Smokey Jerkey

Smokey Jerkey

I live in the sometimes dirty, smelly and er, ‘lively’ area of the capital and I love it. Right now, I’m living in Peckham, and you’ll often hear me sticking up for it. The high number of African and Caribbean people living here means we get some damn good grub, which by its nature is heavy on spice. Many restaurants here lack the polish and presentation of more Northerly establishments, which to be honest, is part of their charm.

Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly interested in Caribbean food, which started with a trip to the annual Jerk Cookout in the gardens of The Horniman Museum in 2007, on the off chance that it might be a nice day out. I would now never consider missing it. Holidays will be scheduled around it. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way and tried out my own recipes for jerk chicken and curry goat but as I’ve realised, these recipes are something which take a long time – years, generations even, to perfect. In the meantime I’ve dedicated my days to visiting as many Caribbean restaurants as possible and I’ve learned that you are on your own trying to work out the secrets of the good places – ask and they clam up completely; heads shake firmly and eyes widen in disbelief.

It’s not all good of course, there are always some howlers. When I was planning our recent Peckham restaurant crawl I planned to take everyone to a Caribbean place a few minutes from my doorstep: ‘God Bless Caribbean Restaurant’. Thank goodness I decided to check it out first. The jerk was incredibly bland, as was the curry goat (which was mostly bone anyway). Strangely, the rice and peas were the best I’ve ever had but not even that will make me return to sample their dry, tasteless, spiceless meat ever again. Shame, because it takes all of three minutes to get there. Lizzie on the other hand, is more fortunate. Literally a few minutes walk from her front door in New Cross stands the unassuming shack that is Smokey Jerkey. When she told me of the tantalising wafts of grill smoke she endures on a daily basis and the surly woman who turns out some of the best damn jerk she’s ever tasted, it was a done deal – I had to try it.

“Is it shut?” I asked as we approached, with more than a hint of desperation in my voice. It wasn’t – it just always looks like that. A padlocked grill covers the front and inside there are a couple of chairs and a counter where you order the food. That’s basically it. We ordered the jerk chicken with rice and peas (£3 lunch special), and scurried back to eat it.

The portion was generous and not too rice and pea heavy as can often be the case. The chicken was succulent and chopped  into hand manageable pieces in the way that Caribbean places always do. And the jerk seasoning? Brilliant. I found it pleasantly sweeter than other jerk I’ve had, sticky with caramelised crusty bits and infused with a smoky char. The flavour was fruity with scotch bonnet chillies and the heat started as a little numbing tingle on the lips and slowly built to good ‘n’ hot. We also doused on some hot sauce for good measure. The heady mix of spices was not too powerful and the extra sweetness prevented that dusty wallop that can happen when it’s a case of too much spice and not enough everything else.

All in all, this is some of the best jerk I’ve had in the South East and I highly recommend you try it if you are passing through the area.  By the way, if I’ve missed any SE London bloggers, then please do reveal yourselves – it’s always nice to find some more locals to share tips, drinks and maybe even restaurant crawls with. Also, I know I’m asking a lot of questions at the end of my posts right now but if you have some favourite jerk places anywhere in London then I’d love to hear about those too. I do venture North of the river occasionally you know…

Smokey Jerkey on Urbanspoon

158 New Cross Road, New Cross
London, SE14 5BA

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    Reply Su-Lin October 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Gosh, I haven’t had jerk chicken (or any Caribbean food) in a while – thanks for the gentle nudge!

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    Reply Jonathan October 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Fancy a trip to Negril in Brixton… supposed to be one of the best in London for Jerk Chicken…

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    Reply gastrogeek October 1, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Sounds like you can really handle your heat! Have you heard of ? Love that blog.

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    Reply Sharmila October 1, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Smokey Jerkey is the best name for a restaurant, ever.

    Negril are meant to do great jerk sausages at breakfast time! That I wanna try.

    And thanks for my firstest ever blog link!

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    Reply The Curious Cat October 1, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Hmmm…love jerk! I did a carribbean cookery course once – if you live in the South East it probably isn’t too far from you – Bromley Adult College at Kent House do it – twas good fun! xxx

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    Reply Wendy October 1, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    God, that looks amazing. That sweet, spicy goo of the chicken… Sigh. No Carribean restaurants in Inverness…

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    Reply Douglas October 1, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I’m SE – at least for a few more days. Drove past this please frequently – thanks for opening the almost barbed doors! (And stunning pictures).

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    Reply Lizzie October 1, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    YAAAAAY!!! Yay for Smokey Jerkey! I bloody love that place. The jerk belly pork is also a thing of great (if a bit chewy) beauty.

    I have to say, I’m pretty damn glad you liked it, after I was going on, and on, and on about it. What I also love about it best is the big drum bbqs they have out back, with their tantalising wafts of grilling meat. It really does drive me mental every Saturday morning when I stand on my balcony to survey the day.

