The first sunny summery Friday night of the year found my friend L and I hungry for Carribbean food in Brixton. Too late for the stalls and shops around Brixton Village, we decided to try the Brixton institution that is Bamboula. Tucked away opposite the Town Hall, its bright frontage brings a bit of cheer to the bottom of Acre Lane and some home cooked charm to Brixton.
This cheerful feel continues inside with its wooden beach hut feel, lively music and well situated tables. Since it was about 5.30, the restaurant wasn’t currently busy, but many of the tables had reserved signs, suggesting you would be lucky to get a table later on!
We tucked ourselves in at the side of the bar so I could peruse the menu and people watch at the same time. The warm weather put us in mind for a refreshing cocktail and we were pleased to see such a big selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic punches and juices on the menu. However this vast selection made it almost impossible to make a decision and when the waitress came for the drinks order, we still hadn’t decided between rum punch or sorrel. She kindly brought us a little taster of the sorrel drink as she thought we were less likely to enjoy its distinctive taste. The spicy gingery drink was enhanced by a hearty slug of rum and was just the ticket for a summery evening. We lived dangerously and ordered the jug for 4 people before turning our attention back to the food.
The menu offers all the Carribbean favourites including both jerk chicken and lamb, along with a good selection of fish dishes and several meat-free options too. Neither of us was in the mood for fish, unusually for me. I decided to go with the jerk chicken since I haven’t eaten it for longer than I would care to remember. L dithered over the rundown chicken but decided the coconut might be too rich with the sorrel. She chose the stew chicken instead and we both went for rice and peas as the side dish from the extensive choice offered. We also couldn’t resist some fried plantain on the side.
The food arrived in good time and while it wouldn’t win any prizes from the Great British Menu judges for presentation, it looked extremely appetizing. Everything looked fresh and hot and were good sized portions. We didn’t stand on ceremony and got stuck in as soon as we could. My jerk chicken was beautifully tender and tasty, but I would have liked a bit more of a kick to it. The rice and peas were aromatic and very moist and the plantain was deliciously sweet without being overripe. L’s stew chicken was fabulous, the meat was so tender it was actually quite difficult to pick up with a fork while the gravy was mouthwatering. A real winner!
We thoroughly enjoyed the food, feeling replete afterwards without that uncomfortable over-full feeling. The tables were starting to fill up as we finished eating, but I was interested to see that the place had been busy throughout the meal with people popping in to get fresh home-cooked food to take home after work. We decided to move out to the small tables out front to soak up a bit of evening sunshine and finish our drinks while L had a cigarette. We paid the bill first, and it came to a very reasonable £37.50. This was especially good value as our super-friendly waitress had actually given us the jug of sorrel for 6 people, but only charged us for the smaller jug. We left a good tip and wandered outside to marvel at the crowds waiting to see Janet Jackson arrive at the Ritzy. With good hearty food, delicious drinks and some proper Brixton entertainment, it’s easy to see why Bamboula is a bit of a local institution, perfect for a Friday night!