Rupert Parker gets a taste of Antillean, the Caribbean on London’s South Bank.
If you’re out for a night of film, theatre or music and want to avoid the ubiquitous chain restaurants clustered near the river, then it’s worth venturing a little further afield. Right next to Southwark tube is Chef Michael Hanbury’s latest venture, the Antillean, which opened last summer. It’s named after the islands of the Antilles and the food reflects their French, African, Spanish, Indian, Dutch and Chinese influences.
Now if your experience of food from the Caribbean has been on the heavy starchy side, with many bones and strange unmentionable animal parts, then you’re in for a surprise. Michael Hanbury calls it high-end casual dining and there’s nary a foot or thigh in sight. Even the crab has a softshell, the oxtail has lost its tail and the fish is, well, filleted.
On a Friday night in January it’s bustling and immediately inside is a long cocktail bar with a selection of over 100 distinctive rums. Beyond are three more zones including the Island and the Loft, a private dining room that looks down on the main restaurant below. This is tall and spacious, painted brilliant white and the ceiling’s criss-cross wooden roof beams are leftovers from the 18th-century coaching house this once was.
Tonight there’s a modern vibe with a youngish multicultural crowd, wooden tables spaced out appropriately, and greeting is friendly and efficient. The menu starts with selections from the raw bar, various types of ceviche, then follows with small plates and large plates. Our waiter advises us to take three or four small plates and then maybe a large plate each. Dry January also means a large selection of mocktails, perfect for my companion, while I go for the Baltic Martini.
We decide to skip the raw bar and go straight to the small plates. Grilled Prawns, marinated in an Antillean Salsa Verde and served with an Avocado Salsa Dip are a good introduction to the mix of flavours on offer. Charred Chicken Skewers are pleasantly blackened and accompanied with a Tomato and Mango Salsita. A big hit is the Blue Swimmer Crab, the meat topped with mango, avocado, and ginger with a touch of chilli. The Salad of Mango, Tomato and Green Papaya flecked with shards of crispy Beetroot is another highlight.
Next, are large plates and we choose Crab Claw Curry and Braised Oxtail. The meat has been boned and sits on Sweet Potato Puree with a jug of Pan Jus on the side. It’s a real eye-opener, with a depth of flavour nurtured by long cooking, and pairs well with the stir-fried Callaloo side. The crab curry is a slight disappointment, the crispy fried claws sitting atop a creamy vegetable sauce, served with rice and peas. Perhaps we ate them in the wrong order.
Tempted by more meat we order Rum Marinated Ribeye, medium-rare and attractively sliced, with a small bowl of Salsa Verde. It’s achingly tender, has been well-rested and the alcohol simmers in the background. It’s good on its own and the salsa seems slightly redundant, so we save it for the Boniato Mash where it adds a herby kick.
Finally to dessert and we go for the Platter. A couple of light and spongy Rum Babas served with a Spiced Rum Syrup is a sweet start. Then there’s a boozy scoop of Guinness Punch Ice Cream floating in Havana Club Spiced Rum. Next, is an Island Chocolate Torte topped with Passion Fruit and slivers of Mango, the fruit contrasting with the tart’s deep cocoa hit. Two pieces of extremely light Carrot Cake, topped with pineapple shavings, ensure we don’t leave hungry.
Antillean is a welcome new arrival in this part of London and serves up inventive dishes, packed with fresh flavours, with a slight kick, but not too spicy. Attention to detail is excellent, service is swift and it delivers an excellent fine dining experience in a casual setting. And don’t forget those 100 different rums.
Tell Me More About Antillean Pan Caribbean Restaurant
The Antillean 74 Blackfriars Road London SE1 8HA
T: 020 3011 4449 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Small plates range from £6 to £17. Large plates range from £17 to £32.
Desserts are £6 with the Dessert Platter £18.
During January 2022, there’s 50% off the a la carte menu, so get there quick.
There’s also a Signature Menu (£65) with rum pairing (£40) plus set menus for lunch and pre-theatre.
Open Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00 – 23:00