The pandemic has caused many businesses to pivot from the way they previously did things, including the popular family-owned Beverley’s Kitchen restaurant founded by the late Beverley Duncan Moncur Walkes. One of the first Jamaican restaurants in New Providence to sell authentic Jamaican food alongside a full Bahamian menu, Beverley’s Kitchen continues to offer delicious fare, but has opted for takeout only, and has converted its former dining room into a Caribbean and Jamaican specialty retail space.
“We had two blows – Bev died in 2017, and we had to come together as a family and work to keep the business, as she wanted the legacy to continue,” said Marcia Duncan, Beverley’s Kitchen co-owner. “Then the COVID blow came and changed us forever.”
With the restrictions that came with the pandemic, the once full-service dining restaurant and bar, was forced into curbside and delivery only. That meant they had unused space and restaurant furniture stocked up, compounded by mounting bills and business slower than they had ever seen it in 20-plus years. They also, unfortunately, had to cut 60 percent of their staff.
“It was very sad and out of our control,” said Duncan. “It also forced us to think outside of the box to come up with something new.”
Duncan said it was a challenge, but that after much prayer and conversation, the family decided it made sense to convert Beverley’s Kitchen’s dining area into a Caribbean mart that would stock Jamaican specialty items alongside other islands’ groceries and hard-to-find items.
Beverley’s Caribbean mart was “born” and has since been dubbed little Jamaica due to the fact that people can find the best Jamaican ingredients there, including the much sought after Juici Patties, bulla (a rich Jamaican cake made with molasses and spiced with ginger and nutmeg), bammies (cassava flatbread), peanut punch, syrups, sorrel, Lasco (soy beverages), hardo breads (hard dough bread similar to the Pullman loaf, but sweeter), canned foods, chips, snacks and spices.
Whatever they want, Duncan said they stock it.
Duncan said the core customers of Beverley’s Kitchen love the food, are also well-traveled, and appreciate the ability to be able purchase the ingredients they had while visiting a particular place.
She said customers are also catching on to the way business is now done – grab and go ready meals and the ability to shop while they wait on their food. And that the Kitchen’s regulars appreciate and have been encouraging in the wake of the changes. She said they understand why they made the move and that for the most part, they all think it was a smart move. Duncan said they do not see Beverley’s Kitchen returning to a dine-in concept.
“Even though we miss the face-to-face servicing of our customers, times have changed and COVID has taught us many things – we love the food business and we love our customers, but we don’t see ourselves going back to indoor dinning anytime soon. Maybe if we relocated and our new facilities offer outdoor dining but not at our present location.”
Beverley Duncan Moncur Walkes started Beverley’s Kitchen in the early 80s. She started cooking and serving food from her two-bedroom apartment. Duncan recalls having to walk and catch the bus to deliver food around the island in those early days.
The restaurant’s brick and mortar space officially opened in November 1997, with seating for 50 people under the name M&M; the name was later changed to Beverley’s Kitchen.
It’s at Beverley’s Kitchen where you can get that “good old curry goat,” and oxtails which they take pride in having popularized.
“We made oxtail popular in The Bahamas,” said Duncan. “[People] were not buying or even cooking [oxtail when we opened] – now they can’t get enough and its one of the most expensive meats to buy.”
At Beverley’s Kitchen she said they specialize in oxtail, ackee and saltfish, curry goat and chicken, jerk pork and chicken, and rice and peas – as well as Bahamian cuisine.
“We were one of the first Jamaican restaurants in [New Providence] to sell authentic Jamaican food alongside a full Bahamian menu. Everyone was selling one thing – we decided from early on that we wanted to serve both cultures and people really gravitated to it.”
Beverley’s Kitchen opened a second location in the Astoria Hotel in the 2000s but that later closed its doors.
The late Duncan Moncur Walkes whose legacy is Beverley’s Kitchen, migrated from Jamaica at the invitation of her eldest brother Rolston “Bunny” Roach who lived in Grand Bahama at the time and thought she could make a life for herself there. She left her studies to become a nurse and worked several jobs in Grand Bahama. She later moved to New Providence after marrying her first husband and started a job as a cashier where she learned about business; and after 25 years, she left and started doing her own thing. Duncan Moncur Walkes became known for her flavorful, colorful, delicious food. Duncan said she also had a secret ingredient “love” along with outstanding customer service.
“She would put her foot in the pot as they would say, so the food was sweet and those who enjoyed it kept coming back for more.”
Duncan Moncur Walkes’ husband Kennith “Sir K” Walkes is now tasked with head cook duties and continuing to put the “love” in the food. Duncan and her cousin Careen Roach, who is also a co-owner, deal with the day-to-day operations. Her brother, Jason, and daughter, Bria, are also involved in Beverley’s Kitchen today, which is now three-generations strong.
“We didn’t disappoint,” said Duncan. “The family stuck together and kept the business going because it’s what we knew.”