I’ve written about quite a few Caribbean restaurants lately. And after lots of hype, I couldn’t miss off The Rum Kitchen – the sister restaurant of the Notting Hill original that’s found a lovely home in Soho.
As someone who’s a little bit obsessed with this part of the world and has some pretty unbeatable West Indian restaurants in my neighbourhood, I was praying this trendy hotspot on Carnaby Street would live up to my expectations.
On paper, it was promising. The executive chef at The Rum Kitchen, Jones Quaynor, comes from the highly respected Caribbean restaurant, Cottons. There were rumblings of excitement around its cocktail menu including the secret recipe that makes their Rattle Skull Punch. And it was said to deliver a believable, rustic menu.
On a cold night in the lead up to Christmas, I very happily took myself up the stairs to the first floor of Kingly Court. We left the sparkly courtyard to get into the warmth and slung off our winter coats in anticipation of authentic flavours and feelings of exotic climes. OK maybe not the exotic climes bit, but definitely the authentic flavours.
The interiors here are cool – all rainbow lights and barrels overhead with various corrugated iron signs and nods to the Caribbean on the walls.
First up, cocktails.
DO get the Rumbustion if like me, you enjoy a good pina colada. This is a blend of Jamaican coconut rum and a three-year Havana Club with coconut cream, pineapple, apricot liqueur and orange bitters. It’s fruity, punchy and not quite as heavy as a traditional PC. It was a bit indulgent but hey, it was a Thursday – practically the weekend.
And DO get an Alligator Wine if you’re feeling fruity too. It’s basically like a Sangria with added rum and cherry liqueur. Just thinking about it now makes my mouth water…
DON’T get a Ting Wray unless you’re hardcore. BC was sipping on this throughout the meal and wow, was it strong. It’s made from the overproof Jamaican rum Wray and Nephew and well, very little else. It will certainly put a few hairs on your chest.
For starters we delved into a plate of salt fish fritters and crispy chicken. For me, nothing beats the salt fish fritters in Negril, Brixton. But these weren’t bad at all. Squidgy in the middle and crisp on the outside, (how they should be), and topped off very nicely with a zesty squeeze of lime and chilli and spring onion garnish. Oh, and you get a little pot of fragrant lime and chilli jam. So far so good.
The chicken wasn’t quite so impressive. And in hindsight, perhaps we should have plumped for the jerk wings or the sticky BBQ ribs instead which may have offered a bit more sustenance. Also, this is the West End so, you get a bit less food for your buck than our local Caribbean in South London. That said, presentation is good here and they don’t hold back on flavour with those fiery sauces.
The curried mutton here was tasty, but again, with only three pieces of meat in it and mostly made up of potato, it was not quite enough to feed a starving man who loves meat. A glossy, flavoursome gravy made up for it and you get rice, peas and slaw on the side. If you’re here with the appetite, perhaps go for the soft shell crab burger (which I did).
Although there seemed to be quite an overwhelming sweet flavour to this – perhaps from the tamarind sauce and brioche bun – I like what they’ve done with this. It’s crunchy, it’s got loads of tangy guava-lime relish inside and there’s a bit of heat from the tamarind and ginger aioli. Like I said, this and the sweet potato fries created an unusual candy-like taste. But it’s not something I’ve tried before so my tastebuds were having a little party with the novelty of it all. That and the cocktails, I’m surprised I wasn’t bouncing off the walls.
The atmosphere and liveliness of this place were however, definitely bouncing off the walls. I could easily make a bee-line for this place for high-jinx on a Friday, especially during their cocktail hour which we managed to catch the end of.
From jerk salmon and vegetable patties to sautéed callaloo and fried plantain, they’ve got all the essentials for an authentic West Indian menu here. They also got the charming and friendly staff, the cool Caribbean interiors and they’ve definitely got prime location. Perfect for us to then go and marvel at the super cool lights of Carnaby.
Just a few tweaks here and there and they could also have me as one of their number one fans.
The Rum Kitchen, 1st Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby, W18 5PW