When you're in London craving Caribbean flavors, these are the best restaurants to hit.
LONDON – London's deeply rooted Jamaican culture long ago created many popular haunts for Caribbean jerk, ackee, and saltfish roti. But the London 2012 Olympics brought a timely reason for sussing out the best of the lot: Gold-winning Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Asafa Powell were in town. All that power running works up an appetite.
In the final medal count, Bolt was three for three, winning the 200-meter in 19.32 seconds and the 100-meter in an Olympic-record-setting 9.63 seconds, beating his Beijing time by .06 seconds though not his 9.58-second world best. Blake took the silver with 9.75 seconds. The team won the 4x100-meter relay. (Seriously, guys, good carbo-loading.)
Which makes us hungry for authentic rum and calaloo from the winning Jamaican restaurants around town.
The Mango Room
10-12 Kentish Town Rd, Camden, NW1 8NH; +44-20-7482-5065
Set in the heart of Camden, this sit-down restaurant offers dressed-up versions of Jamaica's comforting fare, such as sea bass bathed in coconut milk and a light sweet pepper sauce or baby spinach, okra, and coconut risotto. Bop to the 1950s reggae wafting down from the speakers and settle back with a Cuba Libre. One of the celebrity runners may even make an appearance during your meal.
Caribbean Scene Family
Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford, E15 1BG
Set back behind the old Westfield mall near Royal Theatre, this laid-back Jamaican dining hall is a hidden gem beloved by locals, cops, and tourists in the know. Don't even bother looking at the menu. The buffets offers a fresh selection of everything from spicy jerk chicken to sweet and crisp fried plantains, as well as a legit saltfish calaloo to cut through the heavier, sweeter flavors. (There are two other outposts, Royale in Docklands and Quick in Stratford.)
85 Kentish Town Rd., NW1 8NY; +44-20-7485-1166
Down on Kentish Town Road, this cute, rustic joint is admittedly way off-the-beaten path. But you will be rewarded with beef ribs that fall off of the bone and — bonus — it's BYOB. So you can bust out the Champagne to celebrate a victory — or nothing at all — whenever you want.
55 Chalk Farm Rd., Camden, NW1 8AN; +44-20-7485-8388
One of the most famous venues in London for Carribean jerk. It's relaxed but always packed. (They have another outpost in Islington at 70 Exmouth Market; +44-20-7833-3332.)
12 Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 5SG; +44-20-7737-6633
The modern-day beach shack throws a few twists into the mix — like their must-try, rum-soaked West Indian bread pudding.
7A Station Rise, Tulse Hill, SE27 9BW; +44-20-8674-4114
Nevermind the slightly kooky decor. You're here for the melt-in-your-mouth goat curry and the expertly made cocktails.