With the weather in London steadily getting warmer, Wicket was in the mood for food befitting the sunny climate. We therefore ventured to Jerk City, a small Jamaican/Caribbean restaurant in Soho. The last time I ate at Jerk City, it was still called Mr Jerk and the staff had yet to have their allegedly acrimonious split which led to the establishment of a rival Jamaican restaurant directly next door – Savannah Jerk. Thankfully, the quality of the food generally hasn’t diminished.
I’m quite fond of Jamaican-style dumplings. These hearty balls of dough are denser, stodiger versions of English dumplings so they’re very different from Asian dumplings. Jerk City’s dumplings hit the spot, but the miserly
amount of surprisingly bland salt fish topping was very small. Disappointing.
Tiny slivers of salt fish on massive dumplings.
Much more impressive was the jerk chicken. I’m used to jerk chicken being quite a dry dish, so I was surprised by the liberal amount of sauce smothering the chicken. The meat was still tangy and peppery and although it wasn’t especially spicy given that scorching scotch bonnet peppers supposed to be used in the marinade for jerk chicken, it wasn’t mild either. The spiciness was cumulative, slowly building to tongue tingling effect.
The jerk chicken can be ordered with either rice and peas or hard food. I much prefer hard food, if only because it’s much less common than rice. The hard food – boiled yams, sweet potato, plantains and dumplings – are very starchy and perfect for soaking up the tangy sauce. It helps make for a very filling, stomach bulging dish.
I could make a crude joke here about jerking meat, but I won’t.
Wicket opted for a mutton curry with hard food, although it was mistakenly delivered with rice and peas instead. The furry little fellow dived in regardless and seem to enjoy the earthy curry with its distinct, but not too piquant blend of herbs and spices. The meat was apparently tender, but not too soft and still had a firm bite to it.
‘Mutton’ is a funny word.
We washed it all down with soursop juice (also known as soursap, sour apple or guanabana). Made from the flesh of a tropical fruit, it’s creamy with a tart, slightly sour yet sweet taste and couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. It’s thicker and more satisfying than the stuff you can get in cartons at your local supermarket.
The bright decor festooned with amateurish paintings resembles a student union cafeteria and isn’t anything to write home about. Aside from the mixup with Wicket’s choice of mutton curry accompaniment, service was friendly and helpful. Ordering has a slightly fast-food feel to it – order at the counter and then snag a table where your food is brought to you. Since the L-shaped room is quite small with space for only a dozen or two covers at most, it’s best to arrive early. This is especially true as some popular dishes, such as the jerk chicken, can run out as the night progresses.
Jerk City isn’t perfect, but for filling, interesting, inexpensive food in a very informal setting, it’s hard to beat.
Name: Jerk City (formerly Mr Jerk)
Address: 189 Wardour Street,London, W1F 8ZD
Phone: 020 7287 2878
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday midday-22.30, Sunday midday-20.00
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person: approx. £12-15