Food without frills

The Breakfast Shed at the Port of Spain dock: cheap, tasty meals. BC Pires tells us more

How could you resist? Photograph by Marlon RousePhotograph by Marlon Rouse

Once you understand that “no frills” is really no exaggeration, the Breakfast Shed at the Port of Spain dock offers robust, tasty local meals for breakfast and lunch seven days a week (including all public holidays, bar Christmas and New Year’s Day) at prices anyone with a job of any kind can afford.

Value and taste attract almost as many professional as working-class customers, but the discerning patron would set his expectations well below fine dining standards when it comes to ambience.

The Breakfast Shed is not a clever name like the relatively up-market US shoe store, The Athlete’s Foot. The Breakfast Shed really is housed in a concrete-and galvanised metal shed, roofed with galvanised iron over exposed rafters made from roughly welded angle-iron bars and rods. It is prevented from being a bare concrete-and-galvanised iron metal shed roofed with galvanised iron only by the bright red-and-yellow trademark colours of its largest corporate sponsor, Maggi, the soup maker.

Patrons eat at rough wooden tables on wooden benches that would have been rough once, though are now polished smooth by the posteriors of many thousands of Port of Spain City Corporation workers, for whose benefit the original Breakfast Shed was conceived 50 years ago. (It has been at its Wrightson Road site for 30 years, long enough for many people to assume it was a dock worker’s amenity.)

The shed accommodates 12 open kitchens in concrete stalls. A dozen kitchens do not mean a dozen menus, however. All serve almost exactly the same food, though the menu does change slightly each day. Breakfast includes fried and roasted bake, fried fish, buljol (a salted fish dish far more delectable than its principal ingredient would suggest), smoked herring, fish broth, tea, coffee and fruit juice.

Lunch includes stewed chicken, beef and pork, steamed fish, mixed and plain rice, “ground provision” (starchy vegetables including dasheen, green fig, breadfruit, plantains, cassava, sweet potato, yam and eggplant), peas and callaloo. The Friday special is curried crab and dumplings. Weekend specials are ox tail and cow heel soups, pelau, curried crab and dumplings, coo-coo, fish and callaloo and oil down (a one-pot combination of breadfruit, salted beef and pork boiled down in a coconut milk sauce).

If you’re not taking away your meal, sit at one of the long wooden tables and someone will take your order, bring your food (in a startling number of separate dishes, almost one each for everything you order), take your payment and return with your change. There is a television at one end which is always on, which is the popular end with Trinis.

Whichever kitchen you patronise is entirely your own affair, but the ones closest to the door will make overtures the moment you enter. Feel free to wander through the whole shed before deciding.

This excellent food can be enjoyed in an atmosphere as convivial as it is informal. Remember to pay attention to hygiene, as in all culinary situations anywhere.

 

The Breakfast Shed is adjacent to the Cruise Ship Complex, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. Open 6 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. seven days a week. Breakfast up to TT$14. Lunch TT$12 to $25.