By Natasha Miles
Veranda, 30 Acre Lane, Brixton, 020 7733 2335
As a regular gorger of Caribbean cuisine, whether making it myself or grabbing something from one of the local take-aways, I very rarely eat it at restaurants. But Veranda, located on Acre Lane, changed all of that for me.
I’d been hearing great rumblings about the Caribbean bar and restaurant, and was encouraged by the fact they were fully booked on the Friday evening I wanted to visit. But after a little pleading, they squeezed us in for an early 7pm slot. Situated near the start of Acre Lane, at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just a bar, but investigate a little further and at the back sits rows of dining tables for a more intimate meal.
My friends were relative newbies to Caribbean food, so I explained a few of the more exotic items on the menu, such as the breadfruit sauce which came with Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish. At Veranda, the ackee and saltfish came in the form of money bags, wrapped in filo pastry, which was a fine example of the restaurant’s little twists on old classics. Asking the waiter to help describe breadfruit sauce, he also gave some other recommendations which we took him up on.
I usually like to see what other guests have ordered before placing my own, even if that means craning my neck like a meerkat to see. I have no shame when it comes to eating well. But as soon as I saw the gourmet oxtail on the menu, served with parmesan mash (£11.95) to boot, I knew that was the dish for me. The other two opted for the curry goat (£9.90) and three-fish curry (£12.90), with a side portion of rice and peas (2.90). To start, we went for the ackee and saltfish money bags (£5.70) and Jamaican rum prawns (£7.20) to share.
When you read ‘gourmet’, you expect a dish to be something mighty special. And the oxtail certainly was. The meat fell off the bone with its deep, rich, meaty flavours. I could write a tonne more positive adjectives here, but let’s just say that this is a meal I need more of in my life. And the dishes that my friends had didn’t disappoint either, thankfully – I was concerned the Caribbean flavours might not be for them, but both the curry goat and fish curry were met with chomps of approval (not before we’d finished cooing over the beautiful presentation, which included an actual seashell as the plate for the fish curry).
To finish, we shared a rum and raisin cheesecake (£4.50) which was divine; a perfect end to a perfect meal. This place certainly raises the bar of Caribbean cooking, and then some.
As we arrived for our 7pm booking, it hadn’t yet reached its full dining capacity, however the vibe was cool; seemingly full of locals with dance and soul music pumping out of the speakers in a non-invasive way. As Veranda doubles as a nightclub on weekends, I feel that this may no longer be the case later on in the evening, but I suppose by the time you’re done eating and it’s time to ‘shake foot,’ customers may appreciate the music being cranked a notch or two. As to whether I partook in shaking my foot, sadly I didn’t on this occasion, but I’ll be back and will do so then, let me assure you.
Natasha Miles blogs at Food I Fancy