Negril, Brixton

August 16, 2012


Negril Jerk Chicken

I’ve been attempting to visit Caribbean restaurant Negril for yonks. Like, years yonks. The first failed attempt came when a Brixton restaurant crawl (yep, restaurant crawl – I also did one in Peckham) was cut short. Two years passed with no success. Then I started working opposite the damn place. Surely my time had come? Opening times were duly noted and I skippy skipped over there at lunchtime the next day to find it…shut. Turns out the opening hours written on the sign outside are completely inaccurate. Ace.

Anyway the other evening I ended up in there on the spur of the moment. I was drunk. I was hungry. I was nearby. The outside tables were rammed with punters on a beautiful sunny evening; excitement levels and expectations were high. We ordered a half jerk chicken meal, sat back with a couple of beers and waited to revel in the very definition of delayed gratification.

That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because that jerk was poor. The chicken had barely a taste of allspice, hardly any chilli heat to speak of and a skin that was really quite odd; a little bit like eating tracing paper. Mostly however, it was just incredibly dry. So dry it was actually hard to chew and swallow. There were two hot sauces; one is worth mentioning as having quite an unapologetic shitload of scotch bonnets in it. The slaw was…meh; way too much mayonnaise. The salad was a salad.

If the food had been any good, I could let the presentation go, but seeing as it wasn’t, I’m going to get annoyed about the fact that they’ve tried to make it more restaurant-y in style by putting everything in bowls and using *gasp!* a proper plate. The best jerk chicken in London comes in a takeaway carton, hacked into pieces with a cleaver, shoved on top of a mound of rice and peas, hot sauce squirted carelessly on the side. Behold my meal at Tasty Jerk

Why is Negril apparently so legendary amongst Brixton locals? Perhaps it’s gone downhill? Frankly, I’m baffled. And, after a 3 year wait, also extremely deflated. Come to think of it, I’ve never found any really good jerk in Brixton. Does it even exist?

132 Brixton Hill
Tel: 020 8674 8798

Negril on Urbanspoon

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  • Reply siepert August 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Really weird: Brixton should be THE place for jerk but isn’t. Well, at least not in restaurants. Judging from the quantities of thyme & scotch bonnet flying out of Brixton Village everyone’s just making it at home. Speaking of which, the place opposite Lab G on the Coldharbour Lane entrance of the village used to be the shit on days when they made the jerk fresh, proper smoker outside and everything. But they’re gone. So Thornton Heath it is for the foreseeable future.

    • Reply Helen August 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      It’s amazing isn’t it? I can’t understand it. I agree that everyone must be making it at home. There’s a guy near to the Hootenanny I keep meaning to try but haven’t made it yet.

  • Reply Rabidbarfly August 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    That’s a shame, Mrs Rabidbarfly and I have been wanting to try that place for EVER! Turns out the best jerk chicken I’ve ever had is my own…and mine rocks. But then I found a little shop that sells amazing jerk sauce and left to marinade overnight…it’ll f**k you up. hehehe.

    • Reply Helen August 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      It’s so annoying honestly, I was gutted. Still, now I’ve done it so you don’t have to! You going to let me in on the secret of where you buy this sauce, then?

  • Reply Rabidbarfly August 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    As soon as I remember the name of the shop. It’s a little Turkish(I think) run place a few doors down from Streatham Odeon.

    • Reply Helen August 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Ha! Wicked, cheers.

  • Reply siepert August 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    @Helen: The guy who’s setting up in front of one of the residential houses there? Agree, stuff smells the part there.

    • Reply Helen August 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Yeah that’s the one. It does smell quite good. Definitely worth a try anyway…

  • Reply Lizzie August 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I went a couple of years ago and it was exactly the same, lots of hot sauce needed to get any moisture / flavour. Presented the same way too. I don’t hold any grudges against me dinner being presented on a plate with dishes though, but then I’m shit at eating out of those tubs – RICE EVERYWHERE.

    • Reply Helen August 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Ha ha I wouldn’t say I held a grudge. I just note the fact that they presented it all nice like yet it was shit. Well if it was like that a couple of years ago…probably no hope.

  • Reply adam and theresa August 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Helen, I don’t knowmuch about jerk being veg, but I know the feeling of just trying to find some proper traditional food without all the bullshit. There is a woman set-up on Hildreth St in Balham; just on the street with a smoking drum. Might be good..take your chances and let me know!

    • Reply Helen August 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      I will check it out, thanks! Are you pescetarian or veggie? Jerk fish is nice…

  • Reply Nic August 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Wagwan. You got to get to UJC. Ultimate Jerk Centre. Coldharbour Lane. I eat there at least once a week. Da Super Jerk Special for £3.99 is for real mon. And Rice ‘n Peas with Oxtail Gravy.

    • Reply Helen August 16, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      Sweet! I love how it’s so modestly named…will check it out, mon.

  • Reply KSalty August 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I’ve been to Negril once – like you had wanted to go for ages, lured by its colourful yellow exterior, the pics of palm trees and the fact it’s always packed. But the jerk was just meh, the room was bare and we haven’t been back. The smoothies from Negril’s smaller place in Balham are pretty good though!

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 8:03 am

      Yeah I wouldn’t ever go back that’s for sure! Such a let down. If I ever find myself in Balham I’ll definitely check out the smoothies. I didn’t realise they had another place!

  • Reply msmarmitelover August 17, 2012 at 8:28 am

    The salad was a salad.
    Probably the best line I’ve ever read in food criticism.

