Where To Eat Caribbean Jerk In London
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
There’s an abundance of Caribbean restaurants and takeaways all over London cooking jerk. From juicy chicken legs finished on the grill for that all-important char, to crunchy chunks of sizzling pork belly straight off the steel drum—all, preferably, served with a side of fruity, scotch bonnet-laden jerk sauce on the side. These are some of our favourite spots across London for jerk.
Back in 2017, white smoke poured out of the chimney of Tasty Jerk à la the Vatican in honour of Crystal Palace FC announcing a new manager. And it’s fair to say that the Jamaican takeaway shop on the edge of Selhurst Park is something of a religious experience for jerk aficionados. The jerk chicken legs and pork belly that come straight from the Tasty Jerk rig behind the counter—a smoking, four steel drum setup—are superb. Charred to perfection and blackened on the outside but glistening within, everything here is best paired with their unforgiving homemade scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Plantain and gravy-soaked rice and peas are also welcome as beads of sweat form. Eat it in the car, on the street, wherever.
Picking up a patty or two from Peppers & Spice has long been a it-would-be-rude-not-to rite of passage when around Dalston or Bruce Grove. But, the jerk chicken from this takeaway favourite always hits the mark too. Their jerk—marinated, oven-cooked, and finished on the grill—is best slathered with a pot of fruity, punchy homemade sauce. Although not cooked fresh, the skin still retains a smoky hit and on a full plate next to their macaroni pie, makes for an extremely satisfying meal. Expect to queue and expect to have a nice chat.
Only on weekends and Wednesdays does JB’s Soul Food put its jerk pork belly on the menu. The thing with limited availability is that it creates hype. But hype is only irresistible if said thing is worth it. JB’s jerk pork is. Pork belly chunks, glistening fat, and jerk-infused crackling that’s best gobbled on the pavement make it so. Although there are a couple of little tables and chairs inside this Caribbean spot that’s become a Peckham institution. From the outside, it’s nothing to write home about. But once inside, with the wisecracks flying around and the smoke of fruity scotch bonnet marinade and charred bubbling fat from the drum enveloping your senses, you’ll soon realise that JB’s is the real deal.
Rainbow Cookout’s jerk chicken sandwich is packed with meat from a freshly grilled leg methodically pulled off by Otis—the world’s most laconic and considered grill master—with its crisp blackened skin removed with peking duck-like precision. All of this is put between two wholemeal slices and topped with ladles of fragrant and spiced gravy full of carrots, onions, and cabbage. You’ll find this little stall in Hackney Central from Wednesday to Saturday, or, as Otis told us, “whenever I feel like getting out of bed”.
Smokey Jerkey’s baby blue, sun-faded sign on New Cross Road doesn’t exactly scream look at me. Nor does it shout that it’s home to some of London’s best jerk chicken, pork, and lamb. But the Caribbean takeaway spot is a master of smoke. Crispy-skinned jerk chicken that presumably has a Malboro Red first thing in the morning and uses Smokey Jerkey’s invigorating homemade pepper sauce as SPF. With Eckington Gardens around the corner—an ideal suntrap—you are still very much in SE14. But close your eyes, take a bite, and you may well feel like you’re somewhere else.
Here’s your game plan—head to Jay Dee’s in Notting Hill, order the jerk chicken, rice and peas, and some saltfish patties too, because, why not. Pay up, then delicately carry your box of fruity, spicy goods as if it’s your firstborn up the road to Tavistock Square Gardens. Find a bench or a nice grassy spot and then make a lot of self-satisfied noises as you dig in. Lunch? Completed it mate. By the way, they’re cash only.
Ewarts is in the middle of Gillett Square in Dalston, where the blasting of reggae and the cracking of tinnies are the perma-soundtrack and Ewart’s smoking drum an always-deliciously welcoming smell. This is east London’s most legit jerk chicken. It’s rubbed dry, cooked fresh, and has that smokiness and crisp char that can’t be replicated. You’ll want the jerk chicken, wings, and the pork belly chunks for sure. When the fat’s rendered perfectly, those chunks are the business. You won’t need or want anything else. The whole setup is out of a shipping container so it’s takeaway only, but there are plenty of places to sit in the square and shops around to grab a drink.
Mango chutney, you heavenly bastard. This is the thought we always have while consuming Fish, Wings & Tings’ jerk chicken. The meat leaves the bone with the same grace of a celebrity couple in the midst of a ‘conscious uncoupling’, and the tamarind-loaded sauce will do wonders for that cold you’ve been harbouring for the past 18 months. It’s sweet, a touch sticky, and the bright multicoloured benches at this little feelgood spot in Brixton Village will plant a smug smile on your face. Bonus points for an order of the rum punch alongside your homely slap-dash coleslaw.
People’s Choice is another spot that opts for maximum char-factor with its jerk-filled drum out front. The little spot in Homerton, off a corner of Chatsworth Road, has always been a popular hangout on sunny days and that’s without doubt thanks to its food. The chicken legs are sufficiently smoky with nice crisp skin and, more often than not, perfectly juicy. Find us on a nearby pavement corner tucking into a gargantuan portion.