Levi Roots’ Best Caribbean Hangouts in the UK | Travel
I was born in Jamaica, a small island that is big in spirit. When my parents moved to South London they couldn’t bring all the children at once, so I was the last to be sent to join them when I was 11. This means that I spent a lot of time in Jamaica with my grandmother, who raised me and taught me how to cook.
I can attribute a large part of my success to him. But I can also attribute a lot of it to the carnival scene here in the UK, my adopted home. The late 1970s coincided with my teenage years and I was playing St Pauls Carnival in Bristol as part of the Sir Coxsone Outernational Sound System. Indeed, many stores and takeaways around Stapleton Road, Clifton and St Nicholas Market (look for Jenny Reid’s stall, Caribbean Wrap, in the latter; caribbeanwrap2.co.uk) have thrown their support behind me.
The annual Notting Hill Carnival in West London is, of course, one of the best Caribbean parties this side of the Atlantic. It’s a fantastic flow of people who come to see dazzling mas bands and floats, dance to reggae and eat an all-day buffet of Caribbean cuisine. I first went there in 1975 and opened my food stand there in 1991. The weekend attracts two million people – it’s one of the biggest carnivals outside of Rio – in the back streets of London, and I appreciate that it comes with its challenges, but the atmosphere is something else.
A Caribbean jerk chicken stall
I may be a London boy, but it’s not all about the south. In Leeds, the Caribbean is alive and well in Chapeltown, in the northeast of the city. It’s home to the Leeds Caribbean Carnival every public holiday in August (the same weekend as Notting Hill – so it’s quite difficult to do both), but you can find great Caribbean food here all year round, especially the oxtail. Takeaways in these areas really understand how to braise oxtail properly, and by that I mean slowly. Try the one from Dutch Pot on Chapeltown Road with a dollop of juicy butter beans (dutchpotleeds.co.uk).
When it comes to Caribbean cuisine, however, you have to come to Brixton. And believe me, I know all about Brixton. If you’re in a hurry, Refill’s fried dumplings on Brixton Road are a delicious on-the-go snack. Brixton Market operates stalls on Electric Avenue all week, but Healthy Eaters around the corner is where you’ll find Bob Marley’s favorite Italian food, which is vegetarian and all about locality (healthyeaters.co.uk) .
Step into Brixton Village for two of my favourites: Fish, Wings & Tings (fishwingsandtings.com) and Etta’s Seafood Kitchen (ettaskitchen.com). The latter serves the traditional Jamaican dish, ackee and saltfish, while the former focuses on wings. Sit at the tables outside with a rum punch and go.
Finally, for the best goat curry in London, walk down Brixton Hill to plant-covered Negril. It is served as it should be: with rice and lots of sauce (negrilonline.co.uk).
Lunch at one of the many Caribbean restaurants on Atlantic Road, Brixton
To learn more about the UK’s Caribbean community and culture, stay in Brixton and visit the Black Cultural Archive. It makes sense that they found a home here since, like Bristol, this part of the UK really retains the history of the Windrush generation. From war and music to riots and revivals, the Black Cultural Archives tells all these stories and more (£5; blackcultural archives.org).
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Speaking of culture, I went to the Hayward Gallery In the dark fantasy exhibited recently and it blew my mind. Located inside the Southbank Centre, it is a kind of large dystopian showcase of contemporary artists from across the African diaspora. Hew Locke, whose father is from Guyana and who grew up partly in its capital, Georgetown, displays fantastic empirical sculptures here. Worth stopping in before it closes on September 18 (£13.50; southbankcentre.co.uk).
For a more traveling slice of Caribbean culture, you have to watch the band Jah Shaka. They’ve been around since the early 1970s and I’ll follow them almost everywhere, especially when they play reggae nights in London. It’s a Jamaican sound system but Jah Shaka himself is a very inspiring guy. Everyone knows him – the police even tried to ban his music in south London in the 1970s. Check their Facebook page to find out which venue they’ll be playing next.
In the Fantastic Dark at the Hayward Gallery
Finally, if I could give any advice to anyone experiencing the best of the Caribbean in the UK, it would be to watch the flags. If you attend a carnival or street food market, you’ll notice unusual flags that can guide you to the food of some of the lesser-known Caribbean islands, which often have amazing things to offer besides chicken. typical jerk and rice. . Opt for the French Caribbean islands or those with a strong Creole influence, such as Guadeloupe and Trinidad.
And remember, if it’s Jamaican street food you’re ordering, it’s a patty, not a paste!
Interview conducted by Hannah Ralph
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