You can count on one hand the places in Melbourne to get a cracking Jamaican jerk chicken. This is one of them.
Pretty Mama Caribbean Grill & Bar has a 40-hour process for its jerk chicken. It brines its Milawa chickens for 12 hours, then marinates them for another 24. Then the pieces are cooked sous-vide to seal in the flavours and finished on a massive, wood-burning grill for smoky flavour.
It's a venture between Michael Cotter (also behind Gumbo Kitchen, Po’ Boy Quarter and Bar None and Shae Silvestro (ex-Der Raum, Seamstress, Brooks). Cotter says, “We want people to feel like they’re actually at an island resort on the beach, watching a bartender mix them a drink with palm trees, the smell of piña coladas and a Kokomo-inspired soundtrack playing in the background –just as if you were Elisabeth Shue.”
Pretty Mama seats 100 people for lunch and dinner, and there’s a cocktail bar that opens onto an outdoor courtyard. Inspired by the sun-drenched, washed-out aesthetic of San Juan in Puerto Rico the bar features aged timber, plantation shutters and lime-washed walls.
A popular snack is the twice-cooked plantains made with a a traditional Puerto Rican process. “They’re cut into really large chunks, then deep fried and squashed flat between two wooden boards,” says Cotter. “They’re re-fried again to get those crisp edges and soft centre – and they’re just delicious.”
Drinks are mostly rum based and include a piña colada with a twist of bitters and ginger.
Pretty Mama Caribbean Grill & Island Bar
220 Spencer Street, Melbourne (Enter via Watertank Way)
(03) 9034 4355
Tue to Thu 12pm–11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–1am