Taste of the Caribbean

Jonathan Bryan runs Jerk Fusion in Walthamstow High Street
Jonathan Bryan runs Jerk Fusion in Walthamstow High Street

Marcia Veiga takes a tour of the borough’s best Caribbean eateries

Both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago marked the 58th year of their independence from the United Kingdom last month, but what celebrations there would have been instead became a virtual experience.

For Waltham Forest residents wanting to sample a taste of the Caribbean, some new family-run businesses offer the opportunity to savour traditional meals. Don’t know where to start? I have tried and tested a favoured few, so you don’t have to!

At the lower end of Walthamstow Market lies a beige front store with white-painted letters spelling ‘Jerk Fusion’. Owner Jonathan Bryan first started catering under the name five years ago, opening the shop two years later. Jonathan told me: “Accessibility is important to me, so I’ve kept my prices down to ensure everyone can have a taste of Caribbean food.”

After trying his most-popular jerk selection of chicken wings, tender lamb chops and signature skinless chicken sausages, I was in awe. There is no compromising when it comes to flavoursome dishes coated with the perfect level of heat, complimented with dashes of Jonathan’s homemade hot sauce and mouthfuls of quinoa salad.

When it comes to early mornings, Crave Caribbean in Lea Bridge Road is the perfect pit-stop for lining the stomach. The breakfast menu offers a choice of okra, fish or ackee and saltfish. Lighter options include porridge with peanut, cornmeal or plantain and, for colder days, they have four different soups. Locally-sourced fruits are blended into either a punch or natural juice – my personal picks are the peanut punch or sorrel and ginger juice.

Meanwhile, for those who want to enjoy the comforts of the Caribbean from their sofa, I highly recommend Shellybelly’s. Owner Joel Swaby and partner Tania Dawkins first graced Walthamstow’s twilight market back in 2016, before creating their own pop-up shop.

Having tasted their colourful spread of five mains and five sides, I’m a huge advocate of the ackee and callaloo, with a side portion of ‘smokey Joe’ mac and cheese. Tania says: “Authenticity is the ultimate goal for us. It’s easy to create shortcuts especially when it comes to seasoning, but we’ve made it a point to make it relative to its origin. We’ve had customers who haven’t visited back home in years tell us our food takes them back there.”