As I watched the full moon in the sky last night, I knew my dreams had come a full revolution and the story of my Saint Lucian restaurant was entering a new phase.
Papa King’s Liming Spot had been the dream of the man I thought was my partner of three years and it thrilled me no end to be able to create it for him. It symbolised all the good things that the island Paradise offered – a happy shining vibe with good music, family, cultural acceptance and love – love for one another, love of reggae, love of good food and, naturally, love of good rum!
My man and I had met on a cruise ship three years earlier where he was employed as a musician. A simple song request led to hours and hours of talking and being together. I knew I had met the most special man of my life and, encouraged by our daily contact after my return, I engineered opportunities to travel on the ship for a more extended time.
The modern communication methods of Skype, BlackBerry, WhatsApp and email meant that our daily contact kept the relationship alive and connected no matter where in the world we both were and we began to dream . . . and so Papa King’s began to develop.
It was important to me, after spending an extended period abroad, that whatever we created should become a haven for all – male or female, gay or straight, black, white, brown or yellow, religious or not, from two years to 92 years of age and beyond – an escape from bigotry, loneliness and age.
I spent hours researching every aspect of Saint Lucia from its history to its cuisine, the culture to its brewing methods. I wanted an authentic reproduction that would please the most critical Caribbean person and introduce Australians to your amazing country.
I travelled up and down the coast of the Perth region by the beach, taking photographs and videos of locations and businesses so that my man was involved every step of the way. Finally, he said, “This is our Liming Spot” – a dilapidated building, abandoned almost a year previously. The location was perfect, right down to the old palm trees on the perimeter, although there was substantial scepticism I had to overcome from my children who feared the extensive work required, the associated expense and the absence of my partner. The lengthy negotiation process began with an avaricious landlord but, riding high on a cloud of love and euphoria after my man’s last visit, no obstacle seemed too difficult to overcome.
First I took a substantial loan, then, in a major step, I put my house on the market and, once sold, used the funds to continue construction. Every step was a battle with hidden pitfalls but being able to introduce my partner and my construction workers by way of the apps made it feel like we were all working together.
By now, he was home in Saint Lucia applying for his visa to travel to Australia. His family had overcome their initial reluctance and were firmly behind him, he said, and his father had even approved my suggestion that the restaurant be named after him – a tribute to a respected and well-loved elder of the family.
I began to promote his son’s singing talents throughout the Fremantle community, building a following I hoped would benefit him if we also brought him to Australia to perform. I sourced contacts for Caribbean produce – plantains, green banana, breadfruit and soursop – and I employed the help of a designer to ensure the layout was conducive to the atmosphere I wanted . . . then I created the elements I had studied to bring Saint Lucia to life.
The colour scheme of the flag – blue, gold, black and white – features throughout. We have a fire pit for cosy conversation; it’s the ideal place to relax with one of the St Lucia Distillers special rums which we sourced to feature at the rum and reggae bar. I bought a grill for the jerk chicken, he sent Madras fabric for the uniforms, and we joined the Perth Caribbean Association as a couple.
He was to be the cook/chef and source the music while I was to take care of everything else. We were working towards an opening date of December 9, but his visa application seemed to run into problem after problem. In hindsight, they were fanciful stories, but I was too in love to tell.
Then, on November 18, 2016, three weeks before we were due to open, all communication stopped.
I delayed the opening by a week but knew I had to be open before Christmas if we were going to have enough income through the door before the colder months. We had to ensure we took advantage of the holiday period – but how? Where had my partner gone?
After two weeks I was frantic for news, terrified he had suffered an accident. Using the internet I was able to source his mother’s phone number and I rang to see if he was all right. It was then my world fell apart. She had no idea who I was! Not only was he not there, but he had not been for some time. He had returned to the ship over three months earlier and all the notes when he had said he was picking his daughter up from school, at his sick son’s bedside, going to mass with his mother, or finalising things with his estranged former wife, appeared to have all been the work of a creative, compulsive liar.
Everything I owned was invested in the restaurant. I was two weeks off opening – had no chef, no music and no partner; a building still under construction and without his promised input of funds for finishing. I needed to do all the tasks of two people while my heart was breaking.
It was then I learned the power and love of the Caribbean and Creole communities. An interview for a bar manager yielded the most amazing Mauritian GM; sourcing hot chilli sauces introduced me to an incredible Jamaican woman who in turn introduced me to people to help me find a chef and musicians; a Jamaican DJ I met walking my dog on the beach has become a fixture of the restaurant, while the Saint Lucian vice-president of the Caribbean Association stepped in and helped with recipe advice and taste-testing, and the President promoted us widely throughout the community.
I met the amazing Olivia who provided me with moral support, new strands of music, her taste buds and even her voice for our advertising and, when opening night came, Olivia took photographs and sent them back to Saint Lucia to show friends and family. As a result, I received an email from the First Lady – Raquel du Boulay – and then a beautiful photograph I now have mounted for all to see.
What an honour to be embraced by all these amazing people – and it hasn’t stopped! Every week I meet someone new who supports Papa King’s, offers friendship and advice – strong, beautiful, Caribbean women and men who have renewed my faith in the goodness of people.
Yesterday, the cruise ship came in. I dressed in his favourite colour, wore his favourite perfume, put on our ring, hoping it was all a mistake.
We even created a special Soca Sunday Lunch to celebrate his favourite music. Three of my new friends waited for my vanishing partner to step ashore, determined ‘the brother’ should come to the restaurant and give me an explanation, but in a final display of cowardice, he refused to speak to them, or leave the ship. I have not heard a word from him since that morning of November 18, 2016 when he swore undying love before disappearing from my life.
The moon is full – the cycle is finished. I now wait for the new moon in the hope it will ease the financial situation while continuing to send these rays of sunshine into my life. I feel they are the Pitons rising out of the water and inspiring all those who know them to grow bigger and better. While one Saint Lucian has crushed me, the magnificence of the country inspires me to keep going despite the fact I have never set foot on your island paradise.
Reggae is a Friday night ritual now with all ages dancing to those special rhythms. Saturday we have music representing other parts of the Caribbean from Cuban beats to African jive, and Sunday afternoons are chilled vibes with international jazz performers.
Our menu celebrates the cuisine with salt fish and green banana, jerk chicken, accra cakes, Jamaican curries, cocoa bread, a range of salads and Caribbean spare ribs, amongst others. Black cake has become a favourite dessert, along with banana bread, coconut pudding and juicy mango tossed in rum.
St Lucia Distillers 1931, Admiral Rodney and Chairman’s Reserve rums – including the Forgotten Casks – have become favourites of the Fremantle rum connoisseurs and a local boutique brewery has even brewed our own Papa King’s pilsner beer.
Next month, I hope to host a chef from Saint Lucia for a gala function to raise funds for an organisation aimed at helping young people understand the fundamentals of business and entrepreneurship, thus contributing to the fight to ease youth unemployment in Saint Lucia.
It is my way of saying thank you for the inspiration of your people and your flag – the blue field will be my better days ahead, the gold my sunshine and prosperity and the white and black the coming together of all nationalities at Papa King’s Liming Spot – a place of peace and love, now and for the future.
By: Leonie Trubshoe