In the 1970s a flag-ship Indian restaurant opened on Ladypool Road branding a dish named the “balti” and before long there are Indian restaurants on every major street in the country and the “Balti” was well established as part of British culture. The same happened with the Chinese take-away and even the pizza. With so much competition, the real gems can often be hard to find, hidden away amongst the dazzling neon restaurant signs.
During the last two years however, it’s been the turn of Caribbean cuisine experiencing it’s own boom in fine dining for all to enjoy. As Levi Roots became Dragons Den’s most famous millionaire with his "Reggae Reggae" concept, all over Britain people began to sample Caribbean cuisine like never before. But like many cuisines, it’s hard to find somewhere that gives an authentic feel of Caribbean culture coupled with that honest quality of the food and service.
Some of the not so good issues include rock hard fried dumplings that are impossible to consume, through to endless waiting times even when you’ve arrived to pick up a meal you ordered half an hour before.
Birmingham does have plenty of favourites however; from the steamed vegetables of Super Sams on the Moseley Road, to the delightful Jerk Chicken pizza of Mish Mash on the Dudley Road, or even the convenient delivery concept of CJs Caribbean delivery. Recently however, I’ve taken to exploring the newly established Carib Grill on the corner of Moseley Village where the infamous Little Italy once stood.
There is something equally annoying and equally brilliant about a menu where you can’t decide what to order. From the bold and beautiful colour scheme, to the compelling “history of Jerk” which greets you as you begin to read. Each selection is written as an individual story illustrating the restaurants dishes.
Carib Grill on St Marys Row in Moseley is hard to miss with it’s Chilli-red, double-fronted entrance. The 100-cover restaurant is spread over three floors and is owner Clyde and family’s shrine to Jerk!
Clyde always greets us at our table with a smile and on our first visit we enjoyed four glasses of his infamous rum punch while we choose our food.
To start, I choose Jerk Shrimp which arrived packed full of intense flavours and presented to perfection. My friends choose the platter to share which includes delicately folded patties, sweet and sticky jerk wings, fresh plantain and a host of other mouth watering nibbles. As we wait for our mains, Clyde explains the process of his special Jerk infusing machine. The marinade is specially prepared and then injected into the centre of the meat so the taste goes right the way through as it cooks simply enhancing the flavour. The chicken is then finished in the Flamed Grill to seal the flavours in.
One of our party chooses the curried goat – sizzling hot from the kick of the scotch bonnet peppers. “It’s good," Laura says to partner Alvin, "but not quite as good as your mum’s”. I go for the Matagee, a delicious blend of yam, sweet potato, salt fish, coconut finished with fried dumplings. The dumplings have been made with love, fried lightly until crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle with a golden warmth. This is Caribbean cooking at its best and well worth the £20 per head price tag.