Jamaica Patties

Healthy Eaters, 17 Electric Avenue, SW9 8JP, http://www.healthyeaters.co.uk/#food

First Choice Bakeries, 40 Atlantic Road, SW9 8JW, http://firstchoicebakers.co.uk/

New Tings, 112 Acre Ln, SW2 5RA, https://www.instagram.com/new_tings_restaurant/?hl=en

We had been given a celebration Jeroboam of champagne (3 litres), so needed to share it with friends. For accompanying snacks we went for that Brixton staple, Jamaica Patties. So an ideal opportunity to carry out a comparison for our faithful readers. At least that was the idea, but even with 14 of us there’s a limit to how many patties will get eaten. It turned out that 60 from three of Brixton’s top suppliers was too many and we ended up having patties for lunch and supper for the best part of a week.

We were interested in the best baker, rather than the best individual flavour. On the recommendation of our local expert (born in Jamaica. lived most of her life in Brixton), we went for First Choice Bakeries (Atlantic Road) and Healthy Eaters (Electric Avenue). Other shops sell patties of course, but mostly they buy them from the same bakeries, rather than making their own. But for interest we added in New Tings, in Acre Lane. When asked they were not forthcoming about their suppliers, although they do look similar to those from Health Eaters.

Patties come in many different flavours but the widest range was from First Choice – see the picture which gives a good idea of the options that are generally available. To aid the comparison we got beef and veg’ flavours from all three options, plus saltfish from a couple (New Tings didn’t have any, or had just run out). Then we added Callaloo from Healthy Eaters, lamb and cheesy beef from New Tings, and jerk chicken from First Choice. Note that some versions are said to be vegan, but best to check.

A Jamaica patty gains it’s distinctive yellow colour from the addition of turmeric and curry power to the pastry, although in practice it is difficult to taste the curry powder. The First Choice options are a bit smaller, which when you are faced with 60 of them, might be an advantage.

A Jamaica Patty success is all based on the pastry. The filling is important, but views differ, particularly for vegetarians. So our tasters were asked to score the pastry and the flavour separately, plus an overall rating. There was a general feeling that the fillings lacked punch. This was particularly the case with the jerk chicken variety. All testers found this disappointing, but we did not take into account the effect of the alcohol.

We do not want to go further than our data allows and we have to own up that it was insufficient for a definitive verdict as the results were pretty close. My own view is that the flakier the pastry, the better they are, which ought to give Healthy Eaters a head start as the flakiest. But, our community of raters gave First Choice a clear lead for its pastry and a slightly higher overall score. The patties from New Tings got the least favourable reception, but this was mainly due to a low score for the pastry, as they did well on flavour. But our experimental design and small sample doesn’t exclude the possibility of confounding variables (pandemic clearly taught us something) – but we can say that if you buy patties late in the day the pastry tends to dry out.

So what’s our advice. The only sensible conclusion is that if you want a Jamaica patty from Brixton you need to try them all, because tastes vary. But just judging by the size of the queue, you might as well start with First Choice.

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