Trendy Poor and Oxtails

Jerk Chicken and Salad, Rice and Peas

Jerk chicken, coleslaw, rice n’ peas

Last week I took the bus through Hackney (along Kingsland High Road) with my friend C. Looking through the bus window at all the delicious-looking exotic vegetable shops, halal butchers, and the chaotic Ridley Road Market, I was thinking that if I were to move to a different neighbourhood in London, I might like to go to Hackney. It seemed so full of life, rent was slightly cheaper, I could cycle to work – what more could I want?

My friend C is a Londoner born and bred, and she immediately scoffed. “B, only this street! I mean, yeah, this is great, this is ‘trendy poor,’ but go two blocks away and there is nothing and you take your life in your hands walking home from the bus!!” Right, I thought. Good to know.

For those of you who don’t know, Hackney was named worst neighbourhood in the UK last year on a national TV programme. It is a complex area of London – in the heart of new development for the Olympics, but still home to some of the city’s most deprived citizens. But we hadn’t come to Hackney to debate gentrification and issues of mixed communities. We came for the Caribbean take-away from Peppers & Spice.

As we lined up outside (Peppers & Spice always has a line) to grab our take-away, I got to thinking about the term “trendy poor”. I mean, I wanted to live in Hackney as it is a neighbourhood with people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds, there are many independent local businesses I could support, the restaurants around it are inexpensive and diverse and I would be able to get to work easily. But all of those reasons seem to fade away when you consider the lives and struggles contained in this neighbourhood as just a fashionable flash in the pan for a middle-class, educated, suburban Canadian like myself. What’s a girl to do?

Plaintains

Plantains

mac n cheese

Mac n’ Cheese

But I soon forgot all these mental conundrums when the food arrived. C ordered for both of us, and the girl got a little carried away in her order for two people: jerk chicken with rice, peas and salad; oxtail and butterbeans with rice, peas and salad; macaroni and cheese; fried plantain and a dumpling. Lord help us. The menu at Peppers & Spice is pretty traditionally Caribbean, with patties, different goat and lamb curries on offer, and drinks imported from Jamaica. They have some dishes they make daily, while others rotate – there are schedules posted on the wall of when dishes are made.

Oxtail, Butter Beans, Corn Salad

Oxtail and Butterbeans with Corn Salad

After we picked up the food we had a challenging and long bus journey up to Edmonton where we could finally tear into our now grease-saturated bags and eat to our hearts’ content. It was so so so good. We were able to split everything into 3 giant plates (one for C’s brother) and we still had food left over. I had never tried oxtail before, and I found it to be tender – a bit like fall off-the-bone spare ribs. The whole meal was deliciously decadent and rich; I don’t think I was hungry for two days afterward.

All together now

All Together Now: Oxtail with butter beans, mac n’ cheese, rice n’ peas, plantain, dumpling and jerk chicken

The prices at Peppers & Spice are, of course, reasonable. The total for everything came to £18, and C insisted on paying for me which I will have to make up for soon by cooking a very nice meal of some kind. I’m actually getting quite hungry thinking about this right now, so I’ll close with my verdict: 5 fingers out of 5 (it checked all the boxes: atmosphere, food, price, location, service).

And as for Hackney – I still consider it my next destination in London. It may not have the best transport connections, but it’s one of the beating hearts of life in the city. I would rather live next door to someone who could tell me where to buy a camel’s head if I needed one, than be in South Kensington where there is not an independent green grocer to be found for several kilometres, and where my corner shop is a Selfridges.

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This entry was posted in Obeisance at the Altar of Gastroporn, Restaurants, Safaris, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Trendy Poor and Oxtails

  1. Louisa says:

    Wow, that all looks delicious, I know where I’ll be going next time I’m in Hackney.
    The gentrification of Hackney gives me a bit of a moral headache too but, like all areas in London, you need to take the rough with the smooth. There will be conflicts between the rich and poor wherever you are but people who don’t feel the tension probably shouldn’t be there.

  2. polyvinyl says:

    What on earth was your friend on about!!! Dalston – where Peppers & Spice can be found – is one of the dodgier bits of Hackney… go a little north and you are in trendier Stoke Newington, south and you are in Shoreditch, west and you are in Islington. I live in a poorer part of Hackney and I would still recommend it as a great borough – especially for a foodie!

  3. eatlikeagirl says:

    I agree with polyvinyl. I used to live in Clapton, just north of hackney and it was fine! Very suburban, mind, which is why I moved. Must check this place out, looks great. Stoke Newington is a great spot for foodies too, for Rasa alone.

  4. Chameleon1218 says:

    I stumbled upon your blog after reading a comment you left on the NYTimes website. I had vowed to start a diet today – thanks to the photos in your post thats been shot to hell. *Smile*

    Great blog. Wish I were in the UK if only for lunch at Peppers & Spice.

  5. Debbi says:

    Was the Macaroni and Cheese good? I love macaroni and cheese, the perfect comfort food… especially on a cold fall day in Northern Canada… it’s not a dish I would think of as Jamaican?

  6. Mr Patrick Gordon says:

    Can you send me as much information as you can regarding recipes and the history of Jamacian food. Also any product information & magazines/brochures. Please either e-mail the information for me to download or post to my home address which is as follows:-

    Mr Patrick Gordon
    7 Calderstone Avenue
    Buttershaw
    BRADFORD
    West Yorskhire
    BD6 2AT

    Many Thanks

    Mr Patrick Gordon
    BRADFORD
    West Yorkshire

  7. Joshua says:

    A rather late reply to the post but it popped up in a Google search.

    I’m a Dalston resident and frequent Peppers & Spice customer, in the last week or so it’s left Kingsland Road (the old building is being developed for the underground extension) and is now just around the corner on Balls Pond Road, maybe 50m up on the right.

    Same great food though.

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