The last time I ate Jerk chicken was back in 2011 on our trip to Jamaica. My dad convinced a local lad, he met on the beach, to show us the country. He accepted and drove us in his own car to some of the most stunning locations. Most of these were unknown to tourists and favourites with the locals. Looking back at it, my dad took a great risk with his two young daughters, but these are still some of my most cherished memories.
We stopped on the roadside and tucked into some delicious Jerk Chicken – one of the spiciest dishes I have ever eaten. The question, can a London restaurant, live up to those memories? According to the net Rudie’s in Dalston serves up some of the most authentic Caribbean food in London. So how could I possibly say no, when they invited me over to give it a go?
Over the last year, Caribbean food has made a huge comeback in London. Rudie’s is a “real jerk” restaurant that offers it’s diners a menu of traditional Jamaican cuisine with a contemporary twist. Their “real jerk” dishes are marinated for 24 hours in a secret blend of herbs and spices, smoked using pimento and sweet wood, and cooked over coals in traditional jerk drums.
With summer fast approaching, if you can’t be bothered or don’t have the space to host your own barbecue, head to Rudie’s for Jamaican charcoal-grilled dishes and a very chilled backdrop…
LOCATION OF RUDIES LONDON
Rudie’s has flown 4697 miles from Jamaica to set up shop in Dalston, on a street corner on Stoke Newington Road, just a five minute walk from Dalston Kingsland overground station.
Dalston is fast becoming one of the most attractive places to live in London. It is famous for its popular clubs and iconic street art. Still a little rough around the edges, Dalston is clinging on to its soul and is where all the cool people hang out these days.
The area is brimming with boutique stores, upcoming design haunts, and creative hairdressers. What makes the area even more interesting is that the design culture is juxtaposed with a melting pot of cultures. You will find plenty of local Caribbean food stores, Indian restaurants, hipster bars, and more.
INTERIOR AND ATMOSPHERE AT RUDIES LONDON
The interior of Rudie’s London is incredibly modern with a hint to its Jamaican background. There are no cheesy references to Jamaica, just subtle nods to its Caribbean heritage paired with a minimalist look. I particularly enjoyed the Jamaican advertisement boards, old records, festive art pieces and remakes of gig posters that covered the walls.
Rudie’s interior incorporates a central rum bar with lighting installations, as well as bespoke dark wooden furniture and sculpture designs by Alexander Mulligan. These large pale wooden centrepieces curve their way to the ceiling like minimalist coconut trees and somehow manage to transpose you onto a Caribbean island.
The restaurant is modest in size and seats about 60 people. No wonder then that it filled up so quickly. It certainly was popular. Perhaps the smell of the delicious food that seeps onto the street attracts all the punters, or perhaps they read about Rudie’s online. One way or another, I have never seen a restaurant quite as busy on a Tuesday night.
The atmosphere at Rudie’s is cool, funky, and casual. Picture Jamaican island life with jerk flavours, boozy rum cocktails, and a perfectly relaxed vibe. The atmosphere is fun enough for a birthday party, cool enough to impress a colleague, and cosy enough for a casual date night. It’s not formal but definitely nice.
Furthermore, the excellent service provided by Rudie’s smiling, extremely friendly, and chatty staff made our night. Thankfully the speed in service is not as relaxed as traditional Jamaican culture and the ‘plate to table’ action was prompt.
Rudie’s has an open plan kitchen and the pungent aroma of jerk spices that seeped up from the oil-drum barbecue grill soon filled my nostrils and made me very hungry for more.
COCKTAILS AT RUDIES LONDON
I loved Rudie’s fantastic and completely unique cocktail menu. Some of their cocktails are reminiscent of favourite island classics, such as Ting Wrays, Dark and Stormys, and Jamaican Mules, but all of their concoctions have funky names and are inspired by Jamaica’s colourful culture and history. Expect some bombastic rum-based cocktails created by their local mixologists from Rudie’s extensive selection of Jamaican rum including Appleton Estate, Wray and Nephew and Monymusk.
