Telling people you’re eating out in Dalston is a weird experience. ‘Eating out in Dalston are you?’ They roll their eyes. ‘Going to a pizza joint that only serves Hawaiian? Are all the chairs space hoppers? Are the plates made of playdough? Is the salt dust, Tom? Is it dust?’ Etc. Obviously these people haven’t even set foot on Kingsland Road, but it’s true that London is feeling a bit more… gimmicky than usual. But then there’s places like Rudie’s, offering Jamaican cooking, Caribbean cocktails and chilled out vibes without a catch. You might think it’s a breath of fresh air. But is the restaurant’s simplicity enough to stand out in this giant, giant city? I ventured up the Kingsland Road to find out.
Venue and Atmosphere
You can just tell that Rudie’s is going to be super-popular in the summer. The social benches outside called out for in-the-sun boozing, and the floor-to-ceiling windows would flood the bar with light, and lend the wood-heavy interior a natural feel; as if you’re drinking in amongst tropical trees instead of in the middle of smoggy London. Arriving on a biting-cold November evening, though, we were left with the bar’s own warmth instead.
The simple interiors are complimented by wooden tree structures in the middle of the bar, whereas the green walls were lined with chalkboards reading out specials and items on the menu. It feels like a local, and with the stools lining the bar and the colourful, poster-laden hallway to the toilet, it also feels authentic. They have a friendly atmosphere and they don't try too hard either, which, as I said, is a bit of fresh air. Luckily, if the sun's not shining, the cocktails are enough to transport you away to hotter place.
Food and Drink
The first order of business whenever you sit down in any restaurant is order some cocktails, and Rudie’s doesn’t mess around. They aren't overly flashy, but they’re completely honest with all of them – even down to telling you what glasses they use for each. I started off with a Hurricane Gilbert (£9), served with El Jimador Tequila, orange curacao, lime and pimento, whereas my pal opted for the Rum Punch (£8.50), purely because it comes with Wray & Nephew alongside Appleton special and fruit juices, and we used to shot this ridiculous rum together in our SU back when our livers didn't resemble 80-year-old war veterans.
The cocktails had a similar effect on us – they are strong but tasty, and I may have got a bit drunk (all in the line of duty...). Being a Caribbean bar, they definitely err on the side of sweeter, yet the sour notes in both cocktails edged it away from sickly. Drinks here are good, but I expected nothing less after seeing the barman masterfully at work just a few feet from our table. So it was time for food.
Hoping to get a proper taste of Jamaica from the get-go, I chose the ackee and saltfish (£7.50), a staple of Caribbean eating. The dish attracts your eyes and, by proxy, your stomach, with the yellows of the ackee, the reds and greens of the peppers and the duller sheen of the bake (a form of yeast-less bread) creating a very appetising dish. The taste follows through with its appearance, which was surprisingly filling and well cooked. My friend’s pulled pork balls (£6.50) were as tasty as my dish, with just enough of a spicy kick to keep us two food wimps sweating a little bit.
Sufficiently appetised, we moved onto our main course. My friend’s jerk lamb rump (£15), served with padron peppers, was tender and juicy, though it could have been a bit spicier. The swordfish steak (£14.50) immediately appealed to me – is there anything more badass than a fish with a sword on its nose – which arrived with roasted yam, cashew and coriander pesto. The fish itself was cooked wonderfully, and it tasted like a fish spliced with chicken, with a meat-like texture; a bizarre but ultimately great thing I've not really encountered before. Normally, you'd need to strap me down before feeding me anything with coriander in it, but this actually made the dish taste even fresher. Fish and chips, eat your heart out.
Rudie’s is a fun Dalston hangout that delivers on solid food and good cocktails. They don't rely on gimmicks but they don't need to - and I'll definitely be back for summer cocktails once I thaw out of my office chair.