Cuisine from every corner of the earth converges in London, making it possible to be a culinary globetrotter without leaving the city limits. From Europe to Asia to Africa, you’ll find delicious versions of every kind of international food you can think of. But amidst all these options, you may not have given London’s Caribbean cuisine its proper due. It’s time to rectify that. Consider the chargrilled jerk meats, the fiery scotch bonnet peppers, the tangy rum punch — there’s nothing better than island flavours on a chilly day in London. If you need to escape to the islands, these six restaurants will take you there in style.
Head west to the leafy suburb of Ealing, where the gorgeous interiors of this welcoming Caribbean joint warm you up as much as the food does. Red Stripe signs adorn the walls, and hanging strings of tiny light bulbs transport you to a makeshift beach shack. Try Turtle Bay’s signature Jamaican Blackwell Rum – a dark and spicy export created by Chris Blackwell, the Island Records founder who helped launch Bob Marley’s career. Then savour the pulled jerk pork from the “cutters” menu. It’s inspired by the street bites you’ll get from hawkers and in-beach shacks across the Caribbean islands. The plate’s tangy mango chunks and coconut shavings and succulent, slow-cooked meat will certainly give you a taste of the exotic.
Ask a Londoner to name the most authentic Caribbean food in town and they’ll probably direct you to Cottons in Islington. It’s one of the longest-running West Indian restaurants in the capital, famous for its social calendar as well as its food. Try Cottons’s famous mixed jerk fish grill: a fresh mix of parrot fish, tilapia, snapper, and tiger prawns. White tablecloths and pretty plate-ups give Cottons an upscale flavour, but this place has buckets of character. After you’re done eating, check out the pulsing raggae and salsa beat of its Rhum Jungle nightclub.
First up, Negril is BYO, so if you like Red Stripe with your roti, scurry to the off-licence first. Secondly, it’s casual – so expect chunky wooden tables, bright red walls, and a “no worries” vibe. It might be a bus ride from Brixton, but you can guarantee their Ital (vegan) pumpkin curry is as authentic as you’ll get. Check out one of their epic platters: an entire chicken served with a smorgasbord of plantain wedges, salt fish fritters, and other signature Caribbean sides. You’ll need to bring some friends. Or a very big appetite.
Jamaica Patty Co.
If you like patties, you’ll love Jamaica Patty Co. – a grab ‘n’ go style eatery. Jamaica-born owner Theresa Roberts was determined to bring the best of Caribbean cuisine to the Big Smoke, so get ready for a whoosh of Scotch bonnet and thyme on your tongue as you delve into hot and flaky parcels of jerk chicken, spicy beef, and curried goat. Cool down with a scoop of creamy and flavour-filled ginger or rum ‘n’ raisin Devon House I Scream. You won’t find this Jamaican export anywhere else.
Follow the sound of calypso and Afro-funk beats through the heart of Carnaby Street: This is where the fun begins. Sip on a heady rattle skull punch cocktail – a secret blend of classic rum punch with spices and fruit. Then savour bold flavours like the soft shell crab burgers. Their spicy tamarind sauce, ginger aioli, and guava-lime relish are set to give your tastebuds a tingle. With 100 rums to choose from and an eclectic reggae soundtrack, you’ll be in no hurry to leave Rum Kitchen.
For a tiny place, Dub Jam does a good job of standing out. Packed into an old cloakroom next to Covent Garden’s Adventure Bar, you’ll probably hear this place before you see it. Seats are limited, but the rainbow-coloured interiors alone make it worth queuing for. Try succulent jammin’ jerk chicken and the rude boy skin-on chips. They’re salty, sprinkled with thyme, and you won’t be able to get enough as you dip them in the creamy, coconutty sunshine slaw. There might be a chill outside, but Dub Jam’s reggae beats will brighten up anyone’s day.