Sunday, October 01, 2006

Caribbean Dream

So my biggest adventure in the past two weeks happened last Thursday when I tootled down to Brixton to sit on David's sofa, rather than my own. A girl needs variety in her life.

We stopped off at Bamboula, a local Caribbean restaurant, for some spicy sustenance to see us through a hard afternoon of "Diagnosis Murder". I'd been craving some goat curry since I returned from Edinburgh, having had an amazing meal at Coyaba. That was my first experience of Jamaican food in the UK, and it eclipsed any Caribbean food I'd eaten in the Caribbean. Chef Ras Mahlon has been cooking for over 20 years and Coyaba is Scotland's only Jamaican restaurant. They purchase all of the organic goat that Scotland produces, and create the richest, spiciest of curries from it. Brixton's Bamboula could learn a bit from Coyaba's sourcing; my jerk chicken could have been jerk turkey given the size, but at £8 for a half chicken, plus plaintain and rice and peas, you certainly get a lot for your money. Me being me, I'd rather have less and know that the chicken had had a happy life.

Both restaurants serve salt fish and ackee, again with Coyaba edging ahead in terms of execution. That said, both get the spicing levels just right and us lucky customers get a plate of creamy, dreamy, fishy spiciness. The ackee is soft, almost like scrambled eggs and it's just perfect with the salt fish and spices.

Bamboula wins the plantain round, serving thick fried slices, that were scarfed down quick as you like. The goat curry deserves note too, even though we doubt it was organic, goat isn't intensively reared and hence a more ethical choice. It's a shame the calalloo rice wasn't on that day; but the rice and peas were OK, if perhaps a little too starchy.

So, two restaurants, at opposite ends of the country, serving food that leaves your tummy sizzling for the rest of the day. Coyaba's the better restaurant, with carefully sourced food, delivered at a Caribbean pace, but Bamboula's certainly worth a visit if you're in Brixton.

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