Words and Photos by Riaz Phillips
Riaz Phillips’ new book Bellyfull (Tezeta Press) tells the story of Caribbean culture in the United Kingdom through food. The book spotlights over 60 restaurants, bakeries, butchers, takeaways and grocers, along with the owners behind each operation, many of whom share their stories of bringing their island’s food to their respective communities. With a cover designed by LargeUp family Robin Clare, Bellyfull is also available with the Bellyfull Likkle Cookbook, featuring family recipes for porridge, festival, curry goat, ital stew and Guinness punch, among other island tings. We had Riaz highlight his favorite hidden Caribbean food gems in his hometown of London.
After restrictions came in place limiting immigration to the USA in the mid 20th century, the U.K., and specifically England, became the predominant outpost for Caribbean people seeking a new life abroad.
The climate in the U.K. was markedly different to what people had known in their previous lives, and many looked to their old culture to recreate that sense of belonging that they had lost crossing the Atlantic. For Caribbean people, this often took the form of music —with the creation of events like Notting Hill Carnival, and the import of Jamaican sound system culture — and also food.
In the early days, Caribbean food was scarce in Britain due to the lengthy import times required for tropical produce. However, recent times have seen an explosion in the number of Caribbean food eateries around the country. These establishments are largely frequented by people of Afro-Caribbean heritage, as knowledge of Caribbean food still remains on the fringes — compared to foods from Asia, for example.
While new names now dot high streets and town centers across London, others have become legend in their own section of town by providing generations of good food and community service. More than places to simply eat, the Caribbean food spots spotlighted on this list have become community favourites in their respective parts of town.