Royal Caribbean Cafe
By YP Contributor

Authentic Caribbean Food

Walk into the Royal Caribbean Cafe on St Clair and it’s as though you’ve left the streets of Toronto and stepped into a laidback-yet-chic beach side restaurant in Jamaica, from where owner and chef, Ainsley Palmer hails. “The decor is modern and warm,” he says. “We have comfy orange and terracotta cushions and natural materials to give a beach feeling. It feels like summer in here!”

It’s the perfect setting for the authentic Caribbean food that Ainsley has served since 1996. “I’ve always focused on Caribbean food,” Ainsley explains. “The menu rarely changes, but I also make some creative twists to spice it all up. People always like something different and I love seeing satisfied customers.”

Whether it’s a tasty roti, serving of oxtail soup, vegetable curry and coconut stew on rice or a shrimp stir-fry, the dishes not only taste like home, but they’re also elegantly presented with plates that offer an explosion of colour.

I’ve always cooked the food I know. I love being creative with it. - Ainsley Palmer, owner
Royal Caribbean Café

Where Diners are Family

Ainsley regards his customers as family and it’s no surprise; he says he spends more time at Royal Caribbean Cafe than he does at home. “I have customers who come from far and wide and they’ve been dining here for years,” he grins. “Once or twice over the decades I’ve hinted that I’ve been thinking of selling up and changing careers, but they always stop me. They ask me where they’ll get such good homemade Caribbean food if I do.”

It’s important to have the right spices in Caribbean cuisine for the food to taste like the real thing. The secret is in the blending of these spices into dishes that are made from recipes Ainsley grew up with. “I’ve always cooked the food I know. I love being creative with it.”

The drinks menu includes fare from home as well, including the likes of coconut water, Real Vibes and Magnum plus a range of Caribbean rums such as Appleton Estates and Captain Morgan. It’s all part of Ainsley’s culinary mission to transport you as far as he can to the Caribbean without an airplane.

Royal Caribbean Café

A Drive to Thrive

Ainsley opened Royal Caribbean Cafe only two years after arriving from Jamaica in a chilly Toronto December. He says he always had the drive to open his own business so he took the plunge as soon as he saw an opportunity. “I started out with a few thousand dollars and got a loan to start up the business,” he recalls. “It was tough at first! The venue I had taken over had previously housed a business which had been kind of shady, so I had to gradually change the stigma that hung around. But I managed and I’m still here in the same spot.”

Royal Caribbean Café
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