Pumpkin Rice Jerk Grill

If you like spicy food and/or grilled chicken (there are a lot of Nando’s fans out there) you should take note of this Caribbean take-away near the Barnet Everyman.

Pumpkin Rice operates a small kitchen, typically manned by a chef and a cook with all dishes made from scratch, avoiding MSG and preservatives. The venture was started by a husband and wife team who chose Barnet over more typical areas such as Tottenham and Brixton which were already saturated with Caribbean takeaways and they opened in December 2011.

Despite spending part of my honeymoon in the Caribbean, my experience of the cuisine is limited, so when Pumpkin Rice invited me to try some of their food, I couldn’t resist. As well as the jerk chicken, our selection included some little starters: deliciously spicy salt fish fritters (£3.95 for 3), a spicy garlic roti (maybe a bit steep at £3.25) which had lots of chilli heat and a Jamaican vegetable pattie (£1.75) with the familiar yellow pastry ticked the right boxes.

The main courses included braised oxtail with their namesake, pumpkin rice. This was well flavoured, tender and went really well with the pumpkin flecked rice. Our other dish was coconut curry chicken with rice and peas. The term rice and peas always catches me out as I forget that ‘peas’ are, in fact, beans and these were kidney beans. More good, tasty food, and the side dishes of salad and coleslaw especially were fine. What’s more, at £7.50 (regular) or £8.75 for a large portion they offer good value for money.

However, the jerk chicken was the star of the show. The word jerk originates in Jamaica and refers to how the meat is seasoned and cooked. Some people prefer a dry rub to flavour the meat, but at Pumpkin Rice they use a wet marinade developed by head chef Carlington Clarke – which they also sell (the Hot Jerk Sauce is the most popular, they tell me). The chicken is marinated overnight before being cooked in a jerk pan over coal to enhance the smoky flavour. The result is spicy, juicy meat, a little bit fruity, as well as rich and smoky. Our jerk chicken wings were absolutely delicious (six pieces for £5.50, four for £4 or main course £6.50 and with sides: £7.50/8.75), and I’m tempted to pick up a bottle of marinade to try at home. Great stuff – and just the thing to warm you up on a cold and wet February evening while thinking of sunnier climes.

Monday to Saturday 5–10.30pm. Closed Sundays.
Free home delivery service within three miles for orders over £15. Last order for delivery 9.30pm.

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