Juma’s: Bajan Specialties Meet Exotic Beach Bar in Speightstown
Crashing waves are the soundtrack for a meal at Juma’s. Between an appetiser of expertly grilled jumbo shrimp with garlic and butter and a main course of comforting, fall-from-the-bone local Bajan half-chicken with sweet potato mash, the white sand beach and blue sky fade to black and a rainbow of lava lamps on the upper patio’s tables illuminate hand-carved African art and a jungle-like ceiling of palm fronds.
— By Amie Watson
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
— Cover: Jules and Mark Daghorn, Owners – Juma’s restaurant
The lower deck, popular in the daytime, is now nothing but shadows below flashes of silver ocean spray. From regulars who come for roti at lunch or for Friday night curry specials, to Jeremy Clarkson of the television show Top Gear (he ordered the beef tenderloin, cooked rare, and a bottle of red wine), Mark Daghorn and his wife Jules know how to make guests happy. The pair opened Juma’s in 2012. Since, they’ve opened three more restaurants near Speightstown’s relatively untapped area of gorgeous beach on the Northwest Coast of Barbados. With no resorts in the immediate area, the restaurant’s 80 beach chairs often run out – and it’s easy to see why, when you can spend the day sipping tropical fruit cocktails before jumping into the water, coming out only when you get hungry for Jules’ blackened fish with lemon butter and hand-cut chips.
Juma’s success is a testament to the passion that the couple have for it. Jules runs the kitchen and Mark handles the front of house. “It’s gone from nothing, when we opened, to being a place to come”, he says. It’s also a testament to their love for each other. After her midday swim, Jules joins Mark on the lower patio to tell me their story.
Where did the name Juma’s come from?
It’s the first two letters of both of our names put together: Jules and Mark. We had the name a long time before we had the restaurant.
How did you meet?
Jules: I’m from Barbados, from the east side of the island. But I lived in England for a long time.
Mark: I’m from Jersey and we met in Colchester, England. I had commercial recording studios and Jules ran a theatre restaurant in Essex. I’d just been in Barbados on holiday and I actually met her the day after I came back. It was from hearing her accent that we got chatting.
If you’d never taken that vacation and never heard her accent, would you have talked to her?
Mark: I don’t know! Life throws things at you. You can’t plan for something like that. And here we are.
Jules: We’ve known each other for twenty years and been married for eighteen.
Mark: It’s a milestone birthday for me next year – my fiftieth – and a milestone anniversary the year after.
How did you open Juma’s?
The same week we arrived from England four years ago, we drove past this boarded up restaurant where we used to come. We called up from outside and the landlady said “I can be there in ten minutes”, and we said “Sure, we’re outside”. That was that. Juma’s was kind of crazy to start because when we got into the building it was just before Christmas, which is a really busy time in Barbados. So we threw ourselves in at the deep end. Every year it’s just got significantly busier as people discover it, because you get an incredible amount of repeat business in Barbados. People get comfortable with you and the staff, and you get to know what they like. A lot of those people come to the beach every day. Then they start bringing friends and it just rolls like that.
You have some unique art on the walls. Where is it from?
Mark: We collect African art. We travelled to Africa several times a few years ago and each time we’d buy some wooden carvings and display a lot of it in the restaurant.
What about the lava lamps?
Mark: We’ve always liked them. We had a few in our house, so I started out putting some on the bar and people liked them. Then I put a few on the tables. Now customers travel and bring them back for us, so we’ve got a whole variety.
What kind of cuisine do you serve?
Mark: We wanted to do something that was quite eclectic but relaxed, not pretentious or uptight.
In the day, Juma’s is a beach bar. People sit outside. Then at night, upstairs is used more. But our goal is really to provide well-presented food.
Jules: I have a passion to find and make good food that’s natural. Some of the recipes are my grandmother’s, like the coconut cake. I grew up in the kitchen on my grandmother’s self-sustaining farm. She would be in the garden from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. before it got too hot. I’d make butter from the first pail of milk. And we had a huge orchard. So I believe in using local ingredients, like pork, chicken and vegetables, and I always ask the farmers if they spray.
What’s your most popular dish?
Jules: The blackened catch of the day. People love that. It’s my favourite too. At lunchtime,
Mark: I love both the West Indian and Thai curries. We both love Thai food. We do a home-made burger as well.
Jules: And the black belly lamb. That’s a local sheep that’s brown on top but has a black tummy. It’s lean and the flavour is strong and gamey, so it’s best slow-cooked in a stew or curry.
What’s the secret to your Bajan chicken?
Jules: We marinate it and roast it for three hours in a deep pan on low heat. It’s made with local chicken.
What are your best memories at Juma’s?
Mark: We had Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear, who has a reputation for being very bullish and arrogant, which is how he started off. But he got into it and was actually quite funny. He sat at the bar for twenty minutes after and chatted. We had the British band Kasabian in a couple years ago with their wives, children and management. We actually had no idea who they were. One of the other guests at a table was freaking out that she was at a table next to Kasabian. And we had Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. He’s known for being difficult, but he was actually really nice.
Jules: Loose Women?
Mark: She means the TV program! Loose Women. I love Pink Floyd. None of the staff had a clue who he was. That’s probably what stars like about Barbados. They get treated like normal.
What’s next for you two?
Mark: We opened The Lobster Pot in 2015. And we just launched our Italian place, Nino’s by the Beach, this year. Now we also have The Beach Shack a little further up the beach. The big thing for us is getting some accommodation in the area. Speightstown has this huge potential. We’d like to create a nice little boutique hotel, a twenty-room on the beach, really smart, interesting rooms, and some other eateries. We have another floor of The Lobster Pot building and we’d like to try to get something open there by next season.
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