    Browners – I want to come too!

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    Reply Ollie October 2, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Browners – count me in as well.

    We should all get together for a group jerk-off. Oh no, wait a minute…

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    Reply Sophie October 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Negril is fab – highly recommend it.

    I’m on the cusp between SE and SW, and only started my blog recently but I think I qualify as an ambassador of “vibrant and cosmopolitan” (cough) Sarf London.

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    Reply mark October 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Agree that Negril is fantastic for Jerk chicken. And great that its 1 minute away from my house!

    also, i’m surprised no one’s mentioned Tasty Jerk yet.

    Helen: although you had a bad experience at the jerk festival,
    it’s been amazing everytime ive been to their premises and also at the Lambeth country fair. Definately worth a go.. The “service” (if it can be called that) is a bit miserable though…

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    Reply ginandcrumpets October 5, 2009 at 11:34 am

    That place smelt amazing from Lizzie’s balcony. Another SE must to try. Hurrah for SE London and all who live/eat/fight in her.

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    Reply Helen October 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Su-Lin – 🙂
    Jonathan – We must! We also need to do a sandwich-off.
    Gastrogeek – No I haven’t thanks for the tip-off.
    Sharmila – My pleasure 🙂 and jerk sausages?! I NEED to go.
    The Curious Cat – oh well that sounds amazing. I will check that out for sure. I had no idea such courses were in existence.
    Wendy – Well you will have to make your own! Shame… 😉
    Douglas – and did you make it to Smokey Jerkey?
    Lizzie – I think I would be gaining weight not losing if I lived as near as you do. The wafts would be my downfall.
    Ollie – Ha ha ha! I can never stop myself from calling the Jerk Cookout the Jerk-off. Never fails to amuse me. We should though, go to Negril though. Let’s sort it.
    Sophie – Agreed, you are in. Bonus points for using one of my all time favourite words: ‘cusp’
    Mark – yeah, to be honest it was the service that was the problem, they were really just not up to it. The jerk I’m sure must have been good because they have won it two years in a row. I’ll definitely go back.
    Jassy – Hurrah!! and double hurrah!

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    Reply Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen October 5, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Jerk is no joke – it can be the best thing on earth, or a horribly dry and strangely odd combination of flavors that just aren’t balanced. Man, I miss Jamaica.

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    Reply salad club October 12, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Ooh, we love a bit of jerking. Being a Brixtonite, I tend to eat it over there – Take Two is good as they have a big barrelled barbecue outside in the road – but I’m definitley keen on travelling for it, especially if it’s only £3. Nice one!

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    Reply Rusty November 16, 2009 at 11:53 am

    ahh i never realised you were south-east. i am mostly posting this comment to say i am also located there, sydenham to be exact, but also as an apology for never getting back to you properly with the ending of the year of meats to fill you in on my next projects.

    anyway, my email is on my site/in these comments (?) and even though the beastfeaster finished and then i got very busy, there is an idea knocking around of which i think you will be fascinated. drop me a line!

    – rusty

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    Reply Manne December 6, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I better make myself known here then. My name is Magnus Hultberg, and I am an SE blogger. 😉

    Favourite jerk places: Negril on Brixton Hill and the couple in the park opposite The Old Vic, Lower marsh:

    Going to have to try Smokey Jerkey now. 🙂

    A Peckham restaurant tip: Ganapati, Holly Grove. Haven’t been there for a while, but if they are keeping standards up it is one of the best Indian places I know.

    // Manne

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    Reply Helen December 6, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Jenn – wise words indeed!
    Salad Club – brilliant, thank you!
    Rusty – thanks, have e-mailed you 🙂
    Manne – Hello! I have heard so much about Negril – really need to get down there. Thanks for the link too. I do love Ganapati. I’ve reviewed it here and even included it in a restaurant crawl – here!

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    Reply Dave January 22, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Hi. My mate just sent me a link to this, as I’m a huge Smokey Jerkey fan. I’ve moved out of New Cross now, but that shop was the absolute highlight of life there and is now commemorated by the desktop image on my laptop, which is an action shot of me and a mate eating in, shot from across the road.

    The Jerk Pork is brilliant.

    Small tip: try their soup. It’s ace. The only problem is that it’s almost impossible to get – I was always either too early or too late. It’s like there’s a two-minute window you have to climb through to grab it. As a rough guide, it opens somewhere between 4pm and 5pm on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Alice Through the Jerk Soup Window. Someone needs to write that book.

    If anyone’s up for a joint Smokey Jerkey session, my mate still lives on Hatcham Park Road and we’re overdue a Jerk reunion. What better way to meet fellow jerkees…

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    Reply Helen January 23, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Dave – Thanks for your comment. Some brilliant tips in there! I’ve e-mailed you.

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    Reply Sumit April 14, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Moved to New Cross recently and was prompted to check out Smokey Jerky after reading this post. Yum! Hooray! Thanks!

