Tucked away on the corner where Stoke Newington Road meets Arcola Street is an endearing Jamaican restaurant called Rudie’s, somewhat inconspicuous among the numerous eateries and store fronts which line the gentrifying road. Yet, like part of an elaborate marketing ploy, the distinguishable aroma of meat being jerked seeps out onto the street, as though deliberately attempting to be inviting and to arouse the appetites of passers by. The welcoming scent of rich flavours – yes, this is a restaurant which actually seasons its food heartily – only intensifies upon entry.
We’re seated swiftly by hospitable staff. Carefully selected interiors such as lighting in the shape of palm trees and artworks with colourful typography make the restaurant feel distinctly Jamaican, but without any exaggeration that would make it incongruous to its actual location. This discerning design is a welcome contrast to the extremely commercial Turtle Bay, whose interiors are vulgar and pretentious overuse of the colours yellow and green is perhaps to compensate for the fact that neither of the owners are themselves Jamaican. At least one of the owners of Rudie’s however, the one whom we had the privilege of meeting, is. The chefs that we saw too are certainly at least Caribbean if not also from Jamaica.
Smooth soul and reggae plays at the perfect volume. The food arrives in good time, just before our hunger becomes insufferable. The food is as impressive as the aesthetics and the ambience, as it always ought to be. The pork ribs starter, glazed unsparingly in a molasses barbecue sauce, was perfectly flavoursome and tender, falling gracefully off the bone and far outshining the crispy calamari. The golden plantain which accompanied the great tasting and perfectly textured jerk chicken was cooked to perfection, making the rice and peas forgettable. The meal was only made better by the fact that half chicken is half price on Mondays at Rudie’s. The ‘hot’ jerk sauce beautifully enhanced the flavour of the jerk chicken with which it served and was smeared over the chicken wings with which we finished our meal. Be warned though that it is not for the faint hearted – it makes makes Nandos’ ‘extra-hot’ peri peri sauce taste like mayonnaise in comparison.
The neatly packaged portions are deceptively generous – after numerous plates and several glasses of dangerously delicious rum punch and strong ‘Tingwray’ cocktails (priced reasonably at £6 on Mondays rather than the usual £7.50), we had very little room remaining for dessert. Mind you, room would easily have been made if not for the fact that they’d run out of the tempting ‘apple crumble and rum custard’. When we inevitably return soon to try that, we’ll ensure that it’s on a weekend, so that we can partake in the bottomless rum punch brunch promotion!
The breadth and sufficiently carnivorous nature of the menu makes self-restraint difficult for us, but although the bill totalled to a little more than we’d intended, it cannot be said that the prices are unreasonable. The food is certainly worth what it costs. It is homely and authentic, served by warm and diligent staff. In a borough now saturated with clinical, out-of-touch outlets charging colossal prices for meagre sized, bland tasting meals, there is no better kind of establishment to support than Rudie’s, which is essentially the polar opposite.