    Have you tried @courtesandimsum’s jerk chicken dim sum?

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Ha ha! Well you know, it was. I haven’t! Jerk chicken dim sum? That sounds a bit…mental…

  • Reply Jess August 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

    There’s a dude who sets up late at night in the garden next to the Hootenanny. That’s the one you need. Staggering distance from my house too. Obviously the experience slightly hard to judge as I’m usually, ahem, a little worse for wear if I’m there, but it’s GOOD.

    Take two at the back of the Village used to be good but it’s been taken over by some Villagers with clean tiles now *sigh*

  • Reply Jess August 17, 2012 at 9:39 am

    The other great thing is (and you can leave this unmoderated if you want, haha) that they’ll share spliff with you too

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 9:47 am

      NO chance of me leaving that one unmoderated! Ha ha. Also, I’ve been meaning to try that guy for AGES. Ages!! Now I’m definitely getting down there pronto 😉

  • Reply Jonathan August 17, 2012 at 10:01 am

    What a shame it wasn’t up to scratch. The only solution is for you to open a jerk shack.

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 10:05 am

      Me sad! You said it used to be good? You’re right, this is the only solution. I’m jacking in the PhD and job and setting up hawking jerk (kind of really want to do that)

  • Reply Tiffany August 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I have been to Negril a few times but was too drunk to notice the details… I just needed food. However, I have to say…FINISH the PhD before you get the food van…no point in going through half the pain and getting no reward. Just my two bits having done it and also wanting a food van 😉

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Oh don’t worry, I have every intention of finishing it!

  • Reply FoodieClaire August 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Also brings home how much I miss my one time only experience of Jerk Cookout in Brockwell Park which I really wish would return. Only time I might get close is extortionate Notting Hill Carnival. Gah.

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      I know, I can’t believe that event doesn’t happen any more. GUTTED.

  • Reply FoodieClaire August 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    The salad looks disappointing. Trying way too hard. Where’s the coleslaw???

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Back right…

  • Reply Robert August 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Agree with marmitelover on your comments about the salad. So dismissive!!! Lol

    *sighs* must get out and find the good jerk chicken places you mention soon as Notting Hill is fast approaching and I’m in the mood for some proper jerk chicken! The sort of basic shack like affair serving cheap, hot and fantastically fresh food.

    • Reply Helen August 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      Ha ha! Yeah I mean really, what to say about it?! If you can face the trek to Thornton Heath then tastyjerk is worth it

  • Reply Leigh August 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    that Jerk looks IMMENSE!

  • Reply Favourite Table August 23, 2012 at 6:36 am

    I love this place. Firstly, it’s on Brixton Hill, a little out of central Brixton, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a table (annoying when you go for brunch with friends and have to queue for a seat). Secondly, the laid back atmosphere, great music and outdoor seating (if it’s sunny) are perfect for chilling out with friends. Thirdly, the food is great! They do the regular English fry-up, some breakfast options with a Caribbean twist, fresh coconut milk and brilliant smoothies. No complaints!

    • Reply Helen August 23, 2012 at 10:56 am

      How odd that we had such different experiences…

  • Reply Omar August 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I own the property above Negril and live there with my flatmates. The owner of the place (Latanya) is simply awful and we can always hear her shouting at her staff. Last year I had to report her for keeping a fridge of FOOD in my garden. The chest fridge didn’t even have a proper lid just a board of wood. The same owner illegally put a boiler vent and waste pipe through our wall and when we complained were threatened by her staff. Really if you could see the kitchen like we can you wouldn’t eat there.

  • Reply miss south August 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve eaten there several times and while it’s not the best jerk I’ve had, I enjoyed it and the chicken has never been dry (unlike many stalls where they’ve cooked it into submission.)

    I’ve had good experiences at Negril, but it does seem split between people who love it and people who had a hellish experience with no middle ground whatsoever which always makes my eyebrow raise slightly.

  • Reply C.A January 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    The food in negril is amazing. Don’t take the advice of this clown who admits he was drunk when he stumbled in there. Perhaps he wated a prawn sandwich! 😮

    • Reply Helen January 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Who is ‘he’ and how often does he ‘wate’ a prawn sandwich?

  • Reply Jon Green July 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    “the slaw was…meh; way too much mayonnaise”

    What a middle class dilemma that must have been for one!

    • Reply Helen July 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      Totally. I debated it while I perused the latest colours of Birkenstocks on my ipad.

  • Reply judit September 19, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    I couldn”t disagree more, I’ve going to Negril for the past 7 years and the food its really nice and well prepared. As far as I know the people running the resaturant now its not the same that when you went , so will advice you to go back.
    the chicken is very moist and tasty, it doesn’t have to taste of chilly as you mentioned. you need to be able to taste the chicken not only heat. the rice and peas were a bit dry but not to bad, and the gravy was so good that my mate who works in Nobu was very impressed. you must eat in not take away. maybe try it again

  • Reply Zandra July 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    My friend and I went to Negril last Saturday on the spur of the moment after doing a bit of shopping in South London. Before we went, we called and asked whether we could eat in, as we found the restaurant off Google
    When we got there it was packed, but we were offered a table and sat outside as it was nice weather. I can only speak for myself, as someone who can cook all the food in the restaurant, what I ordered was nicely presented and tasty. We enjoyed the meal and I will definitely go back. Stella the Manager was ever so nice and helpful.

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