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Welcome to Zimbali

Published:Thursday | April 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Coconut sushi made from finely grated coconut, tropical fruits, including ripe bananas and papayas, and cucumbers, carrots and sweet pepper.
Zimbali's banana leaf-wrapped steamed fish is served with the retreat's unique hash brown green plantains, tossed salad and a banana vinaigrette dressing. The banana leaf is used to wrap the fish, instead of aluminium foil.
Cedar plank chicken, oven-baked on a plank of cedar wood and stuffed with string beans, carrots, cucumber, thyme, onions and fresh pineapple, is served with Zimbali's hash brown green plantain and tossed salad. - Photos by claudia gardner
A delectable gluten-free black bean cake, made from black beans, eggs, chocolate, honey and coconut oil. MARKET LIST Irish potato This is on good offer these days in most retail markets across the island. The current asking price ranges between $50 and $60 per pound. These prices also apply to Montego Bay’s Charles Gordon Market as well. Dasheen It is easy to pick up supplies this week in a number of retail markets across the island. The asking price per pound in most locations is $50. Cheaper retail outlets in downtown Kingston may ask as little as $30 to $40 per pound for dasheen. Scallion Both the red and whitetopped variety of scallion are on very good offer. May Pen and Spanish Town markets will this week ask $70 for the prized redtopped variety, and for the white
Zimbali’s sous chef, Oraine Murray, serves the main course for lunch to guests during the afternoon lunch excursion, at the retreat’s Mountain Cooking Studio.
Zimbali Retreat’s head chef, Obrian Heron, preps for his afternoon lunch guests.

Claudia Gardner, Gleaner Writer


Tucked away in the hills of Canaan Mountain, near little London in Westmoreland, is Zimbali Retreat's Mountain Cooking Studio, Westmoreland's unique addition to the culinary and agro-tourism industries.

Zimbali's farm-to-table culinary excursions boast an afternoon lunch and an evening dinner excursion, with meals skilfully prepared by head chef Obrian Heron and sous chef Oraine Murray. The cooking studio is part of the Zimbali Wellness Retreat operated by Mark and Alecia Swainbank, which also offers accommodations and a respite for those seeking to gain or maintain health and wellness, or to simply just get closer to nature.

The cooking class is preceded by a guided tour of Zimbali's organic farm, from where most of the ingredients for the dishes are hand-picked. From there, guests are escorted to the cooking class, where their meals, whether lunch or a four-course dinner, are prepared on spot for them to experience the entire preparation process.

According to Heron, the three-course lunch menu varies each day, but chicken and fish are the only protein they use, as red meat is not promoted at Zimbali. He said that both himself and Murray have used their creative flair and experience to generate several signature dishes for Zimbali.

The Zimbali Wellness Retreat's Mountain Cooking Studio places emphasis on good health and wellness. "Eighty-five per cent of the vegetables used are from the farm here or local neighbouring farms," Heron explained. "Only coconut oil is used at Zimbali because coconut oil has a long smoke point, which means that unlike other oils, it can stay on the fire long before it starts smoking or loses its flavour."

When Food visited Zimbali last week Thursday, the lunch menu featured banana leaf-wrapped steamed fish, which utilised banana leaves instead of the typical aluminium foil. The alternative meat was cedar plank chicken, consisting of chicken stuffed with garden vegetables and pineapples, and oven-baked on a small slab of cedar wood, which, according to Heron, gives the chicken a delicious cedar flavour. These were served with hash brown green plantain, another signature recipe from Zimbali, which consisted of shredded unripe plantains bound with ripe bananas. This was accompanied by a garden vegetable salad and carrot juice made only moments earlier from freshly picked carrots, as well as red wine.

This main course was preceded by coconut sushi, using grated coconut instead of rice as the main ingredient, along with ripe bananas, cucumbers, carrots and papaya. At the end came a deliciously soft gluten-free black bean cake made with chocolate.

Zimbali's offerings, it appears, have not been lost on the many Jamaican and international visitors as they have voted the Mountain Cooking Studio No. 1 of 135 restaurants in the Negril resort area, on the world-renowned travel site TripAdvisor.