It may seem hard to believe now, but Caribbean food has only been readily available in London since the 1960s. Areas with a high Afro-Caribbean demographic like Brixton, Hackney, and Notting Hill were the first neighbourhoods where Caribbean shops, takeaways, and restaurants opened. In his book Belly Full: Caribbean Food In The UK, Riaz Phillips writes that these places ‘became more than restaurants and bars but places of cultural importance that linked communities’. This continues to be true today, whether you’re grabbing a patty to go or sitting down for a plate of oxtail, dumplings, and more.
Peppers and Spice
Picking up a patty or two from Peppers & Spice has long been one of our favourite it-would-be-rude-not-to activities around Dalston and, in fact, everything from this local takeaway favourite hits the mark. Their jerk—marinated, oven cooked, and finished on the grill—is best slathered with a pot of fruity, punchy sauce. Expect to queue, expect to have a nice chat, and expect to leave very happy. Their Tottenham location is also excellent.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
JB's Soul Food
London isn’t lacking in jerk options, but it is when it comes to the two cs: consistency and char, JB’s has no problem with either of these. The little takeaway-cum-restaurant off Peckham High Street cooks jerk full of spice, sweetness, and a welcome hit of smokiness. Their Caribbean classics are all homemade, from patties to stews, and it’s the kind of place you can happily swing by alone or make a detour to pick up something ludicrously tasty.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Fish, Wings & Tings
Scientists might tell you that sunshine comes from that big, sexy ball of fire in the sky. And sure, they’re probably right, but in our humble opinion, sunshine is also emitted from Fish, Wings & Tings. This bright and colourful Brixon spot never fails to put a smile on our faces and the same applies to ordering a round of saltfish fritters while you’re waiting for your jerk chicken to arrive. All in all, it’s one of south London’s most reliable serotonin hits and sitting on the terrace is a no-brainer if that big, sexy ball of fire is making an appearance.
The depth of char coming from Smokey Jerkey’s grill isn’t the kind you find north of the river. It’s blackened and sunk in, while the meat stays as tender as it should be. The New Cross takeaway spot’s smoker is a kind of Robot Wars-esque garden shed creation that helps make some of London’s finest Caribbean cooking. Open-fire cooking paired with fiery sauce is, quite simply, unbeatable.
Rainbow Cookout’s jerk chicken sandwich is packed with meat from a freshly grilled leg methodically pulled off by Otis—the world’s most laconic and considered grill master—with its crisp blackened skin removed with peking duck-like precision. All of this is put between two wholemeal slices and topped with ladles of fragrant and spiced gravy full of carrots, onions, and cabbage. You’ll find this little stall in Hackney Central from Wednesday to Saturday, or, as Otis told us, “whenever I feel like getting out of bed”.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Eat Of Eden
Eat of Eden has one of the largest patio areas at Brixton Village, makes purely vegan food, and serves one of the largest single person combo platters we’ve ever seen. Seriously, this thing is huge. It is over £15, but it is really good. You can choose eight items from an extensive list—the pumpkin and sweet potato curry, the fried dumplings, and the seaweed fritters are favourites. It’s not a light lunch but you can always take what you don’t eat home for dinner (and lunch the next day probably).
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
From channa-packed baras to newborn-sized rotis, to wedges of macaroni pie with sweet tamarind sauce on top, the range of enormously delicious and incredible value Trinidadian options from Roti Joupa isn’t quite limitless—but it will keep you going for some time. The Finsbury Park location is takeaway-only but wander over to Gillespie Park and you can combine two of north London’s best-kept secrets.
There’s an array of gleaming and somewhat questionable-looking bars within the vicinity of Deptford station—because all bars part of glassy new build developments are questionable by virtue of looking like a shiny Be At One. In Buster Mantis, you’ll find a low-key bar and restaurant under the arches that suits cocktails with a side of salt cod fritters. Jamaican influence runs throughout the menu, from tagliatelle with ackee to duck breast with a yam croquette.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Jay Dees Caribbean
The first time we ate Jay Dees, we sat alone, on a bench, with a Tupperware of jerk chicken and rice and peas that could quite easily feed two people. Needless to say the table (bench and knee) was laid, everything was wolfed down with haste and passion, and nothing has changed how we feel about it since. The Caribbean takeaway-only spot in Notting Hill is worth going out of your way for. For jerk, for patties, for oxtail stew, for yourself.
We’re big fans of Fish, Wings & Tings and not just because it falls under the logic of fun to say, fun to do. Danclair’s is from the same people and it’s conveniently located around the corner. They even serve Fish, Wings & Tings’ famous cod fritters, but you’ve also got pepper prawns, BBQ chicken wings with guava glaze, and homemade chicken empanadas on the menu. The rum punch is perfect for kicking off an overdue catch-up and the huge mural on the wall will add a little colour to any casual weeknight dinner.
Maybe, probably, definitely, the best thing in Shoreditch these days is Troy Bar. The little Caribbean bar does London’s best lunchtime deal: £7 for jerk chicken or curry goat with rice and peas, plantain, and coleslaw. Bear in mind that this is primarily a bar (jazz and funk nights are on throughout the week) so the lunchtime feel is very much functional: chairs, tables, and just enough natural light.
Ewarts is in the middle of Gillett Square in Dalston, where the blasting of reggae and the cracking of tinnies are the perma-soundtrack. Ewart’s smoking drum is the fragrance. This is east London’s most legit jerk chicken. It’s rubbed dry, cooked fresh, and has that smokiness and crisp char that can’t be replicated. You’ll want the jerk chicken, wings, and the pork belly chunks for sure. Order, get a drink from the shop, and settle into a spot in the square.
If you’re planning on being around the main strip in Brixton, your first idea probably won’t be to hike all the way up Brixton Hill to this straightforward Caribbean spot. It’d be worth it though. And not only for the menu of comfort food classics like saltfish fritters and jerk chicken with rice and peas, but also for its calm terrace which can easily handle large groups.
People’s Choice opts for maximum jerk char-factor via its smoking drum out front. The little Caribbean spot in Homerton, off a corner of Chatsworth Road, has always been a popular hangout on sunny days and that’s without doubt thanks to its food. The chicken legs are sufficiently smoky with nice crisp skin and perfectly juicy meat. Find us on a nearby pavement corner tucking into our own gargantuan portion.
One Love Kitchen is a casual Caribbean spot on Crouch Hill that went from street food stall to bricks and mortar site in the midst of the pandemic. Certified wrap artistes, their jerk chicken wrap is smoky, spicy, tender, filling, and so many other things that will have you walking up the street with garlic sauce down your top and a big old smile on your face. If you’re swinging by in the evening for a proper sit-down situation, get involved in the curried goat or pair the brown stew fish with an episode of your favourite podcast for a top solo dinner experience.
Ochi Caribbean Takeaway
What’s the connection between Rihanna, Stormzy, and Shepherd’s Bush? Ochi. A beloved takeaway-only Jamaican restaurant that’s been serving jerk chicken, curried goat, and saltfish fritters on Uxbridge Road for over 26 years, our favourite thing here is the Guinness punch and the patties. Chicken, fish, or vegetarian, we’re a fan of each and every patty on offer, especially once you factor in that they’re just £2.50 a pop. Be prepared to queue but also be prepared to be very happy with your purchases.