Downtown Kingston. The former jewel of the city, lined with majestic theatres and numerous successful corporate businesses, now a book of history still being written. Much of its glimmer has diminished over centuries, but redevelopment projects in recent years are helping to restore and create glory, heightening its rank once again as an ideal venue for business, culinary, art & culture. This is 1 of 10 things I’d highly recommend you do in Kingston. One of its gems that encompass the aforementioned qualities was established in the area decades ago and continues to remain at its home today, namely F&B Downtown.
Originally established as a jewellery store in 1957 in the heart of the hustle and bustle, look out for the unmistakable wall branding. Once you see this, don’t question, you’re at the right place.
Inside the Swiss Stores
Waltz into the establishment to find jewellery showcases of international and local brands lined against a side of the room. The merchandise oozes class, which is spread throughout the venue, and the LED lights help them to dazzle through the glass casings. The fine displays are bordered by overhead artistic imagery, mostly from local photographer, Craig Phang Sang. The mostly black and white photos with a few coloured shots perfectly complement the space’s muted palette with a pop of colour. Phang Sang’s work is canvased and framed on every wall, adding a cultured, artistic vibe element.
F&B Downtown Restaurant
Place your order at the centred bar, then have your choice of dining area. The long bar table, the assortment of symmetric chairs and tables, or the leather seats by the TV in the tucked away lounge area are all great choices to enjoy your meal or drink.
Jamaican & European Fusion Menu
The food menu is a mix of local favourites as well as European and Asian-inspired choices. Starting local and making my way to Europe, the first item ordered was oxtail following its multiple recommendations.
A well-presented serving of oxtail alongside fresh cut vegetables and rice & peas filled a rectangular plate. The veggies were drizzled with a subtle sweet and tangy flavour, while the oxtail gravy flowed onto the rice & peas to enhance the coconut milk flavour soaked into it. Some etiquette was temporarily pushed out the window, as the oxtail was picked up by hand to facilitate every morsel of meat and dripping gravy to be stripped away from the central bone.
The presentation and bright colour combo of the next dish made one want to dig in, but at the same time, preserve it. The ratatouille with chicken and herbed potatoes was so well-seasoned, it could make one forget their manners and “forget” to offer a taste to companions; trust me, I know. So, based on my previous sentence, you can guess which of the 2 desires is higher. The entire meal was seasoned to perfection, keeping in mind that the main part of the dish is vegetables. If you ever want to eat more veggies, this would be a great motivator.
Take a Nespresso Coffee Shot!
With food this filling and satisfying, it’s not uncommon for one to feel a little drowsy after the meal. Sometimes, no matter how you feel, tasks will need to be completed on a timeline; for me, that was the case that day. Fortunately, F&B Downtown offers a popular foreign custom, perfect for this occasion: coffee shots! A Nespresso machine in the bar area offers a dial of ranging coffee flavours and strengths, presented in a dedicated case. Because this luxury coffee is typically stronger than your regular cup, only a shot is offered [and needed]. Added some cream, knocked my head back, and I was good to go!
F&B Downtown’s Private Dining in the Q
For a romantic date, special occasion, or small meeting, the tucked away reservation-only Q dining area is a lovely choice as a more intimate setting. An appropriate backdrop of a collection of wine bottle bases and wooden crates is a standout feature as you step into the dimly-lit area.
In the Q is a mural of sorts, created completely from numerous newspaper articles about the venue and its many highlights. Beside that is probably almost as impressive, with framed handwritten notes from famous figures who have dined at the establishment.
Do you recognize either of them???
(hint: I videoed one performing at the Jamaica Coffee Festival; the other is 1 of my husbands)
Side note: I sat in every seat so I could say that I have shared the same space with them. 😁
F&B Downtown’s In-House Art Gallery
Follow the spiral stairway to find 2 rooms of studio space are dedicated to more visuals by Craig Phang Sang. A corporate table is tucked in the innermost room to host business meetings if desired, yes within an art gallery!
With so much to indulge in – food, drinks, shopping, art – you can easily spend hours at FnB Downtown engaging all your senses. Eat. Drink. Meet & Shop. Treat yo’ self!
Which section would you want to indulge in first?
- Delectability 80%
- Food Variety 70%
- Atmosphere 90%
- Staff Interactions 90%
Once in Downtown Kingston, navigate to Harbour Street (near the popular market area, Orange Street). Park across the road in the marked spaces or at a nearby venue and walk to the Swiss Stores location.
Where It All Started: The Swiss Stores
Around 1932, a Swiss-born rum merchant living in Jamaica named Rudolf Wäckerlin traveled regularly through Switzerland to sell rum for his company Rum Basel – more popularly known as CORUBA. On one trip, he met Hans Wilsdorf who was selling Rolex watches. Mr. Wäckerlin brought some to Jamaica to sell which led to The Swiss Stores opening. In 1958 the Swiss Stores became Jamaica’s first fully air-conditioned store.
The Early Days: F&B Downtown
The concept Eat&Drink, Meet&Shop came to life at The Swiss Stores in 2012. F&B Downtown started with 1 table and a sandwich menu, which is a long way from today’s 35 tables and a diverse cuisine options.
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