The biggest street carnival in Europe, Notting Hill is a sight to behold. Every August, the streets of this peaceful, multicultural area of London are overtaken by revellers in outrageous costumes, dancing and weaving to the sounds of steel bands.
From the traditional street food to the funky sound systems, this flamboyant and colourful celebration of the rich culture of the Caribbean won’t fail to get your mouth watering. In addition to the floats and parade, more than 300 food stalls line the streets and the air is filled with the spicy scents of Caribbean favourites like jerk chicken and fried plantain.
Every year, according to festival organisers, visitors work their way through more than 25,000 bottles of rum and 10,000 mangoes! But Caribbean cuisine is about far more than just rum cocktails and juicy fruit – and you haven’t lived until you’ve tried the infamous curried goat…
Like an exotic version of the Cornish pasty, patties are flaky pastry stuffed with seasoned beef. Best eaten accompanied by a Red Stripe beer, these are an excellent – and filling – carnival snack available at hundreds of stalls.
Covered with a spicy West Indian sauce and grilled on the barbecue, jerk chicken is a classic Caribbean treat. Although the big pieces of chicken a little fiddly to eat with plastic cutlery and standing up – which is usually how it’s served from food stalls at the carnival – it’s well worth a try for that hot, unusual taste. For a more manageable snack, however, there are often toasted jerk chicken sandwiches on the menu as well.
TastyJerk is one of the best stalls at the carnival, where you can dig into specialty whole jerked lamb, as well as the usual chicken alternative. Look out for Levi Roots – the man behind famous Reggae Reggae Sauce – at his jerk chicken stall, too.
It might not sound all that appetising, but this rich, fragrant curry gives Indian dishes a run for the money. Alongside the usual spices like turmeric, coriander, ginger and cardamom, the recipe usually calls for Scotch Bonnet peppers (chillies native to the Caribbean), which is what gives it such a unique flavour.
For a top notch curried goat, head to the church on the corner of Clydesdale Road – the stall here is a great find for an authentic taste of this unusual dish.
Being a vegetarian can be tough when you’re out at events, but you should be able to find a handful of stalls serving Callaloo, a Caribbean veggie classic. The main ingredient is a leafy vegetable (usually taro, aramanth or xanthosoma), with each region adding their own unique spices and extras, from Scotch Bonnet peppers to coconut milk.
Rice and Peas
This simple dish is a typical accompaniment to meals in the West Indies. Made from white rice, coconut and red ‘peas’ (kidney beans or pigeon peas), it’s carbohydrate-heavy and just what you need to soak up all the rum!
Find the Munchies stall on your map – their excellent coleslaw mixed in with some rice and peas is not to be missed. The stew chicken comes highly recommended, too.
Ackee and Salt Fish
The national dish of Jamaica, this unique meal is made from the strange West African ackee fruit, salt cod, onions, tomatoes and spices. It’s best enjoyed served with fried plantain or dumplings for a contract is textures and flavours.
Alice Woolliams is the Editor for Enjoybedandbreakfast.com, a travel website for accommodation with personality in the UK. The website offers a growing selection of quaint B&Bs, charming inns, small boutique hotels and guest houses. Ali grew up in the capital and you can find her at her favourite London haunts or on twitter @enjoybnb when she’s not travelling the world!