Old Harbour restaurateur rolls with COVID’s punches

Change. That’s the only constant that has come to define the last 12 months for a St Catherine-based restaurant operator who has learnt to sway with each lurch of a pandemic roller coaster.

Pauline Sinclair, who operates Di Lip Smacking Kitchen in Old Harbour, said she has adapted to an evolving routine of COVID-19 restrictions, the latest of which are three weekend lockdowns.

Di Lip Smacking Kitchen, she said, has had to come up with creative combinations to match palates and pockets impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. Staples like fish, chicken, goat and vegetables are getting competition from a low-budget favourite, with a twist: turned cornmeal with gungo peas.

Sinclair said that COVID-19 has caused her to forge new partnerships with small farmers in the Old Harbour area to supply her with fresh vegetables.

“This allows us to get a reliable supply of ingredients, food, vegetables and fruits, fresh from the field to the food pot to our loyal customers,” Sinclair told The Gleaner.

Heightened health sensitivities over the highly contagious virus has driven her to impose a rigid sanitisation regimen. She has also employed the services of motorcycle delivery personnel to compensate for diminished foot traffic.

Service cost and delivery fees may add $250 to the full cost, but she views those linkages as a critical investment to survive the pandemic.

“Previously, we didn’t do delivery, therefore, our customers would purchase and pick up here, but with COVID upon us, we have to keep the social distance, so for timely delivery, we use the bikes,” she said.

“It’s faster and we keep the wheels of employment steady; it’s a happy union.”

The eatery was bustling with activity during a lunchtime visit, but customers and staff maintained the COVID-19 safety protocols.

“The food is good, but I am here for the turned cornmeal. The ting tun up, and I like how dem a try to keep it (the food) natural and local,” Michelle McNaughton said.

Among the fare are is a range of natural juices, such as turmeric and ginger, sorrel, pineapple, apple, sweet corn, cane, and lemonade.