Living in London, I’m sure we’ve all tried jerk chicken – there are countless wonderful Jamaican and Bajan takeaways. But there aren’t that many good quality, contemporary Jamaican restaurants which the Independent can call “the best Caribbean in London”… until now! Rudie’s, in the heart of Dalston, serves Caribbean classics with a contemporary twist – jerk calamari with a lime and coriander dip, fried plantain with jerk ketchup, jack fruit salad, peppa shrimp served over spinach (I could go on) – I’m not even going to get started on the mains and grill options because I don’t particularly want to start salivating over my keyboard!
“So the whole concept is jerk and cocktail but also in a small plate format. We all like sharing and small plates, that’s moving into every genre of food. So a lot of the food on our menu is traditional food with a contemporary twist on the small plate” Matin who runs Rudie’s, explains. I went there for a rum tasting (which luckily included food or I would not have been able to remember enough to write about it!) Matin travelled all around Jamaica sampling the best food and drink [jealous much?!] many of which off the beaten path, to learn the best recipes. “I went to Jamaica, travelled around lots of islands, ate in lots of places, met with lots of people who specialise in it, they shared all their techniques and we do it properly the way that it should be done – charcoal and stainless steel drum rather than a gas drum like a lot of people do, we marinate it for 24 hours, we’ve done our own recipe for a marinade so the food is really the king here. But as Matin explains, it’s as much about the drinking as it is about the eating – they have the largest selection of quality Jamaican rums in the COUNTRY! The cocktails were just incredible. “We’ve got about 50 odd rums.”
“It’s unusual to traditional Caribbean restaurants because they’re usually a smaller beach shack vibe. We wanted to do something different but essentially the food is the main thing and we are focused on jerk – we call it real jerk!” Matin explains that he wanted to capture the true essence and feeling of Jamaica “my wife is Jamaican and I’ve been going there for about 15 years now, we go there all the time we have a house there, we spend our summers there. And everytime I go there, I love jerk, the beach parties, the music scene, rum and red stripe – it’s a great experience. And then we come back to london and where do I go to get anything remotely close to that, it’s always been a frustration for me. So the idea was to do something that brings that vibe but to do it in a contemporary, London Dalston East London way.”
“When you come in on weekends it’s packed, really high energy, everyone’s sharing food. So it’s kind of a social place. On weekdays it’s slightly different, you can sit down and spend a bit more time with a bottle of wine and listen to the background reggae music. And that’s exactly what I wanted, I wanted a place I can feel the energy of Jamaica but in a very London way and people love it and we’re getting good feedback and I think people love feeling that, it’s the main thing – that’s what was intended. Weekends are crazy, but I love it!”
There just wasn’t enough space for all the fans – they had to turn customers away every week so they renovated the basement and opened the Roots Lounge two weeks ago to make sure everyone gets their fair share of jerk! “It’s a slightly different vibe to downstairs, darker, more soft furnishing feels a bit like somewhere you just want to hang out and people can hire it out for parties; we’re growing roots, roots of a tree.”
Where does the name Rudie’s come from?
“A lot of people think it’s named after somebody but essentially it’s based on – I often point people to that poster.”
“That’s a famous Jamaican movie from the 70’s – all about the rude boys movement. It was all about dressing a certain way and being street wise and about music and they branded themselves as rude boys”. Initially they wanted to call themselves rude boys, “but we thought either people are going to love it or hate it and it’s quite macho as well. I really liked the idea of doing something that captured the essence of that period because the music and culture and fashion was great, so we came up with this name – it’s short for rude boy.”
What are your plans for the future?
“Now the plan is to make this properly sustainable and we’re looking later this year for hopefully, our second site. Somewhere that has some relevance to Dalston Hackney – we’re looking at Shepherd’s Bush, Peckham, Tooting, King’s Cross, possibly Shoreditch, possibly Brixton – but anywhere where there is a similar kind of crowd to Dalston. We get customers from all over London, sometimes even international so ideally people want somewhere a bit closer they don’t have to travel 2 hours to get to.” One of the guys who ate with us travelled from Wimbledon for that jerk; I don’t blame him to be honest!
“We’re also looking into developing a Rudie’s lifestyle brand of clothing and household items (salt/pepper grinders, soap…). In time we want to have our own jerk sauces and chilli sauce – even now, people buy it here but it’s all cottage industry – eventually I want to have it on supermarket shelves. But I don’t want to do it too soon, when the time is right.”
What’s been your biggest challenge been so far?
“Getting it going, raising the money and finding the right site – those are the two main things. On a day to day basis the biggest challenge is making sure on every single day you’re on it because you get different customers everyday and every customer expects perfect service perfect food, the perfect experience. And you, your staff everything has to be 100% and you can’t let your standards drop one day, you can’t be inconsistent because if one person doesn’t get the perfect experience then that’s the only thing they remember. So for me, every customer from the first to the last is the most important one and the experience is exactly how we intended it.”
I can’t see the standards dropping anytime soon. The food, the cocktails, the atmosphere, the staff were all perfect and I’m already planning my next visit. I had the loveliest evening and truly felt the warmth and family love. Matin knew and said hello to everyone, I really felt part of the community and part of a big, warm Dalston family. If you’re too lazy or hungover to make it for now (because seriously you’ve got to go) Rudie’s deliver too, so no excuse! Thank you, Matin & everyone at Rudie’s I had a truly wonderful evening.
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