Food Spaces Places

Jonkanoo, a Caribbean joint

8 February 2015

Think colourful plantation shutters, authentic Caribbean food, exotic sodas, Red Stripe beer and reggaeton music and your mind may wander to Jamaica. This, however, is Jonkanoo restaurant, a ‘Caribbean joint’ located in the heart of Sydney’s Surry Hills.

Enter though the bright blue and yellow shopfront and you instantly feel the island vibes created through the restaurant’s colourful interiors and upbeat music. The concept for Jonkanoo was conceived nine years ago by owner and chef Damion Brown. Inspired by his family’s Jamaican restaurant in Miami, chef Brown wanted to open a restaurant in Sydney that celebrated Caribbean cuisine. The Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-raised chef has worked around the world as consulting chef and head chef in the USA, Portugal, England and South Africa, as well as working in the film catering industry for over 11 years. Now heading up his own restaurant, Damion juggles multiple roles as head chef, working on the floor and overseeing the operation.

With no professional interior design intervention, Damion has created a Colonial-inspired fit out that reflects a considered selection of finishes and furniture. The blue walls, coloured plantation shutters and painted chairs are reminiscent of eateries in the Caribbean. Damion said the interior design of the space played an important role in creating the desired atmosphere. ‘I wanted the interiors of the restaurant to be that of the Caribbean. If you’re walking the streets, you will see a lot of colours (albeit faded). The interiors do not reflect a particular place, just in general you will see things like colourful plantation shutters throughout the Caribbean and beaten up chairs and tables at small shacks,’ he says. ‘I wanted to achieve a sense of friendliness and homeliness when you walk in the restaurant; something not so serious, but a fun, vibrant atmosphere,’ he adds.

The unique and intricate timber pendants create a point of interest in the space. The pendants were custom-designed, laser-cut and hand-assembled by Damion and his team. The restaurant is also styled with indoor plants, South- and Central-American-themed photographs, world maps and quirky Caribbean knick knacks.

The menu features an authentic range of Caribbean dishes, drawing influences from Native American, West African, European and East Indian roots. Starting with ‘small tings,’ the legendary Trinidadian street food, Trini Carnival Doubles are a must, as well as the oysters with Jamaican gravy. The Accra Ian Mory (salted cod fritters with lime and aioli) is another great dish to share. Moving onto ‘bigga tings’, I recommend the grilled king prawns with rum, black pepper and lime and you can’t go past the Jerk Chicken which is marinated in chef Damion Brown’s secret family recipe sauce and cooked in his custom-made smoker. Wash it all down with a Red Stripe Jamaican beer or an exotic soda from Jamaica, Colombia, Brazil or Peru.

True to its name, Jonkanoo is like a Caribbean street carnival and if you aren’t going to South or Central America anytime soon, this may just be the next best thing.

583 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9699 0019

Lunch: Wednesday-Sunday 12pm-3pm
Dinner: Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm

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