Big Zuu’s Guide to London’s Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Jerk Chicken Worth the Wait at Hotbox BBQ
For authentic Jamaican jerk chicken that's worth waiting in line for, head to Hotbox BBQ in Hackney Wick. This unassuming takeaway stand is easily one of the best spots in London to get your fix of smoky, spicy, island-style barbecue.
Hotbox only serves jerk chicken and curry goat with rice and peas, keeping the menu simple and focused on doing those two dishes exceptionally well. The chicken is dry rubbed with Hotbox's signature jerk seasoning blend before being slowly smoked over pimento wood imported straight from Jamaica. The result is juicy, tender chicken enveloped in a crust of aromatic spices like allspice, cloves, thyme and scotch bonnet chiles.
The heat level at Hotbox is no joke - the jerk chicken packs some serious punch. But it's balanced beautifully by the sweet and smoky flavors from the pimento wood smoke. A cooling side of rice and peas provides the perfect foil for each spicy, deeply savory bite.
While you can call ahead to order, Hotbox operates on a first come, first served basis, with customers often lining up for over an hour to score a tray of this spectacular jerk chicken. Coming on the weekend when Hotbox is at its busiest means committing to a bit of a wait, but most customers agree it's well worth it.
The laidback, communal atmosphere also adds to the experience at Hotbox. You can sip a Red Stripe beer or mango juice from the fridge while inhaling the mouthwatering aromas wafting from the smokehouse. Chat with other jerk enthusiasts about the joys of scotch bonnet heat. Take in the reggae and soca jams pumping through the speakers.
Steven Lett, who runs Hotbox with his wife Suzanne, sources all his pimento wood directly from a sustainable farm in Jamaica to keep the chicken's authentic smoke flavor. And he's constantly tweaking his jerk recipe, adjusting the balance of spices to enhance the depth of flavor. His dedication shines through in every tender, perfectly seasoned bite.
What else is in this post?
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Jerk Chicken Worth the Wait at Hotbox BBQ
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Find Your Island Vibe at Rum Kitchen Notting Hill
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Roti Rolls for Days at Roti King in Dalston
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Get Your Goat Curry Fix at Calabash Bistro
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Experience the Flavors of Trinidad at Caya
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - The Best Doubles Are Served Fresh at Uncle's
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Island Heat Meets London Chill at Cottons Rhum Shack
- Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Finish Off with Desserts from Baba G's Caribbean Bakery
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Find Your Island Vibe at Rum Kitchen Notting Hill
Transport yourself to the sunny Caribbean at Rum Kitchen in Notting Hill, where the island vibes flow as freely as the rum cocktails. This lively restaurant brings a taste of Jamaica to London with its vibrant décor, thumping reggae beats and most importantly, incredible jerk barbecue.
As soon as you step inside Rum Kitchen, you'll feel like you've been whisked away to a beach cookout in Montego Bay. The dining room is filled with colorful murals, Jamaican flags and reggae musicians like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff gracing the walls. Meandering through the space, you'll pass a buzzing bar well-stocked with over 100 different rums from around the globe. Out back, the Steel Pan Shack houses an array of steel drums and hosts regular live performances.
But the star of the show at Rum Kitchen is the finger-licking jerk barbecue fired up fresh in the on-site smokehouse. The chefs use pimento wood to slowly smoke massive cuts of meat for up to 12 hours until meltingly tender. From whole jerk chickens to pork ribs, leg of lamb and 14-hour smoked beef brisket, everything emerges from the barbecue cloaked in an irresistibly spicy, smoky jerk dry rub.
Rum Kitchen offers a choose-your-own-adventure style dining experience. Rather than ordering individually off a menu, guests select proteins by weight then customize sides ranging from Festival (Jamaican fried dumplings) to rice and peas, plantains and more. Or opt for one of the signature combos like the Rasta Mon Platter with jerk chicken, pork ribs, wings, sausage and sides. Just be sure to bring your appetite - the portions here are appropriately generous.
