The Rum Kitchen

The Rum Kitchen

443-445 Coldharbour Ln, London SW9 8LN

Mon – Fri: 4pm – Late
Sat & Sun: 11am – Late

In the flurry of openings in Brixton this summer lands the next location for The Rum Kitchen, this time on Coldharbour lane. With sites already in Notting Hill and Carnaby Street, it describes itself as a “Caribbean eatery that bends the rules”. Now when it comes to Caribbean restaurants coming to Brixton there has been some controversy. Turtle Bay was marred with condemnation of its cultural appropriation when it opened last year, with its “RASTAFYME” photo booth and criticism over the restaurant chains unfair tipping service, so there would always be caution in another chain opening. However, it seems there was no need.

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Hook

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address: Brixton Pop, 49 Brixton Station Rd, Brixton, SW9 8PQ

Telephone: 020 3808 5112

email: cairene@hookrestaurants.com

website: http://www.hookrestaurants.com/

A damp and cold Friday sees us wondering if we really want to go out to eat. But there was a place getting a bit of a buzz and we wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. Hook is a fish and chip shop in Brixton Pop offering sustainable everything (even the knives and forks) and a menu which includes Afro-Caribbean, Cajun and French influences. The cosmopolitan air was reinforced on our visit as it was provided by an all Italian team.

Small but perfectly formed on the top floor of Brixton Pop, this restaurant can sit about 16 inside and an outside area for when it gets a bit warmer. The menu is written on the wall and consists of about five fried fish dishes covered in panko (Japanese style breadcrumbs) or tempura batter. Cajun spiced or jerk are options as well as a more restrained basil and lemon.

hook04We chose the Jerk Hake and the lemon and basil tempura seabream. Both came with what was described as seaweed salted twice cooked chips and we ordered a couple of sides  (minty peas and celeriac slaw). You can interpret this as our wish to serve our followers or just that we’re greedy. We were worried that the jerk spice would overwhelm the fish but it didn’t – the flavour was there but jerk enthusiasts might even say it was  a bit bland. The accompanying chipotle sauce did came with a kick, however, as well as being very smoky, and was a great for the chips.

hook03The basil and lemon batter was very subtle but the batter was good and not too oily. The truffle sauce was also subtle but that’s what this good white fish needed. Fish can be overcooked so quickly but  both mains were just right. The chips – you could see the relationship to a potato which we both loved but we were not sure why they mentioned seaweed salt. The sides – we really liked  but didn’t finish them nor our portions of chips so beware over-ordering.hook02

So did it live up to the hype … yes. We liked it a lot. Not a place for a long relaxing dinner but it was very pleasant and the food different enough for us to think we would return quite soon. They also do takeaways and Deliveroo if it gets too wet and windy.

hook05Despite the long list of drinks they didn’t have much of a range in stock. We had a bottle of water and a bottle of And Union Unfiltered Lager. The total cost – £36.50 was pricey for fish and chips but we thought for the quality it was worth it.

Etta’s Seafood Kitchen

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Address: Unit 46 Brixton, Village, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9

Phone: 020 7737 1673

Email: info@ettaskitchen.com

Website: http://www.ettasseafoodkitchen.com/

Opening Hours:

12:00pm – 6:00pm (Tues, Weds, Sun)

12:00pm – 11:00pm (Thurs – Sat)

This is an update as we have visited Etta’s a couple of times and our views have gone up and down. See here for our review in 2013 and here for our review in 2011. This is our first time since there was a change of décor and a change of menu.

It’s still in the same double unit in Sixth Avenue in Brixton Village and still painted outside in pastel blue. So what has changed inside. Gone is the kitsch mural of the seaside and now it is all black and white – although the chairs are still multi-coloured. We have the very small napkins but now they are presented in a little black paper sleeve, together with a knife and fork. The menu has also changed with items that imply more finesse and we were assured that it also changes regularly.

Service has not changed. It is cheery, helpful and as laid back as before.

