Bax Food Co: The Most Affordable Trip to Jamaica You’ll Ever Make
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Jamaica? For me, a montage of world class sprinters, dreadlocks, tie-dye and bobsleds floats across my brain (cliché, I know). What about if I say Jamaican food?
If your mind draws a blank, allow me to fill in that gap for you.
Stepping into the world of Jamaica feels cosy. For us it was a storming Sunday night and escaping the cold to this brightly coloured tropical oasis is just what a Melbourne winter needs.
The colours of the Jamaican flag and original artworks transport you as the multicultural staff greet you. The mix of reggae and acoustic music gives you an island feel, while the food shows off Jamaican culture at its best: box food. As the menu explains, “’Bax Food’ is a type of street food in the Caribbean. You would go out and get a ‘Box Food’! ‘Bax Food’ is with a Jamaican accent.”
Along the left wall as you enter are high benches with stools. Two long tables, with black, yellow and red chairs look like they’re set for a big family reunion and you half expect grandma to poke her head out of the kitchen.
Kellyanne and Esther got us seated, bringing cocktails. Night of Passion is a blend of passion fruit, lime and mango flavours while the piña colada was pure coconutty goodness with a hint of apricot.
Instead of grandma, who came out of the kitchen to meet us? Bax Food Co’s smiley chef, Roderick. He is Jamaican born, moving to Australia in 1996, and knows all the good traditional recipes, while adding a contemporary spin with his Masterchef presentation.
Roderick brought us some Mini Pulled Pork Sliders to start with. The soft, browned sesame bun blends with the lightly smoked pork, with purple cabbage for something to sink your teeth into. There is a hint of spice that is mellowed by the mayo that each slider rests on.
Just one of the many fun facts you may pick up at Bax Food Co is that saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish. Ours was served in a golden crunch pattie with ackee and tomato love apple sauce. Despite what the name suggests, the saltfish is not overly salty and our favourite part of this dish was the fruity dipping sauce.
Jamaican spices are by far the sneakiest of all the spices. They take a full 15 seconds to hit you, and the hit is as hard as you want it to be, depending on your choice of dish. The jerk platter has jerk chicken, pork ribs, hot wings and roast jerk corn. The classic smoked Jamaican flavour is pleasingly subtle and still lets other elements in the dish have a say. The blackened chicken is tender with a healthy non-fried crunch, but beware: hot wings live up to their name. Keep a piña colada on standby for those! The roasted corn rolled through shredded coconut teams up with the coleslaw to balance out all that heat.
To go alongside this amazing platter is a tropical root vegetable called cassava. Rolled through Cajun spices before being pan-fried, these chips are a mix of familiar and foreign, complemented by a jerk mayo.
Surprisingly, the goat curry with potato was one of the least spicy dishes of the night. Paired with a delightfully dense saffron and cumin Roti bread (just like a good scone), this dish helps to ease your palate after all those sneaky spices. The goat meat is so tender it literally fell off the bone when I loaded it onto my plate. The Rice ‘n’ Peas have a star anise flavour that complements the rich spices in the curry.
Dessert really brings you a feel for Jamaica and its culture. As Roderick explained he ate a lot of grapefruit growing up in Jamaica, he set in front of us half of a grapefruit, laced with coconut and filled with condensed milk and spices: Dark Shadows. Condensed milk and grapefruit are two intense flavours, perfect to juxtapose if you want a balanced dessert garnished with tuille (cinnamon/gingerbread flavour), mint and raspberry.
As well as our rum and raisin ice cream, we were given the Fountain of Youth cocktail. Its citrus and apricot sweetness make it the perfect dessert cocktail to end the meal.
Roderick said to tell our friends, so I’m going to go one better and tell all of you. If this didn’t fill the blank for you, go in and see for yourself!