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Roti Rolls for Days at Roti King in Dalston
Tucked away on a busy street in the diverse neighborhood of Dalston, the unassuming Roti King cafe churns out some of the finest roti rolls in London. Through word of mouth, this little spot has earned a cult following for its fluffy, freshly baked roti flatbreads wrapped around mouthwatering fillings.
While the menu at Roti King features classic fillings like curried chickpeas, jerk chicken, goat and pumpkin, the real move is to customize your own roll. First, choose your roti - options range from plain or whole wheat to spinach or cheese-stuffed. Then select a protein like succulent jerk chicken, spicy shrimp or slow-cooked curried lamb along with sauces and toppings like mango chutney, tamarind and shaved cabbage. Finally, watch as they heat up your roti on the flat-top grill before expertly wrapping it around the fillings into a tidy burrito-like package.
Biting into one of these flavor-packed creations is an experience - the roti is freshly baked to order so it's warm, soft and just the right amount of chewy. It provides the perfect edible vessel to envelope boldly spiced proteins, cool yogurt sauces, crunchy vegetables and sweet mango chutney. Each bite offers a symphony of flavors and textures that's uniquely satisfying.
While you can order roti rolls to go, opting to dine in allows you to watch the roti masters in action. Witnessing them stretch, flip and grill the dough before effortlessly rolling it around various succulent fillings is a show in itself. The open kitchen also gives Roti King a casual, laidback vibe, as jazz or reggae jams play in the background.
Roti King started out as a street food stall before upgrading to a small cafe a few years back. The husband and wife owners keep the operation small to maintain quality control. They still make every component of the roti rolls from scratch daily using family recipes, hand-stretching each piece of dough and slow-cooking meats in aromatic curry spices.
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Get Your Goat Curry Fix at Calabash Bistro
Tucked away in the buzzing Camden Passage Market, Calabash Bistro is a modest spot specializing in authentic Caribbean cuisine from the islands of St. Lucia and Dominica. This family-run eatery excels at cooking up traditional West Indian dishes, particularly succulent curries made from the freshest local ingredients. While Calabash serves tasty jerk chicken, saltfish fritters and pelau rice, the real move here is indulging in their melt-in-your-mouth goat curry.
Unlike generic Indian curries, a proper West Indian goat curry relies on loads of fresh herbs and spices instead of commercial curry powder. The chefs at Calabash start by massaging the goat with a blend of crushed garlic, scallions, thyme, scotch bonnet peppers and other aromatics to infuse it with flavor. Once seared, the meat gets simmered for hours in a sauce brimming with tomatoes, onions and tangy tamarind pulp. Turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and bay leaves add layers of warmth and complexity.
When the fall-off-the-bone tender goat emerges coated in this fragrant red gravy, the experience of eating it is transcendent. Take a forkful of soft, succulent meat and let those herbs and spices dazzle your tastebuds. The curry manages to be wonderfully rich yet fresh at the same time, with sweet and tangy notes playing against the meat's richness. A side of rice or starchy provisions like yams or breadfruit sop up every last drop.
Beyond nailing the flavors, what sets Calabash's goat curry apart is the high quality of the goat itself. Sourcing from the same UK farms week after week creates consistency and deep flavor. The meat has a delicate gaminess along with lush, tender texture not always found in curries made with inferior quality goat. This care in sourcing, paired with expert Caribbean technique, makes for an unbeatable goat curry experience.
Dining in at Calabash allows you to watch the chefs cooking in the open kitchen while taking in the aromas of sizzling herbs and bubbling stews. Caribbean tunes play in the background as you sip an ice-cold soda or Sorrel rum punch. The small space fills up quickly so reservations are recommended, especially for weekend goat curry fiends.
Beyond curries, Calabash serves up island classics like saltfish cakes, braised oxtail stew and callaloo soup made from local leafy greens. Bake and shark sandwiches feature golden fried shark nuggets in soft fried bakes. And no Caribbean meal is complete without rum cake, coconut flan and other tropically-infused desserts.
