Finally. What everyone has been waiting for. Somewhere to eat Caribbean chicken in Brixton.
Of course not, but unperturbed by turning up to a party in the host’s favourite outfit, Rum Kitchen on Coldharbour Lane opened its doors to the public yesterday.
We were invited to discover what they have on offer as part of the soft-opening launch one week before the official opening.
The Rum Kitchen is (yawn) part of a chain, with other spots in Notting Hill & Soho. That’s standard for Brixton now, especially on a spacious site such as this one on Coldharbour Lane.
It’s decked out (literally; plenty of wood has been employed to convince everyone they are inside a beach shack) in the way you would expect if Caribbean-style restaurants came in a flat pack. Authentically inauthentic.
You know the drill; bare industrial fixtures & fittings, open kitchen area, cheerful but empty platitudes daubed in hand-written typeface across the walls, with hand-drawn artwork everywhere.
All nicely done, but with little genuine character.
The bar that greets you on entry is mightily impressive, however, and it feels almost rude to continue straight past to the seating area beyond, although that is exactly what we did.
The area is well designed, seating comfortable and spacious enough for a group of friends to gather together but still feel part of the busy throb of the restaurant. At the back there were even a set of comfy sofa style seats.
It was really busy when we went, and it had a good atmosphere, but it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep the space filled throughout the week and as time passes.
The prices are not going to get people pushing through the doors like it’s Black Friday, and Brixton is now a competitive place for a chain to settle in to.
The cocktail menu is only slightly shorter than A Brief History of 7 Killings but we managed to pick out plenty to sample.
Most were very pleasant, with top marks going to the self-explanatory Nuts About Rum.
The recommended Banana Banger went down well, even if the ingredients sounded suspiciously sweet.
The large Zombie seemed to disguise the alcohol taste so, alert to the danger of cocktail drinking, we switched to the larger they have on tap, good ole Red Stripe. The Brixton brewed IPA and Pale Ale are also available in a bottle.
The cocktails are all around the £10 mark.
This seems a lot for any drink, especially ones that go down so easily. I can’t pretend I’m a regular at Cocktail Bars, so perhaps this is standard, as the beer prices are not shocking for a restaurant.
So that’s the Rum, what about the Kitchen?
There was a limited menu on offer, being pre-official opening.
This also explained some minor teething problems with the service; drinks sometimes took a while to arrive, as did the dessert, but the staff were all friendly, if understandably a touch less relaxed than they will be after a bit of time to settle in.
The only fish we could sample were the greasy squid rings.
Soft as you like to bite and the peppery sauce was tasty, but we immediately saw the reason for the hefty wad of paper napkins piled at the edge of our table.
For the vegetarians there was Callaloo, a tasty side of ackee & spinach, and a sweet potato curry with the health-foodie’s favourite ingredient quinoa.
This was hearty, decent and tasty without setting the taste buds dancing.
The coleslaw was deliciously oniony, but the odd crunchy grain of rice could be found within the rice & peas. We also had the Rainbow Salad (available minus the jerk chicken pieces), found in the same competent-not-breath-taking league as the curry.
Still on the vegetarian notes, there will usually be a Halloumi burger available. Adding fries brings this up to £13, a price too high for a meat-free burger meal.
In general the prices are not too eyebrow-raising, although there are a few that make you wonder if there has been any adjustments from the sister menus in Notting Hill and Soho. I shouldn’t have to add that jerk chicken is available all over Brixton at much more competitive prices.
The jerk chicken comes as boneless thighs as well as fried and on the bone and also in a burger. The consensus was that the chicken was fine (no complaints but nothing to elevate it above other flightless birds), but the star of the plate was the sauces, apparently restaurant made and super tasty.
Chicken-wise, the burger plucked top place and the music seemed to reflect this. The occasional reggae tunes were soon drowned out by U.S numbers as the evening went on, perhaps showing a closer connection to North America.
Looking at the dessert menu both the Chocolate Rum Pot and the Coconut Affogato seemed tempting but the only choice was a serving of soft scoop ice cream, with a chocolate and nut topping. Basically a posh Mr Whippy, yet it hit the spot with sublime accuracy.
Overall, Rum Kitchen may feel more at home in a shopping centre food court than on any Caribbean island, or even Brixton, but the fact it is directly opposite the newly opened Holiday Inn perhaps says more about exactly who this venture is aimed at.
A good shout for a large group of friends to come and grab a table and share some jerk and cocktails. As long as the more interesting places remain in Brixton for those inclined, this isn’t such a bad option for people without the local knowledge or time to explore further.
443-445 Coldharbour, Brixton SW9 8LN
Tel: 020 7920 6479
Mon – Fri: 4pm – late
Sat & Sun: 11am – late
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