I’m lucky to have a few brilliant Caribbean restaurants on my doorstep in Brixton, but when the name Rudie’s popped up several times on my foodie radar, my ears perked up. I’d read on various websites that it had some of the most authentic Caribbean food in London and served up to-die-for jerk chicken. Feeling quite embarrassed that I hadn’t ventured to the hip neighbourhood of Dalston for many years, this was the perfect opportunity to satiate my appetite for Caribbean and see what’s happening out of my usual South West London stomping ground.
A Friday night trip to Rudie’s it was. And as I was gearing up for my own trip to Jamaica for my wedding and honeymoon, this was the perfect chance for BC and I – two huge Caribbean food fans – to get a taste of Jamaica ahead of our big trip.
You’ll find Rudie’s about a five minute walk from Dalston Kingsland overground station. It’s modest in size with a windowed front that looks onto the busy Stoke Newington Road. Inside, the decor is a mix of cool modern interiors and dark wood, with a cool bar and subtle hints to the Caribbean heritage. In fact, one of the first things we noticed was a poster of the Film ‘The Harder They Come’ on the wall. Not only was this film responsible for helping reggae burst onto the international music scene, but the family of the film’s co-writer – the late Perry Henzell – was also behind the creation of the wonderful Jakes – the hotel where I am staying for my honeymoon on Jamaica’s Southwest Coast.
Anyway, I diverge. Rudies’ hints to Jamaica’s character is subtle, but importantly, it’s there. Especially when you read the restaurant’s fantastic cocktail list: think island classics such as Ting Wrays, Dark and Stormys and Jamaican Mules. They also have some fantastics signature tipples like Dr No, in honour of Ian Fleming (who penned James Bond novels from GoldenEye in Jamaica), the Gilbert, in honour of the famous devastating hurricane and Katch A Fire, a sharing cocktail which mixes rums from every distillery you will find on the island. Wow, approach with care.
I went for Cool Runnings – a blend of coconut, Blackwell rum, mint, tamarind and ginger. It was sweet, smooth and tangy all in one and as delicious as a mojito with the fresh mint. A perfect start to our meal.
BC had the Selassie I, which was of course, inspired by the Rastafari religion. If Rastafarianism were a cocktail, it would be Ethiopian coffee, Appleton Rum and Tia Maria. In other words, like an espresso martini, smooth, strong and very delicious.
For starters, we ordered ackee and saltfish bakes and the jerk calamari with a coriander and lime dip. The bakes were essentially ackee and saltfish served in pillowy brioche-style buns. Admittedly, I ordered these more out of curiosity than anything as I’ve only had ackee and saltfish a few times and they took me by surprise with their delicious flavours. I can absolutely see why this is a breakfast favourite in Jamaica.
There seemed to be more batter than fish in the calamari but it tasted straight-out-of-the-fryer fresh, had a bit of a kick from the jerk and the dip was delicious. This would make a fantastic bar snack and was a perfect match with our zingy cocktails.
For our mains, jerk was on always going to be on the agenda.
Out of the pork and chicken jerk, the chicken was hands down the show-stopping choice. Smokey and chargrilled with the type of heat that creeps up on you, this was fiery and delicious in equal measures. The portion (a half chicken) could have fed the two of us. And while you do pay an extra £3 to £3.50 for your sides (their red cabbage and coriander slaw, rice and peas and gorgeous sweet potato fries are essential jerk accompaniments) the chicken is fantastic value for £13.50.
For each jerk dish, you can choose from jerk ketchup, banana pepper and papaya sauce on the side. We swerved the hottest papaya sauce and chose the jerk ketchup (which is mild) and banana pepper (which is medium). Both were fab and the lime wedge added a nice citrusy addition.
Desserts weren’t supposed to be on the agenda for me, but when I saw the rum cake, I couldn’t help myself. You can go for an extra shot of rum on top, but this really didn’t need it. It was boozy, caramel-y and incredibly sweet with a dollop of rum ‘n’ raisin ice cream on top. Yes, pure indulgence, I know. But oh wow, it’s worth being sinful for. BC had the banana brûlée which was a tamer option but deliciously crisp on top. It was served beautifully, with pretty flowers on top.
We made it our mission to walk off our huge indulgence and somehow managed to miss a turning and ended up in Old Street. Probably a good thing – I was due to get into a bikini on Seven Mile Beach in just over a week’s time. If the food we eat in Jamaica is as good as it was in Rudie’s, this will make me very happy indeed. Go. You won’t be disappointed.
Until next time x
Rudie’s, 50 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XB