People get ready… Bus Stop is here with good food and great music
My family are originally from Portland in Jamaica and good, well-seasoned food, is as important as breathing to them. So much so, the day before they come to visit they’ll cook up a feast, seasoned within an inch of its life, and bring it with them to ensure a pleasant journey. What’s more, two days before they leave they’ll begin seasoning meat all over again in preparation for their picnic on the way home. It’s no wonder I love my food.
To my excitement last year I discovered not one but two new Caribbean restaurants in Brighton – finally somewhere to take the family when they come down! The first was Juke’s in Hove. The second, Bus Stop on the corner of Vine Street and North Road. This Saturday I popped along with Dad (Caribbean Connoisseur) in tow to see whether it matched up to the home cooking we’re used to.
Small Vibrant & Warming
Bus Stop is a small restaurant, only 24 seats, and just like the Caribbean, it has a laid back feel about it. The decor is vibrant and warming with bright red wood-panelled walls and family photos, from the owners, Dominique & Danny’s previous life in Barbados. The focal point of the room is the bar at the back, lit up by multicoloured LED strips.
Using the tagline, ‘from Barbados to Brighton’ you’d think this is a Bajan restaurant. However, a quick scan of the menu reveals there are in fact a mix of all sorts of Caribbean favourites. It’s not just the food either, there’s a Bajan rum punch – £7.50, on the menu and Ting – £2.50, a zingy fizzy drink flavoured with Jamaican grapefruit juice. Dad and I are almost jumping up and down with excitement for all the familiar options.
Fiery Fishcakes With Substance
To start, Dad orders Bajan fish cakes – £5, served with Marie Rose sauce and I order the pumpkin and sweet potato soup – £4, with toasted garlic bread. The deep-fried, doughy fish balls have a killer kick and whereas so often fishcakes can be bland and boring, these have real substance to them. Marie Rose sauce isn’t usually something I like but this worked well with the dish, helping to cool its spiciness.
My soup is very pleasant too, creamy and velvety smooth. Although, it’s thinner than I expect given the description on the menu is “thick and creamy”. The garlic bread is an odd accompaniment, not at all Caribbean and possibly shop bought. A sweet harddough bread would be more authentic to serve alongside and much less filling. At just £4 though it’s a bargain and perfect for lunching on a budget. I enjoy it a lot and before long there’s not much left in the bowl to share with dad.
Beautifully Tender Meat
My favourite Caribbean dish is curry goat, which is sometimes substituted with mutton, an older sheep that’s fuller in flavour than lamb and requires very slow cooking. Bus Stop’s version of this dish – £10.50, is made with lamb and comes with butternut squash and potato, alongside mango chutney, pickled cucumber and a dhal puri roti skin served “Buss-up Shot” style (with the roti on the side) or “Trini Roti” style (in the wrap), not with rice and peas as they do in Jamaica. I go for ‘Buss-up Shot”.
Tucking in, I find the lamb, which is sourced locally, is beautifully tender but mild in terms of spice. I realise some people find too much spice difficult to handle but I’ve been brought up on curries that require a fire extinguisher on standby, so for me, it was more tailored to British taste buds.
Greed caused me to make the mistake of ordering rice and peas to go with my main. The rice was perfect but with the roti (carefully sourced from Croydon to ensure authenticity), potato AND butternut it was far too much. My advice is to take it as it comes unless you’re famished.
Being a big fan of pork (it’s a Caribbean thing) Dad orders Danny’s stuffed ‘proper’ pork chop – £13.50, with onion gravy, plantain, coleslaw and a choice from the sides menu. Any half decent Caribbean chef won’t cook anything unless it’s seasoned at least two days prior and I was pleased to discover Danny followed the same principle.
After snatching a morsel of dad’s plate and discovering the pork is mouthwateringly delicious and full of flavour I have the worst food envy. The onion gravy is a tasty accompaniment and the slaw crisp and cut into nice big chunks. The plantain was fine – although not stand out – and I suspect it may be fried and then warmed up. Finally, I find a lovely light lime vinaigrette dressing all over the salad, providing a welcome freshness to end on.
After all this there was barely room to move but somehow Dominque convinces us to end with a mango sorbet, £3.50. The two generous scoops were refreshing but not homemade.
PRICE: £55 for 2 people (drinks and dessert included)
RATING: Must Go | Give It A Miss | Worth A Try
SCORES ON THE DOORS: Awaiting inspection…
The combination of rum punch, a playlist of reggae music that could be from my own collection and fiery Bajan spices, takes me back to an afternoon on a Barbados beach. Would I head back to explore more of the menu? Without a doubt.
Need To Know
Bus Stop is closed on Monday and opens, Tuesday and Wednesday – 11am to 5pm. Thursday to Saturday – 11am to 10pm.
Have you visited Bus Stop yet and what did you think? Or is there another Caribbean restaurant you think I should review? Leave me a comment below and let me know.
*Disclaimer: I was invited to Bus Stop to review and our meal was complimentary, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.