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Experience the Flavors of Trinidad at Caya
Transport your tastebuds to the colorful island of Trinidad at Caya in Battersea. This cozy Caribbean eatery brings the fantastic flavors of Trinidad to London through soulful classics like curry crab and dhal, roti wraps and the country's world-famous street food - doubles.
One bite of Caya's signature curry crab and buttery paratha roti transports you to the streets of Port of Spain. Chunks of sweet crab meat simmer in a tomato-based curry sauce fragrant with Trinidadian green seasoning - a blend of herbs like chadon beni (cilantro), thyme, scallions and fiery scotch bonnet peppers. It's complex yet fresh, with bright citrus notes cutting through the gentle heat. Scoop up the luscious sauce with soft, pillowy roti stuffed with spicy potato.
Equally iconic is Trinidad's famous street food - doubles. These steaming hot snacks feature two soft bara flatbreads sandwiching curried channa chickpeas, crunchy cucumber and tamarind or mango chutney. The doubles specialist at Caya masters the ideal soft texture of the bara bread, toasting it over an open flame before slathering on the fillings. The curried chickpeas pack a punch of flavor, with aromatics like cumin and garlic joining the Trini green seasoning. Each double provides a perfect one-two punch of spicy, savory and sweet.
Beyond the classics, Caya showcases diverse Trini cuisine ranging from hearty callaloo and saltfish to warming sada (lentil) rotis and buss up shut - shredded roti similar to torn chapati. Finish off with gateaux piments, delightful fried pastries with a spicy veggie filling. Everything is prepared from family recipes to taste like homemade Trini cooking.
Caya provides a joyous immersion into Trinidadian food culture. Steel drums, soca music and Carnival flags adorn the cheerful turquoise and orange space. Chat with the friendly owners about the stories and history behind each dish. Sip fruity rum cocktails like a Hummingbird, Trinidad's national drink. Or go all out with shots of fiery Angostura bitters, invented in Trinidad in the 1800s.
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - The Best Doubles Are Served Fresh at Uncle's
No trip to Port of Spain would be complete without queuing up for doubles from the legendary Uncle's food stand. This unassuming street vendor has perfected Trinidad's iconic street snack - soft bara flatbreads sandwiching spicy curried chickpeas and tamarind chutney. From midday until the wee hours, you'll find hungry locals, homesick expats and intrigued tourists patiently waiting for their piping hot doubles.
The crowds and queues at Uncle's speak to the sheer deliciousness of their doubles. Uncle Barnaby started out serving doubles on the streets over 50 years ago before upgrading to a modest food stall. Even as competitors have popped up around him, Uncle's has never wavered in churning out thousands of expertly crafted doubles each day.
The key is in the freshness - from the doubles' components to the final assembly. Flat bara bread gets fried up continuously in small batches. Rather than cooking one huge pot, the chickpeas simmer in smaller batches for no more than an hour to maintain texture. Tangy tamarind and fiery scotch bonnet pepper sauces also get made daily.
You can watch doubles masters assembling each snack to order with choreographed precision. They slice bara bread, spoon on still-steaming chickpeas, drizzle tamarind and pepper sauces and sandwich it all together in one swift motion. Each double gets served wrapped in paper for easy on-the-go eating. But be sure to unwrap and eat immediately while the bara bread is still warm and soft.
That first bite of a Uncle's double explodes with flavor and texture. Sweet tamarind and tart pepper sauces tango with earthy chickpeas and chewy-soft bread. You get spice, tanginess and tender bites all in one hearty, filling package. The flavors speak to the freshness of each component and mastery of assembly.
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Island Heat Meets London Chill at Cottons Rhum Shack
Transport your taste buds to the sizzling Caribbean with a visit to Cottons Rhum Shack in Notting Hill. This lively spirit brings laidback island vibes and flaming flavors from Jamaica and beyond to the streets of West London. The indoor-outdoor space manages to feel like a beachfront Jamaican rum bar complete with pumping reggae tunes, faded tropical murals and most importantly, an extensive rum selection to get your night going with a boost.
