Ex-nurse opens authentic Caribbean restaurant in east Belfast

A Belfast businesswoman has spoken of opening her own restaurant in East Belfast and bringing authentic Caribbean cuisine to the city.

Letecia Robinson has just opened Island Spice, a new takeaway restaurant located on Grampian Avenue, just off Newtownards Road.

Letecia left Guyana for Belfast 7 years ago and worked there as a nurse. But after giving birth to her children two years ago, she decided to embark on a new adventure.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Letecia said: “I’m from the Caribbean but I’ve lived here for seven years.

“During my stay here I have just realized that you can go to places like London and get good Caribbean food, but here it is very difficult. I am a nurse by profession, but during the pandemic I have a lot thought about starting my own business and thought a lot of people here would appreciate a Caribbean restaurant.”

For those unfamiliar with Caribbean cuisine, Letecia said the dishes are usually spicy and full of flavor.

Island Spice brings authentic Caribbean cuisine to East Belfast

“In the Caribbean, there are a lot of spicy dishes, a lot of grilled meats, a lot of curries. What makes Caribbean cuisine a little different is that its dishes that you may be used to, but normally with a lot of ‘spices.

“So the tastes of our chicken, it’s similar to the chicken here, but with the Caribbean, it involves a lot of seasoning and a lot of marinade. Jerk chicken is the one that a lot of people have heard of – and it’s a good example, lots of authentic unique spices and seasonings.”

When asked if there was an appetite for Caribbean cuisine in Belfast, Letecia said many people welcomed the restaurant as an alternative to their usual takeaways.

“People who came said, ‘Finally something a little different from fish and chips.’ I think people are curious about something like this, which is new.

“Then there were a few customers who have been to the Caribbean before and know the food but haven’t had a chance to have it since. Then other people whose families are from Caribbean countries and who come for authentic food.”

For Letecia, the opening of Island Spice marks a new chapter in her life in Belfast.

“I moved here 7 years ago from Georgetown, Guyana when my ex-husband was coming here to do a Masters at Queen’s. Then every time he came back I stayed because there were opportunities emerging here. And now I’ve been here ever since.

“I was originally a nurse, both in the Caribbean and here. Then I stopped breastfeeding a bit each time I had my twins two and a half years ago.

“After the pandemic hit I thought I would try this as something different to what I had been doing before. I did some research and noticed that Caribbean food was becoming very popular in London .

“Then, like everyone else, I was also doing my own research to take home during lockdown, and because I’m used to a lot of seasoning on my food, I was sometimes quite disappointed when the food wasn’t not seasoned as I would like it.

“So with all of that, I thought, ‘Maybe people here will like something different,’ and decided to make Island Spice.”

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