132 Brixton Hill
Coming from New Zealand, I wasn’t particularly familiar with Caribbean cuisine as its presence was limited (if it has one at all) and so I was only really exposed to it when I came over here to the UK. But since that fateful day in Angel in ’09 when I had my first Jerk chicken on rice with pineapple slaw, there has been no turning back and I’m on a mission to make up for lost time.
So when my flatmate C recently got recommended by a Caribbean workmate of hers to go to a relatively unknown place called Negril for some good old fashion grub, my ears perked up. When the workmate said the food served was, and I quote, “…like my mum makes it…”, I immediately asked that we pay these guys a visit – preferably yesterday!
The town of Negril is a small little beach resort town with a population of around 3,000 located on the south side of Jamaica. This is also quite a fitting name for the restaurant which is a neat little place that can seat around 100 max and is located on the south side of London. But like people have told me all my life, size doesn’t matter so don’t be fooled; Negril is serving up some seriously good eats which would put any sceptic in their place.
Today, I dined in a table of three and between us, we ordered starters of green plantain balls (highly recommended to us) and roti flat bread followed by the Negril platter and washed down with a Caribbean Queen (a papaya, pineapple, mango and coconut milk smoothie).
The green plantain balls (served with a tamarind sauce and mango mayo) came first and were extremely crispy on the outside but still soft in the middle which provided a nice contrast. The sweetness of the plantain worked very well with both the tangy tamarind sauce and creamy mayo.
I was surprised to see roti on the menu but I am a bit of a naan/roti fan so I definitely did not complain. The roti, though good in its own right, was overshadowed by its accompanying companion: the Negril gravy…OH…MY…LORD! By Thor’s hammer, this gravy is ridiculous and given the opportunity, I would pour this over everything (in fact, I basically did during this meal only stopping when it all ran out…). I asked for an idea of the recipe but was politely told that it was a secret but judging from how addictive it is, I suspect that what’s in it cannot be legal – or shouldn’t be…
Moving on from the starters, I was thoroughly looking forward to the Negril platter of jerk chicken, salt cod fritters, plantain wedges, rice and peas, coleslaw, mixed salad, chips and (most importantly) GRAVY though I did have reservations as the menu points out that it only served two and well, we had three – I didn’t major in Maths at uni but I’m pretty sure that don’t work. Well, maybe it was the gravy but on this day, Negril was defying all laws of science and what came out was less of a platter and more of a banquet – I am thankful we had three of us just so we could get through it all!
At this point, I’m going to go through my highlights quick-fire to avoid rambling:
- Jerk chicken: Perfectly cooked, meat fell from the bone and flavoured penetrated right through;
- Salt cod fritters: Moist and bursting with flavour;
- Plantain wedges: If you weren’t a fan of plantain before, this will convert you; and
- Gravy: I want to marry it and have little gravy children…
And thus brings me to the end of my time in Negril and what a bloody good trip. The platter is top-notch and at £25 is fantastic value. Like I said before, I’m no expert at Caribbean cuisine but I appreciate good food when I come across it and I definitely walked away from this meal very pleased with myself. I was also extremely pleased that I came away with what I thought was a bit of a tan but then I realised it was just residual mess after getting a bit too excited about the gravy…I regret nothing!