbol the swallow-tail hummingbird, a bird found only in Jamaica, reggae king Bob Marley and icons of significance to the Rastafarian religion, such as the Star of David and Ras Tafari Makonnen a.k.a. Haile Selassie (‘Might of the Trinity’), emperor of Ethiopia from 1930-1974.

 
At night time Pushcart made for the ideal drinking destination, with the fairy lights casting a warm, romantic glow over the bar and dining area. Situated in the centre of the restaurant, the bar was circular and with a few stools sitting around it. The drinks menu was wide and varied, including everything from beer and spirits to fancy, freshly made cocktails. 
 
Take the Drunken Coconut for example. The Drunken Coconut was a cocktail served in a coconut itself, the top removed and the coconut scooped out and used to make a rum cocktail, which was then poured back into the empty coconut. It was quite strong (as are most of Jamaica’s rum cocktails!) but the coconut tasted sweet and refreshing, helping to offset the taste of the alcohol. 
 
 
Although the Pushcart restaurant looked much prettier at night time, dining there for lunch meant we could enjoy beautiful views over the Caribbean sea as we ate.
 

We often saw young Jamaican men performing elaborate dives from the cliffs into the sea below, hoping to impress tourists and pick up a few tips.


Now – time to talk about what I loved most about the Pushcart restaurant – their jerk chicken (or ‘Di Real Jerk Chicken’, as it’s known on the menu)! The chicken was marinated overnight in jerk sauce and grilled over charcoal. The skin was charred and crispy, with that delicious BBQ taste you get from charcoal-grilled food, while the chicken was incredibly juicy and tender. To top it off the jerk flavouring was rich and vibrant, much better than any I tasted elsewhere.

The dish was served with roast yam, carrot and green beans and three festivals, with a hot and spicy dipping sauce. If I lived in Jamaica, I would become addicted to eating festivals dipped in hot sauce. Their subtle sweetness made for an interesting yet delicious contrast with the fiery sauce.

Priced at $13, this was probably the most expensive jerk chicken I ate in Negril, but it was by far the best.

 

To accompany my dish, I ordered a side of fried sweet potato ($4). The jerk chicken with festivals and yam was a meal in itself and you didn’t really need to order a side, but I love fried sweet potato and got pretty excited when I saw it on the menu. Roughly cubed and served with home made coleslaw, it was crispy on the outside with a soft centre, just how I like my fried sweet potato to be. 

My guest ordered the escovitch fish, a snapper fillet seasoned, battered, fried and topped with sliced onions and peppers, served with rice and peas and roast yam, carrot and green beans. The dip consisted of sliced vegetables mixed with an escovitch sauce. As a local Jamaican, my guest was very impressed with his meal.

At $15, this cost more than your typical fish dish at a smaller, family-run restaurant but the quality and presentation was much better and it was still good value for money for a decent seafood dish.


After tasting the jerk chicken at Pushcart restaurant, I just had to have some more. So, we returned for lunch one day and this time I went for the ‘Yeah Man Jerk Platter’ ($18), a combination of jerk chicken, jerk pork and jerk shrimp, served with festivals. Costing just $5 more than the jerk chicken option, I thought this was great value for money for a fish containing shrimp, chicken and pork.

Unfortunately Pushcart had ran out of pork, but the waiter informed me straight away and I was given an extra portion of chicken instead. It was just as good as I’d remembered it to be, so this didn’t come as too much of a disappointment. The jerk shrimps tasted great too, with a gentle hint of spice –  the only downfall was that there weren’t many of them!

Much to my delight, the platter was served with four festivals and the same spicy sauce I’d tried on my previous visit, alongside roast yam, carrots and green beans (seems to be Pushcart’s side serving of choice!)

And so it was, that after trying Pushcart’s jerk chicken and shrimp, the restaurant become my favourite place to dine out in Negril. If it wasn’t so much more expensive than the smaller independents, I would’ve eaten there more often. Next on my list of dishes to try would’ve been the Nyamming Platter – a selection of curried goat, oxtail, curried chicken and bushman stew, served with rice and peas. Mmm!

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Pushcart Restaurant & Bar
Rockhouse Hotel
West End Road
Negril
Jamaica
www.rockhousehotel.com
(1 876) 618-1533

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