My housemate is off to Riyadh next week on business, and he has been busy reviewing the Do’s and Don’ts of visiting Saudi. One rule he came across is that there is ‘strictly no dancing in the streets’. I don’t think he’ll be too arsed about that one, but I know a lot of people who would be, including me. I love it when I see people bobbing / popping / locking / swinging away to tunes on the tube (it gives my £1400 season ticket a greater degree of palatability, though I am madly trying to convince myself of this seeing as I only renewed it only the other day). I am more than a little guilty of swaying my shoulders if something remarkable shuffles onto the iPod – and props to you if you’re the same. We can be colourful together!
So that was why I was impressed with the hostess at The Rum Kitchen in Soho, who spent a reasonably quiet late lunchtime gyrating at the desk to a themey little mix of Afro-Caribbean and Latino fusion. She was one more little touch of eye candy in this strangely attractive little restaurant at Kingly Court, just of Carnaby Street, the newborn sister of The Rum Kitchen in Notting Hill.
The room is small, on the first floor and opens from the right posh shopping centre into what you may expect a jerk chicken-hawking, rum-serving pseudo-dive would look and feel like. If you’re not sure, then expect a generously appointed bar, stuffed with bottles and glasses which reflect the light like a boozy rainbow, an open kitchen, the smell of jerk spice that stings your nostrils, waitresses with a-symmetrical haircuts and cropped t-shirts, ramshackle furniture and a menu printed on that brown parcel paper… which is pretty much the gastronomic equivalent of a tramp stamp.
Predictable yes, tacky, no. It is nice here, and very simple. The menu is basic too, a smattering of starters like ribs, saltfish fritters, chicken wings (jerk spiced of course)… etc. The mains are among the most restrictive I have ever seen in a restaurant. If you don’t like jerk chicken (it comes in like ten varieties here such as burger, breast, salad, thigh etcetera) then you’re really rather stuck, and the dessert list – which we skipped – had but three options. That hurt my feelings; a supermodel’s fridge would have had more choice. What is on offer is very nice though – my jerk-fried chicken burger was warm and spicy, tender and tall, replete with The Rum Kitchen’s pineapple slaw which spooked my mate but is way better than it sounds. He had chicken thigh, and piped down, which means he was happy. All food and drink is preceded by banana fritters – dangerously moreish and designed to picque your thirst. Fine with me.
We did have a *shudder* vegetarian with us, and I am not sure what she made of the the pumpkin, potato, coconut and chickpea curry with flatbread as leaving food is considered both a cry of “delish! I’m sated!” or “this is like eating out of an ashtray”, depending on upbringing and/or culture. The accompanying sweet potato fries we ordered were a little on the dry side but oh, did they make us laugh, because this quirky little place serves them in a mug, a hackneyed attempt at endearing whimsy. The next evening, I served myself olives out of a Starbucks espresso cup and I spent literally an hour chuckling at my own antics and pissing around with Instagram.
Anyway, as I said you fussy eaters are better off staying on the liquid – there is a seriously impressive rum menu here. I simply HAD to try their Penicillin, elevated from the staple whiskey and ginger sensation with yes, rum, and a little mystery sweetness. My mates ‘Grog’ was a little less palatable, made with Pusser’s Navy Rum and bitters – as the menu said, “the way the sailors drank it”. I fancied a longer drink with the burger and ordered a disaster called ‘The Lesser of Two Weevils’, (named for a personal favourite film, Master and Commander perhaps?) but the realty was that this was Red Stripe lager with a rum float, and a dash of lime. I can only assume the lime was to turn this drink from gutter-liquid into a ‘cocktail’.
I did put our own questionable rum experiences to bad choices not a bad menu, and we settled the reasonable bill and headed back into Carnaby Street. Tipsy, and it was still early. The Wolf of Wall Street beckoned, a film as full of beans and oddness as much as The Rum Kitchen and the people who work here. It was a little quiet when we visited, what with it being 3pm and all, but things still felt vibey and energetic. Despite the mid-afternoon lull, The Rum Kitchen is suitably downtrodden and grungey enough to attract a crowd, particularly when combined with awesome servers, good food and enough rum to sink Steve the Pirate. Now all they need are some TV screens so you can rock up and watch the Jamaican Bobsled Team in Sochi next month. Peace be the journey! Cos rum sure as hell ain’t.
Starters £five-ish, mains £nine to £fifteen, cocktails around £nine to £ten
therumkitchen.com | @TheRumKitchen | 0207920 6479 | First Floor, Kingly Court Carnaby Street, London, W1B 5PW