The menu is still focussed on fish but now includes a wider variety of starters including ackee soup (ackee is the Jamaican national fruit although it is eaten as a vegetable in ackee and saltfish) and the menu describes this soup as coming with salt fish flakes, sweet peppers and crispy croutons. Then there is crispy calamari, garlic peppered prawns and marinated tuna. The ackee soup can be ordered without saltfish for the sole veggie option.  There are four salad options and then the mains have spaghetti, risotto, fish soup and confit cod. The veggie option is sweet potato and pumpkin curry. We did miss the superb battered fish in Etta’s tasty batter.

They now serve alcohol – red, white and fizzy wine by the glass or bottle – as well as a few rum based drinks.

We chose the ackee soup, the confit cod and the fish curry. We are sorry to report that we were disappointed with every dish. The soup is an interesting idea but it tasted as if the saltfish had not been adequately soaked and so was too salty. The rice and peas that came with the fish curry was also over-salted and the potato and leek cream under the confit cod was bland and cold. We guess there were lots of interesting flavours in all the dishes we chose but they were simply swamped. We came out desperate for more water, even though we had drunk a whole carafe plus a glass of lemonade. and the salty taste in our mouths lasted for several hours.

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We have to admit to being cowards. The staff are so attentive but we couldn’t tell them our verdict, except to mention rather feebly that the soup was a bit salty. Clearly the chef’s taste buds are not like our own but you can add salt to taste but you can’t take it out. We hope that this was an unfortunate one-off and that others will have more luck, but I am afraid we are unlikely to visit again any time soon.

The bill was modest at less than£30.00 (sorry, we’ve lost the bill) for three dishes and a glass of lemonade (it is dry January!).

Ultimate Caribbean Buffet

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 16 Acre Lane, Brixton, London SW2 5SG

020 3302 6390

Usually we do not review chains but this is so small – only a couple of outlets – that we decided to make an exception. We also wanted to cover different types and prices of meals. This is a green, white and black Jamaican restaurant which looks like a café with melamine tables and chairs. There is a bar on the left, with a limited selection of drinks, and a line of hot and cold dishes to the left. The line of dishes is important as this is a buffet. All you can eat within 90 minutes.

There is choice but it is hard to discern what each dish is as there is rarely a label and often dishes look alike. So this is a real voyage of discovery. We think there was jerk chicken (several varieties), fried chicken, curry goat, potentially lamb in a sauce, rice and peas, salads, plantain and callaloo (or could have been spinach). There are also some desserts – fruit and a pudding (we weren’t sure what it was).

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We had a bit of several of the dishes and the chicken was hot and spicy – the kind that has your lips tingling for several hours. The rice and peas were my favourite. The plantain my least as it looked really delicious but had only been caramelized and was hard at the centre. We went back a few times and all the food was hot (temperature) and they did keep refilling the containers when it looked too low so there was always enough to choose from.

For a Caribbean cheap fast meal for the very hungry this is a good outlet. We wouldn’t choose it for a night out. It costs £7.50 per person and you can choose a soft drink, water or alcohol and they allow BYO.

Orange Bay

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address: 30 Brixton Water Lane, Brixton, London SW2 1PE

telephone:  020 3417 0674

website: https://twitter.com/orangebaybrix

email: orangebaybrixton@gmail.com

This is a restaurant that has taken over from Brixton Space that closed some time ago – see link. This corner of Tulse Hill is getting a lot more attention with not one but two restaurants opening recently. Their next door neighbour, Naughty Piglets (see link), is getting a lot more attention. But this is a Jamaican/West Indian restaurant which describes itself as a sister company of Negril on Brixton Hill (see link) which is a long time favourite of ours. It concentrates on takeaway but also offers sit down meals. We have tried to go before but we couldn’t find their phone number and they say in one place that they have no booking service. Although all information on the web refers to opening times being from 6.oopm Tuesday to Sunday they weren’t open when we arrived at 7.10pm on a Tuesday. But we persisted and on a second try we were lucky.

The décor, much of which is carried over from Brixton Space, is 60s retro with metal chairs and a banquette with cushions and metal tables that wobble unless you spend some time propping them up with napkins. The service is assiduous and we were warned about the fire sauce.

