Caribbean 'Lime' in Central London at The Rum Kitchen
A Caribbean restaurant in central London? How am I only now learning of this?
Don't misunderstand, there are Caribbean restaurants in London. Camden, Notting Hill and Brixton tops the list.
I remembered when a Caribbean take away opened just off Oxford Street. I think I was there nearly every week! Ok bit of an exaggeration but it was quite authentic West Indian cooking and so I was something of a regular. Every now and then we (we being my newly converted jerk chicken, curry goat, roti loving colleagues) would have lunch delivered and be the chef's nightmare when we sat eating another chef's creation in the staff canteen.
It's good to reminisce.
So imagine my excitement to learn there is a new 'lime' in town. I rounded up my best critique and friend and off we went. Cheshire catted my way to the entrance, got seated, started reading the menu. Egg this, egg that, egg three ways. Something isn't right here. Flipped the menu card back - haha we were sat in the 'Good Egg!' Ohh the embarrassment. 'We get that all the time' says our beaming waitress - rather I think she was trying to spare me.
'The Rum Kitchen' is upstairs on the first floor' she said.
Welcome to Kingly Court, just off Carnaby, just off Regents Street.
There is a stalk difference walking into The Rum Kitchen. For one there is voluminous chatter. It may just be the excitement from having Uncle Wray, his Nephew, Bacardi and Appleton in the house making it a truly Caribbean affair. Two - I can smell food I recognize and tummy reminds me I've not yet eaten.
The walls are a premium version of a little shack you hurriedly knock together after a hurricane. I think I'm hearing pan but that was brought on by the steel drums creating art in the roof. Funny how your brain plays tricks on you.
It's difficult when as a West Indian you turn up at a West Indian restaurant for the first time. There's always going to be that comparison. Not just with another west Indian eatery but with your own parents home cooking or Nennen's cooking (because everyone has had some one they called Nennen growing up who fed them) or your own cousin's annual summer BBQ get together.
I'm looking at the menu and I recognize a few firm favourites are missing. I put that down to location and concentrate on what's available.
If I'm to compare - I have to choose a dish I'd have everywhere else. The most renowned dish of the Caribbean - rice, slaw and the star -jerk chicken. Some jerk wings, spicy fried wings and fries make up the remainder of the food order.
Ten minutes in and we are still undecided on drinks.
Our waiter comes to my rescue with the suggestion of a 'Rude Boy.' It has hibiscus liqueur, passion fruit juice - so far, so good! Then he mentions Uncle Wray and his Nephew and I put the brakes on. Uncle Wray and I had a fall out a long time ago at one of my cousin's summer BBQs and that was from inhaling it!
He assures me it will be a splash and I will be fine but you only need a splash of Wray & Nephew. After all isn't that their tag line - 'a little goes a long way.' I take his word for it but not until he signs my pretend disclaimer. A Light & Breezy and a Hibiscus Cooler makes up the rest of the drinks order.
A little more settled in and my ears resonate with a rythm that moves my shoulders in a suttle MJ shoulder jig.
Glorious sunshine streams through the windows. If it wasn't for the layers of clothing I had just taken off to sit down, I would be forgiven for thinking it's 32°c instead of just 2°c outside and that I am at The Gap in Barbados or Old Roads Bay, Montserrat.
There are no similar accents in ear shot, suppose I will need to make mines heard.
My Rude Boy turns up. I take a timid sip and it's actually all right. I should have guessed when it got all the way to my nose and I was not knocked back. I give my waiter a thumbs up because it's actually quite nice. The other two drinks fresh and fresh!
The food arrives and the slaw actually overpowers the smell of all else. A twist of the plate so that the chicken now faces me, fork and knife swing into action like a double gun slinging cowgirl out of their recycled tin holder on the table! Do I walk five steps or just shoot? I choose to shoot.
Hmm not bad. I take another bite! Ok so it's not the home cooking you have grown accustomed to but neither is the jerk one that leaves you in pain at the other end the next day. One thing it is, is tender! The chicken is tender and the rice, not overpowered with coconut milk. And the slaw, well I lapped it up leaving a half of a leg on the plate.
Presentation may have taken second place behind the portions. Two chicken legs and a bowl of rice and slaw. Good thing I had not eaten all morning. As a lunch menu option, it is very filling. The kind of portions that leaves you in a food coma similar to the ones you get towards the end of the year.
The fried wings were crispy and pleased to say not greasy. The flavour though was interesting! I am actually still trying to work out what spice was used. Needless to say there is no rush for me try those on the next visit.
Next visit. This suggests I will be back and the truth is I will. I appreciate what has been done to recreate as an authentic a Caribbean experience as you possible. The menu although missing a few favourites is certainly more authentic than another chain I know. The good news is, there is now a Caribbean restaurant in the centre of London and they cater for vegetarians and food intolerances. Meaning you can now take all your friends, gluten intolerant and all. Win win!