It was an ordinary weeknight evening, around that time when thoughts turn to what to have for dinner. I peered into the fridge to examine its contents, to be faced with little more than milk, cabbage and condiments. It was an all too easy decision to go out. Feeling the need for some proper Bahamian food, the Juggernaut and I popped round the corner to Nesbitt’s.
A much loved local institution, Nesbitt’s has been around for several decades. We walked into the perfectly air conditioned bar. Smooth booty shaking r + b tunes boomed from the jukebox by the door. Lights were dimmed and mostly off or not working. There were posters of beer adverts on the walls. It looked a bit like the slightly retro bedroom of a teenage boy. The marbled concrete tiles and vinyl chairs had probably been here since the place first opened. The room felt lived in and cosy. Men perched at the bar, legs akimbo, cradling a Kalik. A single fan mounted on the wall cooled them as they talked about their day at work and half heartedly followed the basketball game on TV. Everybody seemed at ease, bobbing their heads to the music of early Shaggy and Luther Vandross.
We sat in a cosy nook by the window. A buxom waitress was over to us in a jiffy to take our drinks order. Resplendent with gold bangles and curly copper wig, she exuded warmth and hospitality. Her hazel coloured contact lenses had a mildly hypnotic effect on us. The gloriously tacky menu, complete with sunset photos of palm trees, offered a good selection of tropical dishes. There was sheep tongue souse, for $12 and pig feet souse for $6. I’m not yet brave enough to eat these animal parts. Hopefully it’s something I can build up to. Appetisers included the enticingly named cut up chicken for $6, conch fritters for $5 and pork chops for $10. Dinners included crack conch ribs, shrimp and grouper with various typical side orders such as peas ‘n’ rice.
Kaliks arrived shortly afterwards, their heads wrapped in paper turbans. I asked our lady what the best thing on the menu was. In a heartbeat she said the sautéed grouper, smothered in butter and gently cooked with sweet peppers and onions. She had such a mesmerising smile I felt compelled to go with her recommendation. I picked coleslaw, plaintain and corn to fill the rest of the plate. The Juggernaut, who like me always has a hearty appetite, ordered the sautéed shrimp, with mac n cheese, coleslaw and corn.
Our food arrived, two heaped plates, the smell of island spices drifting from the rising steam. I bit into the succulent grouper, an explosion of hot buttery pepper and lime. It was anything but bland. Crunchy freshly made coleslaw offered temporary relief from the heat of the fish. I found the deep fried plaintain an acquired taste to have with fish, as it’s so close in flavour to banana. I’d sooner have it for dessert with some vanilla ice cream. The only drawback with the grouper was the abundance of bones, which I was constantly pulling out of my mouth. J’s shrimp was lovely and tender, with a more pronounced buttery flavour. His wedge of mac n cheese was a real gut buster; almost a cake of pasta.
Our waitress swiftly cleared our table, asking how we enjoyed it, taking pride in her work. I felt satisfied and well looked after. Welcome. This cuisine is good for the soul if not the waistline. Eating this food sure puts a smile on your face. The bill came in at around $55, not bad for a large portion of down home cooking. I’ll be back to this haven of hospitality before long and might even be persuaded to try the souse.