While the rums are the main attraction, Cottons also turns out contemporary Caribbean small plates and grilled favorites fired up on a custom-built Jamaican jerk grill. The smoky, spice-infused flavors of traditional jerk barbecue get matched with global influences like kimchi fried rice and Vietnamese chili wings. Signatures like the Hellshire Fried Fish wrap tender fish fillets in a crispy coconut batter touched with Scotch bonnet heat. Jerk mushroom skewers infuse trumpet royals with pimento wood smoke.
Cottons really shines when it comes to rum - the expert bar team stocks over 100 different labels from across the Caribbean islands and beyond. Sip funky high ester Jamaican rums or smooth aged spirits from Guyana and Guatemala. Try rare bottlings from unexpected rum producers like Nepal and Sweden. Or sample the Shack's house rum blend - an award-winning mix of Jamaican, Barbadian and Trinidadian rums aged for 8 years in bourbon barrels.
The cocktails showcase this top-notch hooch, with refreshing rum punches made with house sodas and tropical mixers. Signatures like the Corn 'n' Oil blend blackstrap rum with falernum liqueur, an almond-lime cordial invented in Barbados. For a true taste of the islands, try a flight of funky Jamaican rums paired with grilled jerk dishes.
While the food and drink transport you to the Caribbean, the atmosphere at Cottons remains laid back and welcoming, attracting a cross section of locals, homesick West Indians and rum enthusiasts. The outdoor terrace opens up to the street, perfect for people watching under the heat lamps with a rum cocktail in hand. Inside, crowds jam the bar and communal tables as reggae and soca jams play.
By night, the place really comes alive, filling up with uni students, young professionals and just about anyone looking to dance, drink rum and enjoy the island party vibe. On weekends, Cottons often brings in Afrobeat and soca bands to turn the back room into a sweaty dancehall party.
Big Zuu's Guide to London's Best Roti and Caribbean Flavors - Finish Off with Desserts from Baba G's Caribbean Bakery
No Caribbean feast is complete without something sweet to finish it off. That's where Baba G's Caribbean Bakery comes in. This local favorite provides the perfect sweet ending to balance out all those spicy, savory jerk chicken and curry goat flavors.
Stepping into Baba G's is like entering a Caribbean baking heaven. Display cases overflow with classic island desserts like rum cake, coconut flan, cassava pudding, guava tarts and more. The shelves also stock harder-to-find treats like toolum, a Trinidadian coconut roll, and bon bon DJabel, fried dumplings stuffed with sugarcane molasses.
While you can't go wrong with any of Baba G's sweets, most regulars flock here for one thing - the Jamaican rum cake. This dense, booze-soaked cake tastes like a tropical vacation in dessert form. Baba G's version achieves the ideal rum cake texture - moist and sticky but not soggy. Each slice contains four different rums, resulting in complex yet balanced flavors. You get a mellow molasses note along with fruity overtones and just a kiss of rum heat on the finish.
The cakes get soaked with alternating layers of rum syrup to ensure maximum moisture and flavor distribution. And Baba G's uses real butter rather than oil in the batter, avoiding the greasy mouthfeel some inferior rum cakes have. The results are so popular that locals pre-order the cakes weeks in advance to get their hands on one.
Beyond rum cake, Baba G's crafts addictive coconut bread straight from a secret family recipe. This lightly sweet loaf packed with shredded coconut makes the perfect breakfast treat. Slabs of guava cheese (a thick guava paste) get sandwiched between buttery crackers for a tangy-sweet combo. You can also grab traditional hard dough bread, a crunchy precursor to crackers, to dip into your curry stew.
To get the full experience, dine in at Baba G's cheerful cafe. Watch staff pulling trays of hot pastries from the ovens while sipping a cup of spicy Jamaican cocoa tea. Listen to the latest soca and reggae tunes while playing dominos with the locals. The laidback atmosphere perfectly caps off an evening of indulging in Jamaica's flavors.