Antillean review: Southwark restaurant celebrating food from the … – Time Out London

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As diverse as London is, Caribbean food has never reached the same levels of high gastronomy or been celebrated in the same way as, say, French or Japanese. Enter Southwark’s Antillean: London’s first fine-dining pan-Caribbean restaurant. Usually when it comes to Caribbean food there are two options: restaurant chains serving dishes loosely based on cuisine from the region or no-frills street-food stalls selling incredible grub – there’s no in between. 
This restaurant is named after the beautiful islands of the Antilles, and its menu reflects the diversity of dishes found there, with influences spanning French, African and Chinese. It’s headed up by chef-patron Michael Hanbury, who wants to show people that there’s more to Caribbean food than Jamaican jerk chicken, rice and peas. His mission is to introduce global flavours and spices from the islands. Judging by the menu, I think he’s done just that. 
On my Wednesday evening visit, I’m welcomed by sleek interiors and high ceilings, staples of Caribbean coastal restaurants. The place is spacious and oak beams stand out against the white. By day the place is bright and airy, by night soft lights make it cosy.
The attentive staff were super friendly and knowledgeable, guiding me and my pal through the menu. We got started on a few small plates recommended by our waiter: watermelon and beetroot salad, scallop ceviche, grilled octopus with a scotch bonnet emulsion and blue swimmer crab. All of it was bright and vibrant, made up of vivid fuchsias, emeralds and burnt oranges – the true colours of the tropics on a plate in front of you. The flavours didn’t disappoint either: the salad had a rich, earthy flavour to contrast with the sweet of the watermelon. The seafood was fresh, moist and soft.
Next, mains. The rum-marinated rib-eye steak with smooth boniato (sweet potato) mash was cooked medium – perfectly pink – and delicately seasoned. The Bajan staple flying fish and cou-cou almost brought a tear to my eye. It tasted exactly the same as the version I ate growing up. The cornmeal-based cou-cou was soft with a crunchy layer on top to add dimension. We also had the lobster mac ’n’ cheese, which was a big bowl of pure comfort. Decadent and cheesy, it was flecked with juicy, seasoned hunks of lobster throughout – everything I could possibly want in a pasta dish.
To finish, a sharing dessert platter for the table featuring full-sized portions of Guinness ice cream, carrot cake, chocolate torte and plantain tarte tatin. I must admit I was sceptical: traditionally, plantain is served as a savoury side, but in this case it was presented as a pudding. Bizarre. Absurd. But, dare I say it, genius? The plantain was firm on the outside and soft inside, its signature sweet notes complementing the buttery flaky pastry exquisitely. As for the rest of the platter, the Guinness ice cream was aromatic, with a punchy alcoholic kick; the carrot cake was moist and airy; and the silky chocolate torte had hints of passion fruit and mango that added a sharp note to cut through the sweetness. I immediately wanted to order another round. 
Overall, it was a wonderful experience, enhanced by well-informed, approachable staff and swift service. It was heartwarming to see familiar dishes of the Caribbean being served in a fine-dining environment. I’d definitely go back – even if it’s just for the plantain tarte tatin. 
The vibe Airy, buzzy, as perfect for a quick lunch stop as a three-course dinner.
The food True to the heart of the Caribbean, with staple dishes like flying fish and cou-cou and braised oxtail.
The drink An impressive wine list and rum-focused cocktails, with more than 100 varieties of rum on offer.
Time Out tip Pop in at happy hour and order the signature Blanchisseuse Rum Punch made with Angostura rum, citrus and tangerine. 
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