Nick Buglione joins the party people at Rum Kitchen
Blurring the lines between restaurant, bar and late-night hangout, Rum Kitchen embraces, and goes large, on all. And can be initially confusing. Last time you had to show ID to get in somewhere to have dinner? Security guards? And amidst seemingly borderline crowdy chaos, how it all works?
(Magic) Malcolm and yours truly missed the memo about Rum Kitchen weekends. Friday night is a dressed-up party-friendly crowd letting it go for the start of the weekend. High-rise stilettos and micro-skirts, check. Shirts extravagantly unbuttoned and skinny chinos check. They didn’t let me in for my sartorial elegance, of that we can be assured.
So, it’s packed. Bar at the front, dining tables at the rear. Waiters and bar staff plugged into turbo mode. So right there and then Malcolm (he has come from a big meeting, so at least looks the part) and I are expecting something must give? Party place, dodgy food? Packed, so service all over the place? Terminal waiting for cocktails to arrive? What happens when the dancing starts?
Thing is, much like the NHS and the traffic system, it shouldn’t work but it does. There is a coherent, slick operation flowing through the hectic. There are the earlier evening diners like us (and a “mature” couple on the next table who do look a little confused), dressed up party groups getting warmed up, a scrum at the bar, DJs and a kitchen sweating away at the grill.
Clearly, we start with rum cocktails. Classic Rude Boy; Goslings 151, Wray & Nephew, pimento liqueur, grenadine syrup, passionfruit and fresh lime. Or a sub-tropical Pineapple Daiquiri; Jamaica Cove pineapple rum, pineapple liqueur, sugar, pineapple juice and fresh lime. Sharp, tangy and effective both. Followed by Appleton 12 rum sours. The bar guys look ridiculously busy but they are sending out cocktails on point.
The jerk-infused menu is, considering the area, reassuring rather than revolutionary. And thankfully not just careless stodge to soak up the rum (another of my prejudices leaves the building).
We have starters of tangy jerk BBQ wings in their eponymous sauce and crispy saltfish fritters with tamarind dip. Both were excellent. A slight misstep with island spiced squid with ginger and lime aioli – hard to locate essence of squid in the deep-fried batter.
Our mains plunder the jerk grill. My pork belly ribs are lovingly slow cooked and irretrievably indulgently sticky, with cassava fries, rainbow salad (think Joseph and his amazing technicolour coleslaw) and a spicy jerk gravy. Magic had the proper fried chicken – crispy buttermilk bird with pickles, slaw and Mac n Cheese pie. Magic is a bit of a fried chicken fiend, and a home fryer so passing his test is a decent benchmark – in between mouthfuls, I get “as good as MFC” (Malcolm Fried Chicken).
As we eat, the Kitchen is morphing into its later evening guise. Diners are moving barwards, the music ramps up, many of the women get even more scantily clad, the bar staff go from turbo to post nuclear and the queue at the door is keeping the security guys busy. Malcolm is a Scot who could drink Peter O’Toole under the table for breakfast, but we decided discretion was the better part of valour (err … we have to be kid chauffeurs in the AM) and made a diplomatic exit as the party really got going.
Rum Kitchen is not the place to go for a quiet romantic supper with wine and roses. It’s not a place for a quiet catch-up – decibel levels are dialled up to 11, but the food is jerky good, the cocktails are great and once you get past the slightly intimidating door, everyone is having a great time. S’what’s not to like?
437 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LN | 020 3668 2539 | therumkitchen.com/brixton | @TheRumKitchen