They also have some fantastic signature tipples like Dr No, in honour of Ian Fleming (who penned James Bond novels from GoldenEye in Jamaica), the Gilbert, in honour of the famous devastating hurricane and Katch A Fire, a sharing cocktail that mixes rums from every distillery you will find on the island.
For his cocktail Gary picked Cool Runnings a blend of coconut and Blackwell rum, spiced with mint, tamarind and ginger. The inspiration for this cocktail? Jamaican’s excellent athletic skills, especially in the races.
The lime and rum were very distinct in the flavour profile of this cocktail, but there was also a clear hint of coconut in the background. It was sweet, smooth, and tangy all in one and as delicious as a mojito. Just the right combination of sweet and sour notes and very refreshing.
I on the other hand opted for one of the most popular cocktails at Rudie’s: Jamaica Nice. An original take on the classic Pinacolada, this blend of all things nice is inspired by Jamaica’s beach life. This delicious fruity concoction is made up of almond syrup, lime, nectarine juice, pineapple juice, Koko Kanu and Appleton V/X Rum.
This cocktail is far fruitier and more tropical than your typical Pinacolada. I was also surprised to find out it wasn’t overly sweet, with the taste of quality rum clearly shining through. I particularly enjoyed this cocktails frothy texture.
FOOD AT RUDIES LONDON
The menu at Rudie’s is very varied, with creative dishes that are clearly inspired by Jamaican culture. Rudie’s does Caribbean classics with exuberance, panache and a lot of technical precision.
STARTERS AT RUDIES LONDON
For starters Rudie’s offers a variety of small plates and snacks that are great for sharing. Unfortunately for Gary (and anyone allergic to seafood) most of the starters contain fish, calamari or shrimp.
BOSTON CHICKEN WINGS
With little to choose from Gary ordered the Boston chicken wings, tossed in a nostril-flaring chili glaze. I was immediately thrown back in time onto that roadside in Jamaica. It takes about 10 minutes to feel normal again after biting tasting one of these wings Thankfully our rum-based cocktails quickly helped relieve the pain caused by the heat.
The chicken wings’ wonderfully charred and crisp skin peels off to reveal juicy and tender meat. The kick-back from the chili arrives a few seconds later and hits you at the back of your throat, but the yogurt sauce calms down the heat.
ACKEE AND SALTFISH BAKES
I opted for the ackee and saltfish bakes, mainly out of curiosity. This is the first time I tasted this very traditional Jamaican dish, often served for breakfast in the Carribean.
The soft ackee, peppers, mild chilli, and salt cod are served in pillowy brioche-style buns and look somewhat like scrambled egg on toast. What’s brilliant about this dish is that the mild flavour of the fresh ingredients mainly let the fish do the talking.
MAINS AT RUDIES LONDON
The mains at Rudie’s are better still. As expected the restaurant has a large Real Jerk section. There is a choice of chicken (whole and half), lamb rump, pork shoulder and mixed vegetables. All of them aremarinated in a ‘secret jerk recipe’ for 24 hours and then cooked over charcoal and wood smoke on the traditional drum in the open kitchen.
There are also some more unusual dishes on offer such as fresh jerk cuttlefish, a Likkl Ochi Seafood Platter, and a jerk cheeseburger.
We obviously had to try one of the Real Jerk dishes, so Gary ordered the Pork Shoulder. Smokey and chargrilled with the type of heat that creeps up on you, this was fiery and delicious in equal measures. The portion could have fed the two of us.
Each jerk dish is served with a choice of jerk ketchup, banana pepper or papaya sauce on the side. Gary simply couldn’t cope with the extra heat so choose the jerk ketchup. Even the ‘mild’ jerk ketchup, although fruity, packed a considerable punch.
The hefty pork shoulder pulled away with the gentlest tug of the fork and melted in our mouths.
I rarely see swordfish on menus. I certainly didn’t expect to see it. So I simply had to give it a go.
