Have you heard about the Downtown Kingston revival?
There is a LOT happening Downtown.
It might have started with Digicel building their headquarters there, but with the recent redevelopment project headed by the Urban Development Company (UDC), there is construction being done all over. Look around and you’ll see new buildings rising up everywhere. From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, & the GraceKennedy Limited corporate office, to right on the waterfront where you’ll see the new Victoria Pier Food complex redevelopment project. Downtown Kingston is well on it’s way to becoming a hotspot again.
A few weeks ago I heard about this fancy restaurant Downtown.
“Downtown? Fancy?” I was confused, but I decided that I needed to see this for myself, and so began my F&B Downtown experience.
On the corner of Harbour Street & Church Street, you will find the Swiss Store’s ‘F&B Downtown’ restaurant, which might be one of the most pleasant surprises one can find in Downtown Kingston. Parking is a bit tricky for F&B because there’s maybe a slim chance you will find parking on roadside outside as Downtown street spots are mostly always taken. I would advise that you go & get paid parking inside of the UDC carpark which is very close.
The Swiss Store itself is full of so much history. They started operations in Jamaica in 1935 and after the then owner formed a direct relationship with Rolex, they started sell the watches here. They later on moved to & opened up their new store in 1958 as the first fully air conditioned store in Jamaica. Years later, they are still at that same store, and even though the Swiss Store has relinquished their partnership with Rolex and closed most of their other locations, they still continue to sell some of the finest jewellery & time pieces in the island.
F&B Downtown is located directly inside the Swiss Store. Once you walk in it’s a confusing feeling. Confusing in the sense that you know you’re in a jewellery store & the ambiance feels exactly like that, but with the restaurant space directly in the center, you still get the fanciness with a sense of laid back comfort.
When I say laid back, I mean that you aren’t getting 5 star restaurant seating arrangment & utencil placement, but best believe that this does not take away from the quality of the food. The decor is very chic as the jewellery display cases are positioned towards the outskirts of the space, & the paintings on the walls are actually advertised art pieces which are for sale. The restaurant has an open space feeling with it’s high ceilings & wooden table and seats, and the management describes the place as perfect for a quick bite or even a meeting place for young and old.
Managing Director Ueli Bangerter has even been quoted as saying, “It is not white gloves and white table cloth, but it has had that atmosphere since we opened the door.” F&B is not fine dining but it surely feels that way. The atmosphere is one of sophistication & grandeur, especially being surrounded by so much history.
The food at F&B is top notch! The red peas soup is real & authentic from the pigstail to the beef cuts, & the pasta is quite flavourful & very filling. The best part about it all is that you are getting great food at mid-range prices, because F&B Downtown is targeting lunch time clientele from the Downtown business district. The menu has a very decent variety, from proteins & rice, to pasta & seafood, and also roti wraps. Their daily specials usually run out very early because lunch time is when they get the bulk of their customers.
The Swiss Store is also still expanding their collection of restaurants. They started with F&B Downtown and later added Smokehouse 109 which is a few doors down on Harbour Street, but next up they have Q which will be the real luxury fine dining restaurant right inside of the Swiss Store. My server Avril told me that the only alcohol that will be served there is wine, so I expect it to be quite an interesting space with an interesting concept.
The dining experience at F&B Downtown is great, you get good food in a good ambience with great service. Grab a bite or have a drink at their bar, either way I am sure it will be a good time. The only downfall is the opening hours. Based on their clientele, the restaurant is really only operation between 11am & 5pm. If you want a piece of this experience you need to catch them between that window, but the good news is that they are open on Saturdays so if you can’t make it for lunch one day during the week because of work, head on down one Saturday afternoon for brunch I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
One of the best parts about this is that Victoria Pier is a 3 minute walk away. Walk down to the Waterfront after your meal & take a look at the beautiful sunset. It’s a perfect way to end your day.
Downtown is coming back. You heard it here first!
Have a look at the gallery below for additional pictures.