Wah gwan bredren? For a long time now South Asian cuisine has been our most beloved ethnic food here in Brum. But on every street in every inner-city neighbourhood of our fair metropolis, Caribbean cafes and takeaways have been serving up proper soul food for decades. Who doesn’t like curry goat, jerk chicken, fried chicken, ackee saltfish, dumplings, rice and peas? Preferably all at the same time. The menu is pretty standard in all of them making a comparison easier to do. When is goat mutton? Who’s jerk is proper smokey? Fried chicken that is actually crispy not microwaved to soggy?
Unless you “keep it locked” on Newstyle or Hot92.fm then you probably won’t have heard of many of these places but if you ever drive by you should check them out. None of these places are pretty. Don’t be expect Turtle Bay decor, faux Island Time flourishes and synthetic palm trees. You might get a few posters telling you when the next bashment night is at The Drum. You won’t get a discount with your loyalty card but these Brum independents will make you happy for not much money anyway.
I’ll keep adding to the list as I find them. If you have any favourite please let me know. My buddy Jack Spicer Adams and I are always hungry to check them out!
56 Lozells Rd, Birmingham, B19 2TJ
Tel: 0121 551 0904
The daddy on Lozells Rd, a large cafe space in a slightly intimidating part of town. I only ever have the curry goat here, it sets the standard, lip-smackingly nice and nice. People swear by the house patties here but they are not a patch on Fenkys or Tasty Pastry.
26 Coventry Rd, Birmingham, B10 0RX
Tel: 0121 772 4667
Under the railway bridge on the way out of town past Digbeth, it’s easy to miss Blue Marlin. The faded sign doesn’t help. Standing room only, with a narrow counter along one side if you really have to eat in. The jerk chicken here is splendid with a proper smokey flavour and good amount of sweet brown sauce. The curry mutton here is a solid rendition, sometimes a little tough but rich with marrow.
406 Dudley Road, Birmingham B18 4HH
Tel: 0121 448 1242
A promising sight of a jerk pan at the front of the shop. The jerk here is quite decent, if it was fresh then it would be great. The fried chicken doesn’t really cut the mustard, soggy and dry. The gloopy mutton curry has a nice flavour but didn’t rock my boat. The sides were good though, excellent hard food but then you don’t come just to eat hard food.
3 Great Hampton Street, Birmingham B18 6AQ
Tel: 0121 236 8119
Anyone who’s ever sat on The Church’s roof terrace will not have failed to notice the smokey jerk aromas wafting up their nostrils from this takeaway next door. It does have a couple of small tables so you can devour things on-site because good jerk chicken waits for no-one. The jerk here is probably the best you’re going to find in a shop but don’t overlook the rest, it’s all really good too.
72a Cape Hill, Smethwick, West Midlands, B66 4PB
Tel: 0121 558 0435
A door, just a door on Cape Hill high street in Smethwick. That’s all Chris’s appears to be. Oh that and a big sign alludes to something tasty. Follow the winding corridor back ever back to the extension of the extension to find a good space for hunkering down. The curry mutton here is excellent, the best I’ve eaten in Brum. The jerk juicy but lacking a nice char flavour. The fried chicken as always is the big let down, nice flavour but that coating is not crisp.
About to write about the tasty jerk chicken in this place in Nechells but it got closed down by the police. Some allegations of unsavouriness or another, best not to go any further. A shame because the chicken was definitely savoury.
Sharians, Esmies, The Jerk Man and other Streetfood Caribbean
Your best bet for jerk chicken is in a streetfood or festival scenario where you can see the jerk pan and the chicken slowly smoke grilling away on it. To be honest it’s difficult to mess up fresh jerk chicken, chargrilled chicken in any flavour is the universal language of good food. The problem with shops is that they have to hold them for an interminable time. Good if it’s fresh off the grill but when’s that? Sometimes, the jerk pan only comes out once a week so they cook all their chicken for the week. What you’re getting on a non jerk pan day is some reheated chicken from X days ago. Sharians is a regular on Brum market days, I always seek them out at Harborne Farmers Market and at KingshEATh Streetfood market. They is propa! Lovely one-two of jerk and curry always makes me happy. Esmies is a favourite of the Digbeth streetfood scene. Their freshly fried dumpling filled with mutton curry maybe the best streetfood item in Brum. There I said it!
I’ve written about Fenky Janes patties already and if you ever see them in a shop you should without hesitation buy them. But, and it’s a big but, in a cafe without a pattie warmer you should never buy them. There’s no sadder sight than a microwaved pattie. Tasty Pastry patties made in Handsworth are a close contender to Fenky Janes. Some even say the pastry is better, but Fenky’s fillings are superior especially the saltfish and ackee. If you like the Island Delight patties you can get in supermarkets you need to give yourself a slap and wake up. They’re disgusting.
Don’t forget the Simmer Down festival is going on in Handsworth Park this Sunday 19th July. It’s a paradise for Caribbean food, I had the very best curry goat of my life there last year from Right Stuff Cater Inn, I hope they’re back.