If you eat out once a week, every week, rotating between the usual choices of American, East-Asian, South-Asian and Middle-Eastern cuisines can get a little bit tiresome. That is not to say that I’m ungrateful for London’s endless array of halal restaurants, but rather, that after visiting a couple of burger diners or Thai restaurants in a row, it can all feel a bit “same same, but different”. (I’ve been itching to write that since visiting Bangkok).
The simple fact is that despite London’s cosmopolitan nature and the exponential growth in London’s halal industry, there remains a handful of cuisines where viable halal options are about as easy to come by as a unicorn circus. The inevitable result? The perpetual cycling of “go-to” cuisines described above. You can imagine then, that when I caught wind of Rudie’s – a contemporary Jamaican establishment with a halal-friendly kitchen, I nearly tripped over my dwarf-sized companion to pay them a visit.
Note: The lamb, chicken and beef are certified halal. Pork and alcohol are served on the premises, but the pork is stored and prepared separately to the halal items.
Housed in the hipsteresque borough of Stoke Newington, Rudie’s serves up an array of classic Jamaican dishes and modern Caribbean twists, thereby ensuring that they fit in with Stokey’s incessant need to “be different”.
Our own meal began with a portion of jerk calamari, which was every bit as interesting as the name would suggest. The remarkably soft calamari sat within a crumbly, crispy batter that more or less melted in the mouth, and though the calamari itself didn’t carry much of a “jerk flavour”, it remained tremendously appetising. The accompanying coriander and lime aioli did well to enhance the experience further, by delivering a sharp, spicy kick that stung the tastebuds.
Jerk Calamari with coriander and lime aioli (£7.50)
When it came to ordering a main course, the lamb rump instantly grabbed my attention. Cooked to a perfect medium, the rump was soft and succulent throughout, and almost buttery in nature. Each and every slice carried a rich and deep inherent flavour, and as the accompanying fat melted in our mouths, our olfactory senses were greeted by a wonderful aroma that wafted in with every bite. Quite frankly, we couldn’t have asked for anything more – (except literally perhaps, for a little bit more lamb). To add to this euphoria of flavours, I had ordered a pot of banana pepper sauce, and once again, my curiosity did not go unrewarded. The sauce was rich and pungent in nature, and carried an acidic sharpness that cut through the meat before dissipating into a subtle, underlying sweetness.
Lamb rump (£13.50)
Steak had opted for a half jerk chicken, which at Rudie’s, comes with a “jerk seasoning” rather than a traditional jerk gravy. The brittle, crispy skin could be peeled away with ease to reveal the tender chicken within, which possessed a subtle spice and a pleasantly aromatic flavour. It was however, slightly dry in parts, and next to the lamb rump, it didn’t offer anything spectacular to the palate.
Jerk chicken (£13.50)
Equally bewitched by Rudie’s selection of sauces, Steak decided to order both the jerk ketchup and the papaya sauce to accompany her chicken. The seemingly unremarkable papaya sauce surprised us both with a hot and fiery kick, whilst the jerk ketchup carried a delicate sweetness and a subtle tang. We also ordered a hearty bowl of rice and peas, which was more than generous enough for the both of us.
Value For Money: 3/5
My lamb rump cost £13.50, as did Steak’s jerk chicken. The jerk calamari meanwhile, cost £7, whilst the rice and peas cost £5, amounting to a final bill of £45, including service. Across the rest of the menu, starters range from £5-£6, mains range from £8 to £22, and desserts cost around £5-£6.
Whilst the food at Rudie’s is fantastically satisfying and of an undoubtedly superior quality to any other halal Jamaican eatery that we’ve come across, it does seem as though there’s a bit of a mismatch between the prices and the portion sizes. Alas, such is the nature of any eatery in a hipster hotspot, where overheads are inevitably high – perhaps due to the fresh, organic, gluten-free air that must be imported from abroad for the local hipster population to survive. Whatever the reason, be prepared for a sightly higher bill than you would expect.
Service on the other hand, is worth every penny, as staff members are extremely friendly, helpful, and attentive. Despite cramming ourselves into the far corner of the restaurant, our waitress ensured that we were not forgotten, and worked with an admirable level of efficiency.
Filled with dark wooden furniture and peculiar light fixtures that resemble palm trees, Rudie’s very much strives for a minimal but modern sense of styling. With two glass fronts, the restaurant is also basked in a plentiful amount of natural daylight, and thus, could pose a very real hazard to your wellbeing should your dining companion be as attractive as a gargoyle. The restaurant can be found a ten minute walk or bus ride away from Dalston Kingsland station, and parking spaces may be available on nearby residential roads.
(Image taken from http://www.rudieslondon.com)
Whilst the decor is fairly reserved, the dining environment within Rudie’s possesses a certain amount of vigour. The lively, laid-back atmosphere is very much in keeping with the ethos of the Caribbean, and it’s incredibly easy to just sit back and have a good time.
For those who are padded out with Thai, pide off with Turkish and want naan of the Indian, Rudie’s is the place to visit next. Whilst the menu may not be too kind to your wallet, Rudie’s offers a tantalising range of Jamaican dishes and Caribbean flavours that are otherwise difficult for the halal food enthusiast to find. At the very least, they can offer you a chance to refresh your palate and break the mould, and that alone renders them worthy of a visit.
Address: 50 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XB
Telephone: 0207 249 9930