Rum Kitchen Notting Hill – Review:
Perhaps it was karma that at almost the same time I started to plan a quick trip to Antigua for Sailing Week, I was asked to explore Caribbean Food in London using Virgin Atlantic’s guide to where to find the best Caribbean food in London and Barbados. Since I’m flying to Antigua with them, I’m really looking forward to the in-flight meals now, they do seem to know where’s best for Bajan. For whatever reason, I’ve only ever eaten Caribbean Food as street food. Mostly at the Notting Hill Carnival – and once or twice at other outdoor festivals and food events. Though I have indulged in Rum Cocktails on a few occasions like this one at Rum and Sugar.
It wasn’t hard for me to choose. The Rum Kitchen has been recommended to me before and, just a couple of stops from Earls Court on the tube, it was somewhere I’d been planning to visit for a while. Leyla, my companion and author of The Cutlery Chronicles was also keen.
We didn’t book – though to be honest only a combination of luck and an early start got us a table, by the time we left even on a Tuesday night the place was packed – and deservedly so!
Of course you do have to start with a cocktail. Leyla, arriving half an hour before me was already well into a rather scarily named ‘Battle Skull Punch’. She happily told me that one of the rums, the Wray and Nephew, was around 70% proof. Trying my best to ensure a steady hand throughout the evening I went for the gentler ‘Bajan Cooler’ – a mixture of honey, Velvet Falernum (a citrusy Bajan liquer) and grapefruit with Mount Gay.
Gentle reader, don’t let the picnic beaker mislead you. While this may have been the wimp’s option, it still had a real kick. And, if you visit, do ask for advice on which cocktail to choose, these guys really know their stuff.
On to the food – we ordered a whole assortment of dishes – probably rather too much but ALL in the interest of researching Bajan food. First to arrive, our small plate of Island Spiced Baby Squid with Scotch Bonnet Mayo. The waitress brought us a little dish of Brown Jerk too, just so we could taste.
Now, of course we all know that anything with Scotch Bonnet is going to be fierce. There’s a rating for chilli ‘heat’ called the Scoville Scale and those funny little squished up chillis come in with a score of 100,000 to 350,000 on the scale. If you benchmark that against the Jalapeno you might have thought hot on your pizza with a score of 3500 to 8000, you’ll get the idea. But the Brown Jerk was a revelation. We both tasted a tiny bit. Sweet and sticky at first, this one gives you a false sense of security as a few seconds later you get the full heat impact.
I was suprised to see roti on the menu, but this Indian bread was introduced to the Caribbean by the Asian community and quickly became popular. Served with dips of burnt tomato and garlic and smokey aubergine, this was an easy sharing dish and one that proved useful for mopping up some of the sauces of our next plate of food.
Rich and complex with real depth of flavour, this dish is one I think of as a Carribean classic. Here we made good use of the left over roti and of our ‘Rice and Peas’ to mop up every last bit of the sauce
By now we were both ready for another cocktail . Mine, L.D.D another long drink, with passion fruit, aperol and lime to match the Rum and lengthened with a good shot of soda, served on crushed ice. I found it just a little sweet – perhaps one for a sunny evening later in the year.
Leyla, who is part Mauritian, was offered a special. Her Mauritian rum cocktail was beautifully vanilla infused and from a tiny taster of the neat rum it was clear that was part of the aromatic of this drink. I’m no expert but if you happen to be a vanilla fan, it might be worth finding out more about this smooth, mellow drink.
Meanwhile more food had arrived in the form of a Rainbow Salad and Jerk Chicken Supreme
There is a point when you really do know you’ve ordered too much. The salad is robust enough to be a meal in its own right, though you can order it with grilled jerk chicken or seared jerk tuna steak too.
The jerk chicken supreme was probably my favourite (savoury) dish. I loved the fact that the meat came with skin and a bit of bone. Real food with real flavour. The sweet potato and yam mash was wonderfully comforting and the jerk gravy just gave more of a Caribbean kick to the sweetly charred chicken.
Of course pudding and another cocktail were completely unecessary. And two puddings? But then we did need to establish which of the options were the best and since other than ice-cream and sorbet there are only two choices it seems a shame not to carry out a comprehensive study.
Chocolate rum cake was dense and aromatic. Perhaps just a little dry, despite the generous portion of ice-cream and chocolate sauce.
But we both fell instantly in love with the caramelized banana pudding, a gooey sweet and moist cake. Generous portions almost defeated us but we soldiered on in the interest of research and the entire pudding was eaten. I’m particularly proud that at this stage of the evening, given that it was quite dark and that a steady hand isn’t always compatible with three cocktails, I’ve managed a photo of Leyla’s second Battle Skull Punch. And it is ALMOST in focus.
Our meal for two was around £118 including service, too much food and three cocktails each. Main courses are around £15 and cocktails all around the £8 mark, which is respectable for this part of town. And, this isn’t somewhere to come and be restrained. I defy anyone to walk out feeling grumpy – there’s a vibe to the place that is quite infectious. There’s a downstairs room that on Fridays and Saturdays hosts music nights and, on our visit there were two groups out for birthday meals. Caribbean hospitality at its best, whether you come by yourself, as a couple or a small group or for a celebration with a bigger party, you’ll be made to feel welcome.
With many thanks to Virgin Atlantic for asking me to check out their Caribbean in London map.