The number of restaurants in the UK is on the decline, but there’s one stand out cuisine that’s bucking that trend to take over our hearts (and our high streets): Caribbean. Here’s where to give it a try…
It’s official: jerk chicken has cemented its status as one of the nation’s favourite dishes. In fact, the number of Caribbean restaurants in the country grew 144% in the year up to June, according to new research.
While the expansion of Turtle Bay (the deliciously fun Caribbean-inspired chain) may be to blame for a large portion of that increase, one thing is clear: people in the UK can’t get enough of West Indian food. And, whether it’s the classic jerk, mac ‘n’ cheese or stews, we are well and truly obsessed with those hearty, spicy dishes. So where should we go to try them?
Well, unsurprisingly, London is where you’ll find the best of the cuisine, with Caribbean communities opening authentic restaurants, street food stalls and cafés to introduce us to the authentic flavour.
With Notting Hill Carnival taking over the city this weekend, we’ve rounded up where you can find London’s Caribbean cuisines so you can celebrate properly…
The Rum Kitchen
With restaurants in Carnaby Street and Brixton, the beach shack design is wonderfully incongorous with The RUm Kitchen’s surroundings, making it the portal to paradise we didn’t know we needed. With classics including saltfish fritters and curry mutton on the menu alongside newer variations of West-Indian cuisine like KFC (Krispy Fried Cauliflower), The Rum Kitchen manages to be authentic and fresh simultaneously. A lively venue with loud music and louder cocktails, so be prepared to party when you visit.
Find out more at therumkitchen.com
When Grace Dent says a restaurant has “some of the best jerk chicken I’ve eaten in London,” then you go to that restaurant and you eat jerk chicken. And no wonder: Rudie’s is all about that classically Caribbean menu. Think mac ‘n’ cheese, roti, rum cake and that infamous chicken, with a big focus on rum. Yum.
Find out more at rudieslondon.com
Fish, Wings & Tings
The clue’s in the name at Fish, Wings & Tings: expect a small but marvelously perfected selection of the best Jamaican food. The Small Tings selection include fritters and pepper prawns, while the Big Tings menu boasts roti, jerk and curry. All are delicious, and all make this brightly painted Brixton store (with benches for family style dining) an absolute must-visit.
Find out more at fishwingsandtings.com
Incredible, authentic food with a lovely little garden for the British summer days. The Ital – a Rastafarian, vegan diet - element of the menu really stands out here, with bean burgers, sweet potato stews and jerk jack fruit salads. But there’s something for everyone, including BBQ ribs and Ackee & Saltfish.
Find out more at negrilrestaurant.co.uk
White Men Can’t Jerk
Starting as a street food vendor, White Men Can’t Jerk now has four residencies throughout London. Each outlet has a slightly different menu, including chicken wings, cauliflower poppers, classic jerk chicken and meat-filled buns. Served up gluten-free, vegan and deep-fried, literally no one will be disappointed with the food on offer.
Find out more at whitemencantjerk.com
Island Social Club
Is it a café? Is it a beach shack? Is it a restaurant? It doesn’t matter with this modern London take on traditional Caribbean cooking. With fresh, traceable ingredients, the whole menu is worth tasting. However, the curry mutton and dairy-free coleslaw has a reputation for the best in the business, so be sure to save some room…
Find out more at islandsocialclub.co.uk
Cottons loves to hold a record. Not only is it London’s longest-running Caribbean brand, but it also holds the Guinness World Record for the most amount of rums commercially available - 372 to be precise. You’ll need something to soak up all the drink, of course, and so it’s lucky that their menu is just as mouthwatering. Think classic meat dishes and infamous veggie stews, including our favourite, the Chaguanas Dinner Plate: think chana dhal curry, black eyed bean, chickpea callaloo fritters, and plantain is a best seller).
FYI? They also do a Caribbean bottomless brunch. We’ll race you for a table…
Find out more at cottons-restaurant.co.uk
These Caribbean flatbreads were chef James Cochran’s first step into the world of street food, and boy, it’s paid off. Now with a permanent residency at Boxpark in Croydon, the simple menu is packed with authentic jerk flavours. Choose from Goat or veggie cauliflower on coconut flatbreads and load up with toppings for a deliciously messy dinner.
Find out more at goatbychefjamescochran.com