A beach shack in Manhattan? Whaaaa? That’s right, you heard me. Miss Lily’s is just what you never realised you wanted, until someone did it. A laid-back Jamaican-themed diner smack dab in the middle of a city famous for serving up everything with a large helping of attitude.
At We Heart, we pride ourselves in visiting the places we write about, so when this assignment landed on my desk I imagined some of Miss Lily’s soul food would be just the tonic for the soul-destroying weather we’ve been having recently. Into the Eds office I bounded, suitcase under one arm, passport clutched, asking where my tickets were. I will gloss over the subsequent conversation, there were slanderous accusations made about my behaviour at the last work night out, to cut a long story short, not going. SCANDALOUS.
Still, one must grin and bear these setbacks, no matter how painful, and one must not be bitter. Back to Miss Lily’s, a collaboration between Paul Salmon, owner of Jamaica’s Rockhouse Hotel (where I can’t afford to stay because my salary is pitiful) and the brothers Jakupi, who are involved in some famous nightclubs like Bungalow 8 and The Box (which probably wouldn’t let me in because I made a terrible choice of career and can’t afford the right shoes).
Pressing my nose to the diner glass, metaphorically speaking, I can see all the elements of classic island cooking. The goat has been curried, the chicken jerked, and the ox de-tailed. Sounds tasty to me. Shame I’ll probably never know. Adding flavour to these dishes is the light and cheerful décor of restaurants serving the West Indian community across town in Manhattan’s brother borough from a different mother, Brooklyn.
When you’ve ruminated and digested, take a short post-prandial bogle over to Miss Lily’s Variety, where you will find an absolute panoply of rare and interesting Jamaican records (the big black vinyl kind, for readers under 20) which will keep the party vibe going long after you’re back home. If the music isn’t enough, and you fancy something sweet, Miss Lily’s Bake Shop and Melvin’s Juice Box next to the restaurant have the flavours to go. She gets around, this Miss Lilly?!
So while I console myself with the fact that the only thing vaguely Caribbean I’ll be experiencing this summer is the opening theme of Test Match Special, those of you with stateside holiday plans (or just nicer bosses) should make a note to pay Miss Lilly a call. Let me know how nice it was. Have a piña colada for me. The only thing remaining for me is try to get this piece posted without the censorious Ed-on-High stifling the truth. I SHALL NOT BE SILENCED!