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    Reply michelle June 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Smokey Jerkey still is the best jerk, they now have a lunch special everyday between 12 and 1. It cost 3.00 for any meal on the menu.

    Well done smokey, keep the good food coming

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    Reply Mandrill October 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Smokey Jerky is F**k off brilliant. Unfortunately I live quite a long way from New Cross so I only ever pass it once in a while enroute to central London. I have never ever passed it while it is open and not purchased something. The Jerk Pork is absolutely sublime. It easily compares with Tasty Jerk of Crystal Palace. However unlike Tasty Jerk it also sells all the other delicious Caribbean foods like Oxtail and Curry Goat. Portions are extremely generous the food will be piled at least two inches over the rim of the container which they will contain with tightly wrapped foil.

    Smokey as a cafe is as basic as is possible….Many people would turn their noses up if they dared cross the threshold. To be truthful you would be forgiven if you believed that the cafe was abandoned the only clue to it being inhabited would be the outrageous smells emanating from the kitchen. For ‘hole in the wall’ This place is outstanding…..It does not have the long queues ala ‘Tasty Jerk’ but it easily compares in taste and that is no mean feat. Food 100%

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    Reply Miggy November 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm


    I recently moved to New Cross and am a 5 minute walk away from Smokey J.

    This evening, I ventured there for the first time and I was BLOWN AWAY.

    I shit you not when I say that this was the best jerk I have EVER had (and i’ve had a lot) outside the Caribbean (my parents are Grenadian).

    An absolute gem.

    All hail the Smokey Jerkey!


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    Reply Chino March 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    If any of you South Londoners ever defy gravity and break the Thames, you must try the best jerk chicken I have ever sampled that comes from a tiny little mobile outlet on Market Street in Islington (open Mon-Sat from noon until 4pm ish). The chicken is boned (which is a negative for me as I tend to eat pretty much EVERYTHING), but it is mouth wateringly juicy and the flavour packs a real punch. The rice and peas is pretty mind-blowing, too! *****RECOMMENDED.

    I’m off to try Bush Man’s in Brixton tonight…

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    Reply Chino March 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Great blog by the way! I look forward to trying your jerk recipe. Do you use the soaked allspice berries and beer with this recipe??? Thanks! 🙂

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    Reply Karl August 13, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    What’s the address?

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    Reply Helen August 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Karl – I’ve added it to the bottom of the post.

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    Reply dave March 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    This place open again yet? , went there last month to find it burnt out and shut.

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    Reply ChrisHatcham May 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Smokey Jerkey reopened a couple of months ago. Even more spartan now. Still the best jerk chicken in London.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen May 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Wahey! So glad it’s open again.

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    Reply Herol May 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I live round the corner from Smokey Jerky… very good chicken but not the best IMO!

    u need to go Jerk Scene in catford for the true jerk flavours, exactly how it tastes in JA

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      Reply Helen May 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks! I think Smokey J went downhill to be honest. I like Tasty Jerk in Thornon Heath which I’ve also written about. Much better. Will check out Jerk Scene!

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    Reply Robert June 14, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Tried mama jerkey today. Very spartan looking place but I ordered the jerk chicken as I went for that in the absence of a comprehensive menu. As I didn’t want to look like a complete newbie. Lovely jerked and smokey chicken (well i don’t have much experience) but the rice ‘n peas were just meh to me. Too stodgy to eat it all. Will try any other recommendations if anyone has one. Thanks.

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      Reply Helen June 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Yeah, that’s rice and peas! Or maybe that’s unfair, I make a lighter version at home using coconut milk.

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    Reply James July 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Closed again 🙁

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      Reply Helen July 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Really? What, for the foreseeable? Any signage?

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    Reply Jon Bennett August 11, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve loved reading your ‘food stories’ especially about The Tasty Jerk Centre and Smokey Jerkey. I’m always on the look out for a good jerk place to sample some good jerk chicken. I’ve tried Jerk Garden in Crofton Park and that has been very good. I’m originally from North London and worked in Tottenham for 4 years so I’m gonna recommend some of them for you. Da Lick in the Sainsburys car park down the road from White Hart Lane is really nice – proper drum bbq cooked chicken, as is Brown Eagle on White Hart Lane. As I’m now living in Bromley I’m gonna go check out Tasty Jerk and Smokey J to see how they compare.


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      Reply Helen August 11, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      Hey Jon, thanks very much for your comment. The recommendations are great, as I know very little of North London! I’ll definitely check them out.

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      Reply Helen August 11, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Oh and Tasty Jerk is definitely the best. Smokey Jerkey has been a bit variable since.

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    Reply Maria Nikita July 22, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Definately the best Jerk chicken I have tried in London. Great also rice and peas and festival. They also make other tasty foods.Very friendly owner which is a real bonus. 🙂

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