Boom Burger, Portobello

The burger craze seems to be unstoppable and now West London is muscling in on the action. With the Caribbean population hosting the Notting Hill  carnival every August, it seems fitting to find Boom Burger in Portobello. The place instantly exudes the laid back Caribbean vibe, with reggae music blasting from the speakers and a Jamaican reminiscent red, green and yellow sign. Inside, the place is little more than a takeaway cafe although the food very much proves its value to London’s most famous market street.

As I learnt on my trip to St Lucia and Grenada, rum punch is more popular than water as a refreshing thirst quencher. We were treated to Boom Burger’s version as an aperitif as soon as we sat down. Alongside the punch a deep maroon Sorrel (a Caribbean fruit) drink was less recognisable, I winced at the first sip but soon began to enjoy the acquired sour taste.

Greasy and delightful starters arrived in coloured plastic baskets… Jerk chicken wings coated in a thick aromatic spicy and salty marinade and soft and fragrant fish cakes. Both were delicious, though we particularly enjoyed the tender flavoursome wings – they would make the perfect snack to munch on while wandering round the stalls of the market.

As recommended we tried a Boom burger and a Jerk boom, a chicken variety with an exceptionally sweet mango and pawpaw sauce. Both were delicious and the meat was of noticeably fine quality. The beef was coarsely ground and assembled into a messy patty with sloppy melted cheese and bacon. The chicken was great too – a successful alternative to the classic beef burger, the contrast of the salty chicken and peppery rocket, fruity fried plantain and extra sweet sauce was a marvel.

It can be stressful trying to find a filling and flavoursome snack in a busy marketplace… Portobello sellers and buyers will be grateful for this top notch Caribbean burger shack.

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Rum Kitchen, Carnaby Street

Thanks to the resounding success of the first Notting Hill based branch, Rum Kitchen has recently opened a second venue among the boutiques of Kingly Court near Carnaby Street. The Caribbean inspired beach shack restaurant and cocktail bar serves up appetising food and fruity drinks. Many will know the original Rum Kitchen venue as a lively club, its regulars include Prince Harry and girlfriend Cressida. The food there however seems to have been forgotten. Carnaby Street is more central and certainly is more of a sit down eatery, though the fabulous drinks still very much have a presence.

The distressed coloured walls are reminiscent of a beach hut. It was strange visiting such a carefree and relaxed place on a weekday evening, I felt like I was escaping school to join in the rum fun. I assumed the cocktails in Rum Kitchen would be dependant on Caribbean rum, and this venue certainly has a generous selection, but I was pleased to discover that even without the crucial spirit the concoctions were extremely sweet, but naughtily delicious. From the Twist list we tried the Rumbustion (a take on a Pina Colada) and our preferred, Rubin Carter which was more similar to a typical rum punch.

I found the Roti and Choka very plain, even with the additional burnt tomato and garlic dip and a smoky aubergine dip. The Island Spiced Squid with scotch bonnet alioli was delicious: thick squid coated in lightly spiced crunchy coating and topped with zesty lime and slivers of chilli. The mains were much larger portions: epic Jerk Fried Chicken Burger and Chicken Thighs. The menu is quite limited and repetitive, but this seems to equate to quick and efficient service. The chicken burger was different to any other I’ve tried, very tasty and flavoursome meat with chilli jam and slaw on the side. The chicken thighs arrived with pineapple slaw which I found a little too odd to finish, rum jerk bbq ketchup and wonderful fine shoe-string onion rings. The fries, were unremarkable, but dusted with a nice spicy salt and served with chilli jam.

Rum Kitchen is great fun, perfect for a group outing. Caribbean is not my favourite cuisine, it can be rather limited and too sweet for savoury food, but Rum Kitchen is definitely worth a visit, the cocktails are addictive!

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The Rum Kitchen, Notting Hill

Where are all the Caribbean restaurants in London? After visiting this beautiful exotic area of the world last year, I developed a new appreciation for jerk chicken, rice and peas, and rum punch. Interestingly it is a cuisine I instantly forgot about when I landed back on English turf. There seem to be very few established ‘Caribbean’ restaurants in London. With this in mind I suspect Rum Kitchen in West London will be a hit; not just because it fills a gap in the market, but because it offers delicious food and drinks that will happily remind guests of their favourite holiday destination.

Located in the back streets of Westbourne Grove, it is an area which is known best for the annual Notting Hill Carnival. Caribbean recipes are extremely popular at the event so it seems like a fitting place to welcome this venue.

Cute and colourful decor makes the restaurant feel like a beach hut. Quotes cover the walls, one stuck in my head: “Talk is the Ear’s Food”. Tables take up one half of the restaurant, a casual bar the other and downstairs another bar space is available for later in the evenings or private parties. The large spacious room was almost empty when we arrived at 7pm but soon filled up, and as it became busier the service became noticeably slower so I’d recommend going early if you want a speedy meal.

The menu is short and sweet, no fuss comfort food inspired by the Caribbean way of life. We tried the following:

To start:
Salt’n’chilli squid with aioli £7.50
Jerk chix skewers with citrus dressing £7

For main:
Jerk Lamb cutlets with guava sauce’n’island veges £16.50
Confit pork belly with corn bacon’n’blackeye pea succotash & Rum Kitchen BBQ sauce £12.50

For dessert:
Chocolate Rum cake with choc sauce ‘n’ Ice-Cream £6
Caramelized Banana Puddin’ with Butterscotch Sauce £6

The food was scrumptious, really tasty, delicious smelling and comforting. The squid was fat and juicy coated in a thin crispy batter and served with creamy aioli. My jerk chicken was divine, tender meat that fell away from the stick, covered in the most wonderful crunchy salty breadcrumbed layer. The dishes are cleanly presented, and are made with the freshest ingredients.

The mains were a decent size, my lamb was cooked to perfection, very succulent and wonderfully seasoned. The guava sauce was interesting but just a little too sweet for me. The pork belly arrived with a lot of fat around it, but once this was cut away it had great flavour and texture and was complemented by the bacon and pea succotash (a corn based Caribbean dish).

Desserts were unnecessary but we thought we better try them, especially as we both had a tiny inch of tummy space left. The banana cake was the clear winner, finished in a flash, a fruity sweet moist cake with an addictively good sauce. Chocolate Rum cake was interesting but just a bit dry and plain for us.

Many visit Rum Kitchen just for the rum based cocktails, which range from classic mojito to innovative new recipes. My favourite was the Strange Fruit, a short drink shaken with light Cuban rum, fresh lime, pineapple, and Canadian maple syrup. It was very drinkable and had an intriguingly tangy flavour that I loved. The Rattle Skull Punch is also worth trying, a lovely Caribbean rum punch flavoured with spices and fruit juices.

Experience and taste the flavour of the Caribbean at Rum Kitchen, a great venue for eating, drinking and having a good time.