The best Caribbean restaurants in London

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I first knew things were changing for good in Brixton — home to both myself and some of the best Caribbean restaurants in London for decades — when I wandered into the Granville Arcade market and the first aroma I encountered was dim sum rather than tilapia fish or jerk chicken.

That was back in 2009, when dining out in Brixton still meant either a takeaway patty and brown stew chicken from Refill on Brighton Terrace or failing to swerve the guys selling incense sticks on trestle tables as you attempted to enter the world’s busiest branch of Iceland on the high street.

No longer. Now, as with across most of the capital, you can eat the world in Brixton. Cuisine from Senegal to Singapore to Szechuan trawls through the nasal passages from Acre Lane to Stockwell Road, almost compensating for the petrol fumes and plumes of smoke from Brixton’s experimental vapers.

Yet it is Caribbean cuisine that is still the dorsal mainstay of SW9. And a surprising number have battled gentrification and hurtling rental costs to remain intact. Here are a few of our favourites in Brixton and beyond.

Jam Delish, Islington

Islington and Caribbean cuisine would seem to go together about as comfortably as Jacob Rees Mogg at a Skepta gig. Not only that, but Jam Delish is that most sui generis of Caribbean dining concepts: one without any form of meat. But vegan Caribbean (yes, that means no oxtail, no jerk chicken, no goat and no tripe) can be a gorgeous thing indeed. Especially when served to you in an azure blue, palm-licked space seemingly designed to remind guests that, actually, a meat-free diet isn’t anathema in the Caribbean if you’re Rastafarian, for instance.

‘Chicken’ wings come with a bone made of sugar cane and jackfruit makes a winning substitute for saltfish in a dish festooned with mini-frisbees of plantain and mori. Most beguiling of all are the grilled roti indecently stuffed with jerk baba ganoush, plantain hummus, burnt spring onion and chilli; as comforting as a hammock just vacated by a peak-era Gregory Isaacs on a sunny beach in the Lesser Antilles.

1 Tolpuddle Street, N1 0XT,

Danclair’s Kitchen, Brixton

Caribbean tapas is a quotidian concept: order a load of starters for the table at any restaurant and, basically, you’ve got tapas. But Brian Danclair’s newest Carib-accented space (he also owns the venerable Fish, Wings and Tings on the other side of Brixton Market) is a bijou affair, dominated by a mural of Danclair’s Trinidadian grandmother, Tina, who even has a dish named after her in the form of the eponymous empanadas; canary yellow submarines of pillow-soft dough, stretched to bursting with potato salad and pugilistic chimichurri.

The BBQ wings look bloke-ishly malodorous and thrillingly unctuous while the pepper prawns are curvy and comely crustaceans with a ‘mother-in-law’ sauce you’ll want to slurp up in a manner definitely not fitting for a first date.

3 Granville Arcade, SW9 8PR,

caribbean restaurants london

Bluejay Cafe, South Norwood

Only open during the day, this mainstay of South Norwood for the last 15 years serves up what nobody has yet called the Full Patois: a Carib take on the trucker’s fry-up that manages to cram halal chicken, beef sausages, scrambled eggs, ackee, saltfish, fried dumplings, plantain and beans onto the plate for a mere eight quid.

Stormzy still eats here, just as he did before prowling the biggest live stages on the planet. But his occasional presence hasn’t led to any starry refurbs for this community hub where the curry goat goes heavy on the turmeric and Scotch bonnet to knock out effect and the salty, tangy oxtail stew has a sauce that’s deeper and smokier than Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s ashtray.

2a Market Parade, SE25 4PP,

Roti Stop, Stoke Newington

The humble rolled-up roti is Trinidad’s major culinary contribution to the planet. Unapologetically fat and fulsome, this curry sandwich with Creole origins has often been abused on this island by the English obsession with frugality, meaning that, too often, the filling, which you should be able to wedge a tractor in place with, is thinner than Woody Harrelson’s hair.

The best in London can be found, surprisingly, way up in Stamford Hill. At Roti Stop, the rotis come with chickpeas (called ‘channa’ in Port of Spain) as well as stewed chicken, ackee and saltfish and, best of all, a noir-ishly dark spicy lamb stew that’s triumphantly rich and gamey. The channa will make you re-think anything you presumed about the timidity of chickpeas; this creation is a whirling dervish of flavours that pop around your mouth like ping pongs dancing to Burning Spear. All this, and you’ll almost certainly leave with change from a £10 note.

36b Stamford Hill, N16 6XZ, available on Uber Eats and Deliveroo

caribbean restaurants london

Cottons, across London

Reggae and the upper regions of the British pop singles charts were seldom bedfellows before UB40 came along. At their zenith, the band reached number one with I Got You Babe in 1985, the year that Cottons Rhum Shack opened in Chalk Farm.

The concept of sugary cocktails with a Bob Marley soundtrack has long since been given the antinomian treatment by the likes of the Turtle Bay chain. But Cottons was here first and does the whole vibe better at its outposts in Camden, Shoreditch, Vauxhall and Notting Hill. Think coconut and banana daiquiris, Jamaican mules and a fine introductory menu of Carib-classics such as fritters, jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried plantain and callaloo. Consider this your entry point to Caribbean cooking and, before long, you’ll be sneering at that package resort break in the Dominican Republic and demanding a twin-prop flight to a deserted airfield in Cayman Brac because you heard about the mutton there…


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