The legacy of having a sit down Caribbean meal in the U.K. stretches back almost a century, with references to individuals eating rice ‘n’ peas in central London as far back as the 1920s. After the world wars, when the Caribbean population began to develop in the UK, the basements of houses in areas like Brixton and Notting Hill provided the locale for meals and parties known as “shebeens.” For years, Caribbean bakeries and takeaways dominated the restaurant enterprise in London, and it’s only in the last decade or so that places for a sit-down Caribbean dining experience have come to the fore.Read More
London’s Essential Caribbean Restaurants
Where to find the cuisines of the island collective at their best — Trinidadian, Bajan, Dominican, and more
When Rudie’s unveiled its deep green and gold exterior just north of Kingsland road, its name immediately exploded on to the east London food scene. After extensive research in Jamaica, Rudie’s mix of delicious Jamaican classics and playful creations still thrills Dalston regulars and visitors from across the city.
In the shadows of east London’s Canary Wharf exists a rare opportunity for elegantly dressed curry goat and rice ‘n‘ peas accompanied by piano and swooning live music. The family here has endeavoured to introduce a level of silver service not commonly found in the cuisine; for afters, the indulgent homemade rum cake is not to be missed.
3. Buster Mantis
Underneath the train tracks of south east London’s Deptford station and a few steps from the home of Deptford’s high street market, Buster Mantis is accommodated in a row of railway arches. Redefining what it means to be a Caribbean restaurant, many don’t even draw the conclusions until perusing the innovative menu filled with jackfruit burgers and saltfish fritters. For one of the best weekday outings in London, have dinner on a Wednesday and bring the dancing shoes for Afro-Jazz from Steam Down: it’s a party.
4. Cummin Up
Everyone from the borough of Lewisham knows Cummin Up, either by first hand experience of passing one of the many locations, or having met the affable owner Richard Simpson out and about. While most are familiar with the takeout spot in New Cross, the Catford branch has been bolstered by a newly renovated dining space and Sunday buffets complete with spicy wings, fried and escovitch fish and much more. Sustenance is hard to come by if left too late in the day.
5. Brown Eagle
Brown Eagle located right across from White Hart Lane in the rapidly changing Tottenham high street has a log cabin type feel immediately reminiscent of the tropics. While the menu focuses on Caribbean latter-day mainstays like oxtail and brown stew, the eponymous special fish or chicken are an obvious choice; a “secret spicy seasoned” option not found anywhere else in London.
6. Calabash London
Beyond Hackney, options for a sit-down Caribbean meal grow more scarce the further east you travel. Open for twenty years now, Calabash has stood the test of time. Anybody expecting the likes of curry goat, jerk chicken or oxtail won’t be disappointed. However, on Sundays an homage to a mix of English and Caribbean culture is on full display, with a choice of lamb chops or a roast chicken accompanied by plantain and rice ‘n’ peas.
7. One Stop
Whilst most of the earlier Caribbean food businesses in the direct area focussed on providing takeaway services befitting the space available to them, One Stop filled a much needed service in the area by offering restaurant dining from 9 in the morning all the way up until 11 at night. The shop endeavours never to run out of food, meaning a breakfast of saltfish and ackee, with a hard food boil of dumplings and green banana can be had late into the night.
Many non-Caribbean Londoners’ first introduction to Caribbean food has been Negril, tucked away on Brixton Hill. The colourful platters featuring every facet of Caribbean cooking, from rice, plantain, and fritters to slaw with jerk chicken or curry, are a great way to dive in head first to foods of the island collective.
9. Fish, Wings and Ting
Fish, Wings and Ting is one of the only “Trini” dining restaurants not just in London, but in the entire country that is highlighting the region’s Indian heritage. Kaleidoscopic plates including chicken or fish with mango chutney and spicy purple slaw are a must. For those wanting to get hands-on, get all the aforementioned inside sumptuous homemade roti bread.
10. Three Little Birds
Named after a Bob Marley song, this café, boutique and rum bar celebrates the cuisine, music and talent of Jamaica. An extensive menu features some rare tropical gems including jerk chicken tacos or calamari with grilled pineapple, finished off with some banana pancakes.
11. Rum Kitchen Carnaby
One of the few non-Caribbean owned restaurants in the country that gets it right, by blending a refined menu with well-oiled service and a fantastic array of cocktails. Later on in the week, dinner quickly turns into a Jamaican-style bashment, with local DJs spinning all the latest tunes from the island.
12. Levi Roots Caribbean Smokehouse
Beyond his famed jerk chicken and sauce from Dragons’ Den, an assortment of Caribbean nibbles and street food-inspired entrées help to start the festivities at Levi Roots’ Caribbean Smokehouse. A largely Jamaican menu borrows inspiration from neighbouring islands, including Bajan fishcakes and Trinidadian roti.
Formerly a takeout spot, located next door to the legendary Roti Joupa in Clapham. Jamaican and Guyanese owned Savannah’s latest renovation has transformed the shop into a luxurious dining room, to experience the best the collective’s food has to offer.
Croydon CR0 1YJ, UK
Opened in 2014, Alchemy quickly became more than a restaurant and earned its place as a one stop for Caribbean culture in the area. By day a sumptuous £7.00 Caribbean buffet serves up choice cuts of jerk chicken and curry goat; by night a swinging nightclub rotates karaoke nights with lavish, bottle service suit and tie parties. Lucky revellers might get a surprise personal appearance from whichever reggae star is in town that week.
15. Caribbean Spice London
London N15 5BY, UK
This humble café based in north London’s Tottenham opens late enough into the evening seven days a week for a cosy Caribbean sit-down meal. Previously a takeaway, the new schedule has allowed for a series of close-knit tables, that can often lead to intense political, musical and sporting debate with complete strangers over homemade soup of the day.