approximately one hundred years ago (fact), i headed out with the girls to a rum shack pop-up in the middle of soho square. we drank all kinds of rum punch, filled up on roti breads and rice and peas and all sorts of curried animals, and listened to a steel drum band play calypso tunes while it rained in central london. it was confusing, but it was enjoyable; mainly because it was delicious.
that was my first introduction to sugar dumplin'. oh actually, that's a lie! about a hundred years before that (another fact) i'd read a few reviews about a new restaurant that had opened up in glasgow (because yeah, i travel for food), and i was impressed that this jamaican restaurant chain seemed to have restaurants in random parts of the country - glasgow, camberley, kingston - but just not london. bizarre.
but then.. but then the pop-up happened, and we wondered why. well, less wondered *why* and more wondered *when*, and then patiently waited to see a press release announcing the chain's new, central london restaurant. and waited. aaaand waited. and then! the day came! and we discovered the first london chain was to be opened in.. wembley. and while wembley's not necessarily the handiest of all the locations, it's only a 20 min journey from work, and it's located right in the designer outlet mall - so handy when you've worked yourself up a hunger from all the designer outlet shopping, or, you know.. wembley. so, i went. and maaaaaate, let me tell you a few things, yeah..
starter | sweet potato fries | £3.45
a staple in my eating-out diet for sure, but these ones? not oily or soggy like a lot of burger chains do 'em, rather, these were tender in the middle with a lovely, crispy skin to make the first bite just that little bit crunchier. plus, they came seasoned with nigella seeds and spring onion garnish, so the fries picked up a definite hint of flavouring from the fresh ingredients sprinkled on top. these were demolished with absolutely no qualms, or need to continuously wipe my fingers. you know those feels, right? this starter was one i can whole heartedly recommend.
starter | jerk chicken wings | £4.95
it's a classic, no? i'd never really heard of "jerk chicken" before moving to the uk, and now i can't get enough. i've had so many different variations of the classic seasoning, but this one was a whole 'nother ball game. traditionally, caribbean cuisine has a mixture of loads of influences, from indian to spanish, chinese to african, french and a touch of british, yet i can never seem to recreate it. these wings were marinated in the house jerk, then finished on the grill in the "jerk pit" with a mango glaze. those are two of my favourite words, really, and combined, this dish did not disappoint!
ben had himself half a jerk chicken for his main (£11.25 with a side of rice a peas), and his only comment? "could've done with being a bit spicer though. but it had those sexy burnt bits that were really good", so i think we count that as a positive.
main | curried goat + dumplings | £13.95
oh my. so, i'd had this at the pop-up last year, and immediately fell in love. like, when i was a kid we ate a lot of goat so i'm no stranger to the meat, but those flavours? that combination of herbs and spices? get ooooout, it's too much! when i saw a variety of curried goat options on the menu, i knew i'd be having one of them. but which? there was a roti option, which i guess came in a wrap type construction, or there was the main that came with a side of either plantain chips, house fries, rice and peas, or "festivals". i didn't know what the hell this was, so when i asked and i got the "oh no you didn't" look from the server, i ordered them. blind.
the curry came out, meat off the bone, in a stew-looking dish served with potato and carrots. fine. standard. then on the side were these, like, crunchy logs of dough. they were hard to the touch, and warm as hell, and smelt.. well, they smelt sweet and cinnamony - which i though was super weird but once i'd ripped one open and dipped it in the curry.. heavenly. utterly divine. the sweet flavours in the super dense bread perfectly complimented the spices in the curry, and i couldn't have been more smug at my excellent ordering skills.
dessert | sweet sugar dumplings | £5.95
despite being entirely too-full from devouring the previous course's carby side, the server who was clearing our dishes somehow persuaded us to try the dessert dumplings as the "main course dumplings aren't even the sweet ones, honey!" i mean, who needs more convincing than that? clearly not me, as we ordered them. these ones came out in a round ball serving, with some vanilla bean ice cream on the side for good measure. and my gooodness, she was right. the main course ones aren't sweet in comparison to these. to quote ben again: "they smelt like happiness. i could probably live in a house made of them." need i say more?
drinks | all the cocktails | from £8.45
now, the best part of the meal? the cocktails. the selection was really solid, and varied. everything was rum-based, obviously, but in a really clever way. my favourites were the 'wray and ting', which was white rum, lime, and ting. brilliant. i also really liked the 'jamaican mojito', which was just a passionfruity twist on the classic, and the 'short skirt' - a disaronno and raspberry combo that i genuinely loved, despite thinking that i'd hate it. ben's favourite was the pornstar martini, and he wanted me to tell you that his masculinity isn't too fragile that he can't drink fancy drinks. so there.
all in all, and despite the trek out there, we had a bloomin' amazing time at sugar dumplin'. the staff were seriously some of the friendliest, chattiest and most charming i've dealt with in such a long time, and their recommendations were really spot on. the restaurant wasn't busy - but it was a monday, so it's hard to say what it's usually like. i expect that on game days, or on a weekend when the mall is thriving that it would be another story, but.. definitely go. i mean, if i've not convinced you five times over to go by now, then i am going to quit blogging right here and now because, what's even the point.
find your local restaurant here.
*our meals were complimentary, but all words are my own*