After wandering around Tulse Hill with a friend (we showed up early) and working up a sweat in the summer heat, the correct atmospheric conditions had been arranged for a trip to Bubba’s – where they serve old time Caribbean food but with ridiculously flawless levels of presentation.
Nouvelle Caribbean, they’re calling it. And until that point I’d never even heard the word…
Bubba’s is oddly and strategically placed right next to Tulse Hill train station. So strategic that we could actually see food being made through the window as the train drew in. Kinda cool. And from my experiences of ‘Afrocaribbean’ – I was expecting a corresponding level of heat from the cuisine (I don’t have a particularly fiery palette). Yet nothing really ‘got’ me here.
And this is great, because the food overall, was amazing and very, very different…
Bubba’s head chef, Anthony Cumberbatch is something of a food hero, having won Caribbean Chef Of The Year, repeatedly. I knew this before I’d come to review so was eager to see if he was as good as the accolades suggested. We would test him. The accolades? Seems like Anthony’s earned them.
Soothing… is that the word? Bubba’s is modern and open. There are recessed 70s style mirrors creating a futuristic sense of space, with similarly futuristic blue LEDs on the wall. I liked it (though I’m no interior design critic!). There were people at the front who looked like friends of the owners, and there was a relaxed communal atmosphere throughout. It never really got too busy in our time there, and the clientele were a mixed bunch, but generally affluent looking.
Bubba seemed to have a playlist of instrumental smooth jazz covers of everything. This is fine by me, as it’s hard to hate on smooth jazz – it just works as background. That said, I did laugh a bit when the ‘instrumental soprano sax version’ of Killing Me Softly came on. I think it reminded me of a preloaded jingles in my childhood musical keyboard. Moving on…
The service was truly excellent. The waiters were flawlessly attentive (almost a little too attentive, I have guilty feelings when people do nice things for me). Oh, and another cool thing, just after each dish was presented, the waiter also gave a brief talk in which he explained exactly what each portion was, and what was in it. This was a nice touch.
Bubba’s food presentation is certainly artistic. You can tell that there has been some serious culinary training here. It’s the kind of thing that makes the ‘professional food critics’ swoon. Edible flowers with your meal? Bubba’s will provide. And I appreciated the artistry all the same. As I ate the artwork.
Initially with the starters I thought I was being short changed a little, though I later realised that they really where just designed to whet the appetite (which they did quite well) – because the main was rather large…
Starter: Okra balls – Delicious. Did not look anything like I’d expect them to. Mild and kinda warming, an ideal starter.
Main: Curried goat – Very happy with this one (my favourite part of the meal). The goat was cooked in such a way that the curry/stew was rich and slightly spicy, and the meat was extra tender (how I like it). Delicious. Also came with a small piece of fried plantain (can’t go wrong here) and this amazingly rich and creamy avocado sauce.
Sideorder: Sweet potato chips – I don’t really like chips made with conventional potatoes (I find them bland) but these chips had that slight sweetness that sweet potatoes bring to things, and that I love so well. They went fantastically with the avocado sauce. No complaints! After all that, we didn’t even opt for dessert, as the mains were so filling. My +1 couldn’t even finish his main, assailed by delicious rice, beans and chicken.
The drinks (and especially cocktail) menu here was quite extensive. We ‘got through’ a fair few of them…
Dark and Stormy – I had this, pre food. What can I say? Sweet, but not too sweet.
Moscow Mule – The only cocktail we didn’t really enjoy, and kind of a anomaly, this one was unbelievably sweet. Like a kid’s soft drink type sweet – too much for me, sadly.
Singapore Sling – Well presented and bloody good to boot.
Old Fashioned – The ‘best old fashioned’ my friend had ever had (and he’s had quite a few)
Dirty Martini – I had mine with vodka, and he had his with gin. Strong. No complaints.
My compadre’s opinion
My friend likes his food, but also likes his cocktails. Actually, I think he likes cocktails more than food (he’s probably nodding as he reads this). This was his first food review and he was not disappointed. He was singing the praises of the drinks menu all the way back home. His favourite was the jerk chicken roulades – which he described as “wholly flavoursome”.
In my opinion, Bubba’s is certainly worth a trip. It will likely open your eyes. There’s relaxed surroundings, great food and a surprisingly good drinks menu
Nouvelle Caribbean certainly passes my ‘tastebud test’ (well, Bubba’s makes it work anyway). The restaurant obviously cares/knows about all areas presentation and in creating a memorable dining experience.
I’d certainly come back for the lamb, sweet potatoes and smooth jazz.
Tel: 020 8674 4114
Address: 7A Station Rise, Tulse Hill, SE27 9BW London, United Kingdom
Cuisine Type: Nouvelle Caribbean