There’s a long held belief that Caribbean food revolves around Jamaican Jerk chicken and rice and peas.
But across the Caribbean there are many islands that represent a wide array of the region’s colourful cultures, from music to food.
Across the bank holiday weekend restaurateur and Trinidad-born Sham Mahabir has put together a food festival to celebrate all the tastes that the Caribbean has to offer, beyond the jerk chicken we’ve come to expect.
In the heart of Old Spitalfields Market this weekend is Jerk & Beyond, a three-day festival dedicated to Caribbean rum and food.
Sham tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The food festival is more about changing people’s perceptions of Caribbean food in the UK.
‘The idea came about when I saw that there weren’t many, if any, Caribbean restaurants that were in prominent areas of Central London that were owned by Caribbean people and extended further than being centered on Jerk as the only food available from the region.’
Sham started a rum and Trinidian restaurant in October 2018 called Limin – which means ‘the art of doing nothing’ – a pop up where he centres Trinidadian food in Spitalfields.
It was then that he saw a saw a huge interest in the concept.
He said: ‘I started the restaurant because once I started working a rum bar, I would be doing Trinidadian food alongside that venture to showcase it.
‘It took off. Since the launch, so many people from Trinidad have said they enjoyed the experience and that they are excited to see that there’s a place exclusively for Trinidadian food centrally after being here for sixty years.
‘It’s been absolutely unbelievable, and has been an amazing journey.’
Sham came to London from Trinidad when he was 21 years old and worked in a variety of industries before entering food and hospitality.
He said: ‘We are a restaurant but we want to create more of an experience.
‘At the time of Brexit and the Windrush scandal, we want to be able to create a positive experience of cultures in the UK.
‘It’s a place where people from the Caribbean and elsewhere can come and have a safe-space, be themselves and enjoy what we have to offer.’
Now at 42, he wants to put Caribbean food on the map, and by pulling together different Caribbean restaurants from across London in one place to serve the people in the busy Spitalfields market.
And that he does.
The food fest has everything you could imagine associating the best parts of the region with: great music, flourishing cocktails and delicious food all in one place.
Stalls offer up dishes including Trinidadian roti filled with meats, fish or vegetables, Peruvian Arepas, seafood or meat served in cornbread, and Jamaican rum cakes.
Each meal costs £6 with drinks at roughly the same price. You will be greeted with island music and Sham himself is around welcoming everyone to the experience.
‘We want everyone to come and enjoy themselves. People bring their friends and family because they are proud of their heritage and culture, and we want everyone to feel welcome to indulge in what the region has to offer. Come lime with us!’
And with that, let’s hit the rums.
The Jerk and Beyond festival is running this bank holiday weekend until Monday 27 May. Limin will remain in Old Spitalfields Market until the end of June.
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