The One and Only Jamaican Restaurant in Scotland

Fun, cosy and totally unpretentious.

Feature by Leo Wood | 15 Jul 2006

If reggae stars Julian Marley, Max Romeo and Horace Andy have been spotted in the restaurant, well my guess is, it must be good. With scores of glowing reviews on the window and the place nicely filled with people on a week night, the prospect is enticing...

Coyoba is the first of it kind, the one and only Jamaican restaurant in Scotland, set up in March 2004 by Mahlon Bentley, a Jamaican himself, and the Mead family, following their success catering at Edinburgh reggae nights such as Messenger Sound System. Chef and owner Ras Mahlon has been cooking Jamaican food for over twenty years, learning skills passed down from his mother and grandmother. He says of Coyoba, "We are a Rastafarian restaurant and believe that for food to nourish our bodies, it should be prepared with the best ingredients and with much love and care."

Coyoba incorporates the philosophy of the Rastafarian diet (an 'Ital' diet meaning 'natural'), which uses only natural produce of the land in the cooking. As well as the food, Rastafarianism permeates the look and the sound of the restaurant too. The colours of the Ethiopian flag, red, green and gold, and the background sounds of reggae music fill the room, making the atmosphere in Coyoba fun, cosy and totally unpretentious. The service is good too, adding to the relaxed vibes, as you can look in on Marlon and friends at work in the kitchen.

Jamaica has a diverse cultural heritage, reflected in the menu which fuses elements of Indian, European and South East Asian cooking. To start we had Festival & Callaloo, spicy Ital greens (spinach and okra) with banana flavoured bread, and the Jamaican national dish, Ackee & Saltfish, which was very light, with a delicious texture and flavor - probably the best thing we ate all evening. For the main course we chose the Traditional Curry Goat (sourced from South of the border as it's illegal in Scotland to kill goat for meat) which was extraordinarily tender, plus rich and spicy and Escoveitch Fish, so fresh it melted in the mouth.

Main dishes are all served with rice and peas, plantain, sweet potato and salad, as is typical in Jamaica, so there's no chance of going hungry. And to wash the meal down, all manner of specialty drinks are served from the bar. Rastafarianism doesn't extend to the drinks menu in Coyoba, there's Red Stripe on tap and all sorts of good looking cocktails. I recommend particularly the Jamaican Sorrel Drink, served with or without rum, which was exquisite.

Coyoba isn't the cheapest restaurant in town (£5 for a starter, £10-£15 for a main course) but is good value for money, given the quality of the food and the massive size of the portions. Soon after its inception, Coyoba won the Metro 2004 New Restaurant Award and having eaten such good food in an original and stylish restaurant I'm not surprised. For somewhere fun and different to go, any night of the week, Coyoba comes highly recommended.

Opening Hours Sun-Thurs 6pm-10pm Fri & Sat 6pm-11pm