We ordered the pumpkin curry, half a jerk chicken, rice and peas, rice and gunjo and coleslaw (both the last two came with the chicken) and a Carib and Red Stripe beer to wash it all down. They also provided tap water.

ob03The half a chicken was way too much – a quarter would be ample for a normal appetite. It comes with a variety of sauces, barbecue, jerk and “fire”in increasing levels of heat and they are not exaggerating about the fire. We were glad of the tap water.

ob04In contrast the pumpkin was mild and as tasty as pumpkin curry can be. But the favourite was the rice which has spices as well as peas and was really lovely to eat until the fire sauce anesthetised my palate.

This is a very friendly place to eat and we could have lingered for longer but thought we should get home for the next heat of Masterchef. The whole bill came to £32.60 which was good value as we left very full.

Mama’s Jerk at Market House

mamasjerk05Address: 443 Coldharbour Lane SW9 8LN

Telephone: 020 7095 9443

Information food: http://www.mamasjerkstation.com/

Information venue: http://www.market-house.co.uk/index.php/foodie/

Market House has a record of getting good and interesting food (see here for an earlier example) and we can say from the beginning that this is a winner, although we recommend that everyone should concentrate on their signature dish – the chicken.

Getting a table at Market House, especially on a Saturday night, can be a problem, so think ahead and book. Then when you arrive you need to work out that you have to order the food at the bar, especially if you arrive a bit early.

The menu consists of meat and one veggie option – with Jerk chicken, Jerk pork sausage, Jerk saltfish cakes. Depending on your option you get it in a wrap with salad, with sweet potato mash or jerk spiced fries, rice and peas, battered plantain and coleslaw. Most come with tropical mayo, BBQ sauce and/or Jerk sauce (very hot).

We ordered a chicken meal and the sausages. The chicken was fantastic, lots of depth of flavour but not overdoing the heat, as long as you didn’t try dipping in the pepper sauce. The sausages were also interesting but overdone.

The slaw  was great and very colourful, and the mash was spicy and warming. The plantain …. well what can you ever say about plantain – heavy but with the addition of the mayo or hot sauce was a sweet addition to the whole meal. The disappointment (apart from the sausages) was the rice and peas which didn’t taste fresh or really of very much – Brixton clientele are the most discerning of this staple, which is sold in all the Jerk chicken shops (see our run down of takeaway shops ). But we thought Mama Jerks chicken was a definite contender for the best of Brixton.

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Most dishes are £8.00 to £10.00 and the total bill came to £36.40. This included, thanks to the Market House’s extended happy hour, two £5 cocktails while we waited (an excellent caipirinha and an interesting electric boogaloo)  and two beers (Sagres) to drink with the meal.

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Butcher Shops in Brixton

Jones the Butcher,
Address: 1 Dulwich Rd, London SE24 0NT
020 7274 4629
http://jonesthebutcher.wordpress.com/
Opening Hours: Mon: 05:00 – 12:30; Tue: 05:00 – 12:30 Wed: 05:00 – 12:30 Thu: 05:00 – 13:00; Fri: 05:00 – 13:00; Sat: 09:00 – 13:00

Dombey & Son,
19 Market Row, Brixton, London, SW9 8LB
020 7274 1035
Opening Hours:: Tue: 07:30 – 17:30; Wed: 07:30 – 15:30; Thu: 07:30 – 17:30; Fri: 07:30 – 17:45; Sat: 06:30 – 17:45

Michael’s Meat Market
49 Atlantic Rd London SW9 8JL
020 7737 1069

There’s no shortage of places to buy meat in Brixton and we cannot claim to have tried them all. We are also not great meat eaters, at least when eating at home. Nevertheless, it’s time we had a look at butchers in our series of reports on Brixton food shops. The trouble is that while there are lots of shops selling meat, there are not that many I consider proper butchers. Also when you see a secondhand supermarket trolley full of carcasses being wheeled down Atlantic Road it does make you think of being a vegetarian. But there are places I have found that can be relied upon to provide value for money. Continue reading