Whether it’s grilled, baked, barbecued or dripping in gravy, jerk chicken is all over London in some of the tastiest varieties – so you don’t have to wait for Notting Hill Carnival to swing round for your next fix. Make a date at these hot spots in town – from Caribbean restaurants to street food stalls – where you can sink your teeth into some heavenly, jerky goodness.
The best jerk chicken in London
£6.90 (lunch time), £9.75 (evening)
Bamboula’s been around long enough in Brixton to nail their jerk chicken – and that, they do. Two sweet and spicy pieces of oven-grilled chicken are finished off with a chicken gravy to go with rice and peas and plantain. For a fancier version, drop in at dinnertime, when the portion’s much bigger and you get nice bit of jerk sauce on the side.
£14.25 (large meal)
Legend has it that Annie Lennox and Bob Dylan used to eat at this Crouch End neighbourhood treasure. Well, here’s betting they came here for the jerk: a mighty portion of sweet, saucy meat with a hint of traditional jerk spice blend (scotch bonnet, pimento) served with a herby rice and peas, fat pieces of plantain and a satay-style peanut sauce. Seriously good.
Jerk chicken isn’t exactly the main attraction at this beloved restro, but it’s certainly a saucy little number. Succulent and slightly charred chicken is doused in a banging, finger-licking, ruby-red marinade that’s got a lot in common with your typical barbecue sauce. But the main difference is in the spices, where you can pick up wicked flavours of ginger, tamarind and jerk’s traditional pimento. Get it as a sharing plate (£7) or part of the meat platter, alongside lamb chops, ribs and a wicked bowl of rice and peas.
Believe the hype, London: this is some damn good jerk. The delicious and tender meat has been marinated for 24 hours in a spicy, secret sauce before being whacked onto a charcoal grill and served in a wrap or salad. So when it comes to authentic flavours, they’ve nailed it – and thrown in a few creative twists for good measure, like the tropical mayo. Try it for yourself at their stall in Pop Brixton.
£10.95 (quarter), £13.95 (half)
Less is more with Negril’s version of jerk, which holds back on the heavy seasoning for a simple, oven-grilled chicken that comes with the best – and we mean, THE best – jerk sauce, plus a sweet portion of chicken gravy. Rice and peas is good call for sides, or the reggae grilled vegetables.
£6 (small), £8 (large)
Not only is this wonderful Shepherd’s Bush takeaway cheap and cheerful, but the jerk here is pretty special. Ochi has gone down the wood-smoked grill route for their version, which is a flame grilled succulent piece of chicken with a dash of spice, topped with a dollop of ketchup and served with rice and peas. Order to go and they’ll sneak in a couple of extra slices of plantain.
£8.45 (meal deal)
This family-run kiosk in Westfield Stratford does proper Jamaican cuisine that doesn’t dumb down for the sake of the heavy footfall. So naturally, the jerk chicken is exceptional – spicy, juicy, charred, and full of flavour, thanks to a 24-hour marinating process using a homemade blend. And for a little more va va voom, the pieces are served in a pool of chicken gravy, which you can mop up with chips or a side of rice and peas.
£13.50 (half), £24 (whole)
We weren't blown away by Rudie's on our first visit, but they've proven with time that they know their jerk. If you like your jerk chicken grilled on that charcoal, hot-step it to Dalston. Their mouthwatering meat is marinated for 24 hours in a secret sauce, then seared to life on a traditional drum in an open kitchen. Cop a couple of sides and pair it with one of their epic cocktails, and you’ll be on cloud nine.
Venue says: “Fancy learning a little about rum? Then join us for our weekly 'Rum Chronicles' masterclass.”
Jerk chicken purists might scoff at anything that doesn't involve an oil drum – but you gotta give credit where credit’s due. The mildly-flavoured jerk at the buzzy Rum Kitchen is marinated for 18 hours, slow cooked for six and smoked, while the selection of sauces – including a chilli ‘swamp’ sauce made with scotch bonnet – are a wicked nod to traditional jerk flavours. Get the wings, or try their finger-lickin’ fried chicken version.
White men can’t jerk? Puh-lease. This bad-ass duo has collected accolades and hordes of jerk lovers since 2012, all because of their divine, spicy chicken made on a smouldering grill they’ve lovingly named Tallulah. A portion gets you a well-seasoned, spicy, tender quarter hacked into pieces with rice and peas, served with a squidge of lime, slaw, a portion of ketchup-y jerk sauce and a pineapple chutney. Find these charmers at The Magic Roundabout or Street Feast.
Find more finger-licking chicken in London
London birds are the best. In the capital they come coated in breadcrumbs for deep-fried deliciousness, spatchcocked in style or roasted whole for shared fun at your party's table. Whether you're looking for an American feast, a traditional British take on fowl play or even Korean-style fried chicken, enjoy the chook that's cooked the best at this selection of London restaurants where the chicken always comes first.
The Jam Cupboard
A neat restaurant/bar within the four-star Rydges hotel in Kensington, just a short walk from the V&A, Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The open plan space is bathed in light streming in from the huge Victorian windows. There's a long, high bench and stools down the centre of the room, surrounded by more intimate, candle-lit tables of four. The menu is made up of modern European cuisine, boasting mains like pumpkin and chestnut risotto, pan roasted salmon and British sirloin steak. Drinks come in both soft and hard varieties, with all the usual and a few cocktails to boot.
Venue says: “Make your Christmas extra special this year at Rydges Kensington Hotel London. See our website for the menu and to make a booking.”