Places To Eat In London: Rum Kitchen, Notting Hill
I’ve been trying to eat at the Rum Kitchen in Notting Hill for years. With such a long list of places I want to try, a failed attempt usually means any given locations gets bumped down the list a but in favour of somewhere shinier, and newer and it is sometimes months, years even before I get around to giving it a second shot. While I’ve been for drinks at the Carnaby Street location, and even suggested it to friends a few times for dinner (I’m always relied on to choose where we eat, so I turn the tables a bit by always coming back with three options they need to choose from!), it has taken since a friend and I turned up to eat lunch one day in 2014 to find it inexplicably closed for me to finally eat there, as a guest of the British Virgin Islands who are celebrating the fact that life there is starting to return to normal after the hurricane that caused such devastation.
On Her Majesty’s advice, we started off the evening with a couple of delicious Happy Hour cocktails. If you’re after something tall, tropical and refreshing I can’t recommend the LLD enough: Bacardi superior, Aperol, soda water, lemon and passion fruit juice. A Caribbean Aperol Spritz, if you will, but so, so much better.
We knew big plates would be coming, so we ordered a starter to share, the Jerk prawn skewers. The Jerk was lovely, the prawns were tender and the charred vegetables between each prawn really enhanced the smoky flavours in the Jerk. The portion was also really generous. The mango sauce they are served with is also pretty great, but I found it way too mouth burning; I’m getting quite good with heat, but this was just too much once you could taste the kick! If you’re sensitive to spice watch out for this one; it is one of their house sauces!
After another round of drinks (Red Stripe for him, a fruity punch I can’t remember the name of which was great, but not as good as the LLD’s for me) I settled into a big bowl of what we’d really came there to eat. As part of the celebrations, Cynthia George, one of the British Virgin Island’s best loved home cooks who runs a tiny restaurant, The Sugar Apple, out of her home in Virgin Gorda came over to cook a few specials at Rum Kitchen for a few days. Billed just as ‘the chicken special’ what arrived was a gentle, authentic jerk to rival any of the spicy, in your face versions I’m used to enjoying. The chicken was impossibly tender, just falling away from the bone and imbued with the gently spiced, creamy sauce right down to the very last morsel. It was simple and wholesome, and enveloped you in that feeling only the very best, comforting home cooking can do. The rice was sweet and light, and also flavoured down to every last grain, with just the right amount of black beans and lightly toasted coconut chips stirred through. Served with a side of bright and creamy house slaw, this dish was unlike anything I think I have ordered out before. It was different and wonderful in a way I’m unused to with restaurant food, and if this is not an excuse to book your next holiday to the British Virgin Islands, I don’t know what is (well, the food and all that sunshine!)
Dining out with Mr Fussy Eater, while my chicken and rice were proclaimed very, very good, he simply could not bring himself to eat a dish that had touched coleslaw (welcome to my life!) so something else had to be ordered. Over much deliberation of the main menu, that something else turned out to be the chicken supreme, served with sweet potato mash and jerk gravy. While I was pretty much pre-occupied with my own dish, I did tear myself away from it long enough to tell you that this is what you need to order if you don’t fancy jerk now that Cynthia is no longer in residence to make her chicken; the chicken was again, stupidly tender and full of flavour, the mash rich, and the gravy just brought it all together into an indulgent dinner.
On the side we ordered some fried plantain – not really something I’ve explored before, probably as I’m still recovering from the eight hours spent stuck waiting for a delayed flight in Barbados airport where the only thing you could get to eat were overly dry, very salty plantain chips from the vending machine! While I’m usually so-so about restaurant sides, these are a must; so full of flavour, not at all greasy (one of my biggest peeves with fried foods) and they went perfectly both with their tomato dipping sauce and both of our main dishes. My only regret is that we got such big portions we could not finish them!
As I mentioned, by the time we got to the end of the meal we were both utterly stuffed, but fancied something sweet to share, just to finish things off. Not that we really minded, but they were out of all of their desserts except for rum and raisin, so we went for a scoop each. Now I’m not a big fan of rum and raisin (or indeed, anything with raisins in) but I was pleasantly surprised. You need to be prepared for a not 100% smooth texture as I’m pretty sure this ice cream is made by blending the rum soaked fruit into the cream before churning and freezing, but it has a fantastic, rich flavour that really rounds off all of the rich, flavourful Caribbean food at Rum Kitchen. One to be open minded about from the menu.
For delicious, authentic Caribbean food in central London you can book a table (and check the opening times!) at Rum Kitchen Notting Hill, Rum Kitchen Brixton and Rum Kitchen Carnaby Street on their respective websites. For help planning your next sunny getaway, you can check out the British Virgin Islands tourism website here. Most importantly, you can find their guide to the best food in the BVI here, and Cynthia’s home restaurant on Google Maps here!