The swordfish itself is fleshy, very meaty and not dissimilar to pork in texture and taste. It was beautifully seasoned and perfectly prepared. At Rudie’s the swordish is marinated, grilled and served with a fresh side salad and a fiery lime and coriander dip.
The cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onion, and spinach salad was the perfect accompaniment for the swordfish. The texture of the avocado pairs really nicely with the fish. The simplicity of the salad puts the focus on the freshness of the ingredients and to be honest, it doesn’t need much else.
SWEET POTATO FRIES
Nonetheless I couldn’t resist ordering a side of sweet potato fries. And I am glad I did.
Gary who is usually reluctant to try something new, gobbled his share up in the blink of an eye. They were perfectly crisp on the outside, fluffy inside, piping hot, not over-salted, distinctly sweet. That takes skill, and real attention to detail.
DESSERTS AT RUDIES LONDON
The dessert menu at Rudie’s is minimal, with only three dishes to choose from. But sometimes less is more. After all the fiery flavours we needed a little something sweet and the desserts we choose hit exactly the right spot.
The rum cake I ordered was sweet, sticky and pure indulgence. It was boozy, caramel-y and incredibly sweet with a dollop of rum ‘n’ raisin ice cream on top.
Compared to our generous mains, the portion of rum cake was somewhat on the small side. Being a sweet-tooth, I could easily have had more of it and am still dreaming of that pudding today.
Luckily all of Rudie’s desserts are served with a boozy side shot, in this case a shot of Appleton VX Rum.
Gary chose the slightly tamer Banana Brûlée. It was beautifully dressed with a pretty flower on top.
The delicious and brittle sugar coating contrasted wonderfully with the silky banana and coconut milk custard crème below. Taste-wise the custard was somewhat was reminiscent of caramelised bananas.
The Banana Brûlée is served in a very shallow dish so you don’t get too much in a serving which would be my only gripe. But maybe I’m being too greedy.
Should you choose it, the Banana Brulee comes with a shot of Sungster’s Rum Cream, very similar to Baileys. Needless to say, we were a little tipsy at the end of our meal.
FATHER’S DAY AT RUDIE’S IN DALSTON
Come and Celebrate Father’s Day at Rudie’s on June 19th. This Jammin’ Jamaican restaurant will offer you all that you and your Old Man need, settle in to some great reggae tunes, delicious cocktails and proper Jamaican food. A slice of Island life awaits you!
Bring in your Father and get him tucking into a Jerk Lamb Burger – with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Red Onions, Bell Peppers and Sautéed Mushrooms with rocket – amply named the Boss Burger, served with Sweet Potato Fries and Salad for only £17.50 and created specially to celebrate this family day. Or, if he wants more than meat in his life, allow him the banquet he deserves for £29.75, the Rudie’s Surf ‘n’ Turf is a renowned winner. A delicious grilled Sirloin Steak and Jumbo Prawns combo served with Plantains & Coleslaw and a light Jerk-Peppercorn sauce. Rudie’s are even chucking in a FREE can of Red Stripe for every Farda, keeping him irie on this special day!
All in all, we bloody loved Rudie’s and I would highly recommend it to all my friends, family and colleagues. The vibe of the restaurant is chilled, the staff friendly and the food lip-smackingly delicious! Rudie’s has the perfect balance of authentic, carefully sourced ingredients and a laid-back, non-pretentious setting.
It was so much fun to try something a little different from the London norm. The last time I had jerk chicken this good was back in Jamaica. And this little slice of Jamaica is only a ten minutes’ walk away from Dalston Kingsland station and well worth the trek for some real jerk chicken.
I would like to thank Rudie’s for hosting A Life Beautifully Travelled as part of this review. All views expressed here are my own.
Rudie’s | Real Jerk in Dalston! The very best of Jamaican cuisine with a contemporary twist.
50 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XB London, United Kingdom
Open Mondays: 5pm – 12 I Tuesdays – Thursday’s 12pm – 12am I Fridays – Saturdays: 12pm – 2am I Sundays: 12pm – 10pm
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