It’s always exciting when you discover a new restaurant, especially when it’s in an area of London you least expect. And while Covent Garden is one of my favourite places, I’d be much more inclined to associate it with Italian bistros, chain restaurants and the Jamie Olivers of the food world than a tiny authentic Caribbean grill.
That’s why finding the newly opened Dub Jam was such a joy.
I say newly opened because I visited Dub Jam at the end of March – I’ve just only gotten round to writing about this place (slaps self on the wrist). If you don’t believe me, check out my instagram photos here.
And while you might expect the founders of Dub Jam to succumb to the commercial naffness that other West End restaurants might in their attempts to lure in the tourists, Dub Jam manages to find a balance between authentic West Indian joint and hipster West End hang out quite nicely.
The moment we walked through the door we knew this place had character. Housed in a refurbished cloak room off the side of Adventure Bar in Bedford Street, there was barely room to swing a cat in. Yet cocktails in full flow and reggae beats booming out of nightclub-sized speakers above the bar, there was no room for politeness.
Grab a drink, stand in any space you can find and watch out for the wasted man at the bar – that seems to be the ethos here.
Drunkeness aside, we propped ourselves up at the side table made out of a surf board (all four or five tables were full) and seated ourselves on barrel stools covered in hessian sack cushions.
You can’t help but spend the first ten minutes just taking in the decor. Corrugated iron walls decorated with colourful graffiti, light shades made from tin cans and the words ‘Dub Jam’ sprawled across the wall in letters borrowed from well-known restaurants (Subway and McDonalds – can you guess the others?). Even the toilet walls are covered in pictures of ska and reggae artists. Caribbean beach shack with a touch of modern quirkiness – they’ve certainly got the style nailed.
We ordered some ‘reggae rum punches’ which were served in tin cans, with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a generous helping of rum – just how I like it.
As for the food, as expected, this is no-frills ‘street’ food. So jerk skewers, burgers and traditional sides like sweet potato, rice and pea and ‘slaw are the typical fare here.
I preferred the pork skewers to the chicken. All come served with peppers on a bed of ‘sunshine slaw’ and a pot of uber spicy scotch bonnet sauce. I loved that the ‘sunshine slaw’ had coconut in it. And while I was too chicken to really make a dent in the spicy sauce, it’s good to know they don’t shy away from the famous Caribbean peppers here.
While the sweet potato wedges (aka ‘rude boys’) were given a very generous dose of salt – leaving you with a mouth like the Sahara desert – they were undeniably good. Soft and sweet with the skins left on and with (if I remember correctly) a nice sprinkling of thyme, flavour definitely ruled here.
As skewers come on shareable little wooden plates, I couldn’t help feel the need for something a little more substantial. If you’re coming with a huge appetite, you’ll need a few plates, or may get more meat from the burger. I also couldn’t help notice the lack of traditional jerk chicken – You know, succulent and juicy, on the bone and ready for you to pick up and get your teeth into (I wasn’t a fan of eating skewers with a spoon – how is that possible, I ask?).
However details aside, the food, atmosphere and vibe really are worth the visit. There are things that make you smile in every corner too – like using a ‘soap dispenser’ that’s just a Sprite bottle – it’s all about ‘upcycling’ in this place.
I can’t help but imagine it in the heart of Shoreditch – on first impressions, it’s just too quirky for Covent Garden. But it’s also warm, friendly and simple yet undeniably fresh. So why shouldn’t it thrive in London’s busiest tourist trap?
Go – you won’t be disappointed.