Tue—Thu 6pm—12.30am, Fri 6pm—2am, Sat 11am—2am, Sun 11am—12.30am
W11 isn’t exactly somewhere lacking in good brunch and Bloody Mary spots; its an area chock-a-block with places to help the hungover cast of Made in Portobello, all unfeasibly big hair and enormous sunglasses, through the weekend—as well as the hordes of tourists looking nervously at them. Goode & Wright, New Tom’s, Gail’s, Electric Diner… an endless roster of flat whites, sourdough and Nurofen. But do any of these chuck a Scotch bonnet on your eggs? Or put callaloo and pulled pork on the morning menu? Do they stick two fingers up at Magic FM and throw some reggae at your ears? No, no they don’t. Lucky then that The Rum Kitchen, on All Saints Road, have started doing brunch.
You can forgive the place for not being particularly busy much before 5pm; most probably associate the colourful little restaurant with cocktails and jerk chicken. But there was a gentle buzz of couples and groups of friends dining as the spring sun streamed across the large dining room on Sunday morning. As it was a brunch launch we kicked off with two Bloody Marys that were rich, spicy and held back on nothing, which was much needed.
The brunch menu offered up classics such as eggs in various ways and a full breakfast, along with granola, a Jerk McMuffin and the option of a Reggae Roast if you stuck around for lunch. All fairly priced and seemingly huge portions, there were also more lunch-style mains available along with fresh juice options. We went for poached eggs with smashed avocado and Scotch bonnet on toast and a Full Jamaican breakfast consisting of poached eggs, thick cut bacon, spicy BBQ beans, jerk sausage, roast tomatoes, callaloo, spinach, hash brown and toast—ok, definitely huge portions.
The poached eggs were very good despite only one being runny and therefore, in my opinion, properly cooked. It was also disappointing that the Scotch bonnet was only scattered on top of the dish and not part of the smashed avocado mixture; it felt like a cop out having the option to avoid it—if you don’t want a spicy brunch don’t go to a Caribbean restaurant.
The Full Jamaican was, as you can imagine, a bit of an event and drew a lot of looks. Big in size and flavour, each component was well cooked—bar more overcooked eggs—and it all worked well together. Nothing was overly greasy or fatty and the slab-style bacon was exceptionally good. The earthy and slightly bitter flavour of callaloo may not be to everyone’s taste but there was so much on the plate it shouldn’t be too off-putting. The spicy beans, however, lacked any real firepower. Topped with Scotch bonnet and spring onion, it isn’t likely to appeal to Full English purists but again, ‘if you don’t want spicy brunch’ and so on. Everything was served quickly and hot and the staff were friendly without being overbearing.
With our mouths a little bit on fire but our senses fully alive and hangovers pretty much kicked into touch, we went for a couple of coffees to finish off proceedings. This was also a tactical move to avoid the temptation of a cocktail or six—The Rum Kitchen is so friendly and relaxed that Sunday afternoon could quickly become evening.
When, in late 2012, plans to open a Caribbean restaurant/bar in the heart of a very Caribbean community were announced a lot of people, me included, were hesitant. Such places should be run by an old Trinidadian guy who doesn’t give a shit about health and safety or making things ‘authentic’, not the party boys behind Bungalow 8 and PING. But then it opened and it wasn’t rubbish and the cocktails were good and the food was great and we all breathed a sigh of relief and slurped our rum punch. Since then new sites have opened, more are planned and everyone is riding a happy wave of jerk and plantain. And now they do brunch as well; it may not be traditional but it is a very good and welcome alternative.