There exists a novelty factor to Rudie’s, both within it’s name and the inventive spins on traditional and recognisable Jamaican flavours. The menu is small, but diverse, offering both classic dishes and surprising retakes on the latter. Whether the sound of a “Jerk It Up” spiced Daiquiri sounds to your taste or not, you are guaranteed to try something you haven’t tasted before.
Names like “Cool Runnings”, and “Katch a Fire” demonstrate Rudies novelty factor pretty explicitly. However, the quality demonstrated and choice of spirits used birth tastefully interesting results.
Cocktails of choice were the Governor General, a sorrel/rum mix and the Dr No, which met Britain’s Portobello Gin and Jamaica’s Blackwell rum together with a party-ready pouring of Red Stripe. It looks, tastes and feels like drinking a beer but with an infused kick, perfect choice for those who prefer a thirst quenching cocktail to guzzle with a meal.
Caribbean food has a reputation for indulgence, rich with seasoning and flavours. The portions at Rudies are starkly small in comparison perhaps to your traditional hearty Jamaican meal or street food stall but the indulgence still remains. What is inspiring is that despite its rich taste the food feels light and energetic. Never once do you feel like the food is heavy to digest.
Of course, the main attraction is Rudie’s signature “real jerk”. A choice of meats are marinated for 24 hours, smoked using pimento and sweet wood and finally cooked over coals in traditional jerk drums. The jerk pork was the highlight. The meat sits between its moist, soft skin which was impressive from the first bite.
Unfortunately, there felt like some opportunities not taken. Very little choice for vegetarians, despite Jamaica’s Rastafarian “ital” tradition, and where were the dumplings? However, creative and original spins on classic dishes often made up for the lack there of. The Ackee and Saltfish Bakes for example were a simple yet creative spin on Jamaicas national dish, which say in between baked soft-dough, and got me asking, why have I never thought about eating it like this before?
Highlight Desert was the Banana Brûlée. The Brûlée originates from France, but the quintessential burnt flavour on the crispy banana top channels Jamaican fried plantain almost uncannily. It was a really smart move to add this to the menu, and manifested Rudie’s charms.
For lovers of traditional Jamaican food, there will surely be a few (seeming) disappointments offhand. However, approached with an open mind the menu has the power to counteract those feelings and offer a unique experience for those who visit. Whether you go back will be down to you, but for the creative reworking of familiar tastes alone, Rudie’s is well worth the visit.