Bigger money might lie in Caribbean fine dining, but the soul of this cuisine lies in ventures like Café Heath. Opened in summer 2013 on the resolutely downmarket stretch of Mare Street opposite St John’s Hospice, this tiny space is kitted out with the kind of minimalist fittings that are not so much Hackney hipster, more the result of its previous incarnation as a Chinese takeaway.
The menu is equally no-nonsense, with a range of daily lunch specials – jerk or stewed chicken, curry goat, oxtail and butter beans, escovitch fish and a range of sumptuous-sounding soups – alongside everyday items such as curried chickpea roti with tamarind sauce. A generous serving of oxtail came in a deep, rich sauce and was a fine example of this classic stew, served with rice and peas, and fried plantain. Stewed chicken had been caramelised and coated in a punchy sauce that stopped just short of overpowering the meat’s flavours.
Do try a (generous) slice of one of the homemade cakes – potato cake and carrot cake, on our visit – washed down with the homemade pineapple or Guinness punch. From the space to the staff to the food, it was guileless but artful… properly Caribbean.