Seafood plays a big role in Jamaican cuisine, with fish providing a reliable source of food and, sometimes, income, for many locals. Just a short walk away from where I was staying in Negril on West End Road, I spotted a quirky little restaurant called Presley’s Seafood Bar and Grill.
Inside, one wall was covered in handwritten and printed customer reviews, newspaper articles and photos of the restaurant from throughout the years, including some of past guests and restaurant owner, Presley.
Presley was big-built but not overweight, with long dreadlocks, a bushy beard and a smile so big that he made you feel at home before he’d even opened his mouth.
Meanwhile, the opposite wall was covered in full-sized flags, presumably acquired by Presley on his travels or brought here for him by customers.
We visited Presley’s for dinner one evening without a reservation, but we were turned away because you have to order what you want to in advance, so that Presley can go and get the freshest catches from the local fishermen. So, we returned the next morning and ordered a whole lobster and some shrimps, both with garlic butter, for dinner that evening.
When we arrived, we each ordered a Red Stripe and sat listening to the reggae music playing in the background as we waited for Presley to prepare our meals. There were no other staff in the restaurant besides Presley, but as there were no other guests present besides us, this wasn’t an issue.
Our food arrived within about ten minutes and it looked fantastic. I had three half tails of lobster, but as I’d never tried it before I couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated by its appearance on the plate. I didn’t know where to start with eating it or how to remove it from the shell, so my guest moved his seat over to me and helped me to cut some off. As soon as Presley saw this, he came bounding over to the table and kindly showed me the ‘easy way’ to pull the lobster away from the shell!
At first impressions, the lobster was tough and chewy with a strong fishy taste.
I tried dipping it into the bowl of garlic butter that was served with the dish, which was delicious. It helped to lessen the fishy taste, but unfortunately I still couldn’t cope with the chewiness of the lobster. It was just the texture that put me off – I was expecting it to be more like a shrimp, but it was more firm and rubbery.
Luckily, my guest was more than happy to swap his shrimps for my lobster – and he thought it was extremely fresh and well-flavoured. The shrimps were definitely more my thing; big, succulent and juicy, soaked in garlic butter and fresher than any I have ever tasted before.
Both dishes were served with a generous portion of rice and peas, which was well-seasoned with a subtle hint of spice, alongside a heap of callaloo.
Callaloo is popular throughout the Caribbean, although it’s prepared differently depending on where you are. In Jamaica it’s usually made by mixing steamed amaranth (a leafy veg) with salt, onions, spices and scallions. At Presley’s, it also included tomatoes and carrots. Callaloo tastes similar to spinach, but with a tougher texture and a delicious savoury taste; it was one of the best dishes I tried while in Negril.
With drinks our entire meal came to $68, which was pretty reasonable considering we’d had three half tails of lobster and a portion of shrimps with sides and drinks, although more expensive than most other restaurants on the West End Road. However, Presley tells you the total cost of the food before you place your booking and I didn’t find anywhere serving seafood as fresh as this place. I loved the whole experience of having to order what we wanted in advance so that it could be caught, bought and cooked on the same day we were going to eat it.
Of all the places I dined out at in Negril, Presley’s has to be amongst my top three. If you’re looking for somewhere that serves fresh seafood in Negril, look no further. It doesn’t get much fresher than this. Don’t just take my word for it – Presley’s Seafood Bar and Grill is currently ranked #16 on Tripadvisor out of 163 restaurants in Negril.
Presley’s Seafood Bar and Grill
West End Road
(1 876) 440 9833