There’s no lack of meals you can spend just under a tenner on around east London, but an absolutely bursting styrofoam box of jerk chicken and rice and peas is the best that we know about. There’s also no lack of options around this part of London but these ones - whether blackened and smoky and impossibly juicy inside, or slathered in wet sauce with a fruity slap of scotch bonnet - are the best jerk chicken spots in east London.
Ewarts is in the middle of Gillett Square in Dalston, where the blasting of reggae and the cracking of tinnies are the perma-soundtrack and Ewart’s smoking drum an always-deliciously welcoming smell. This is east London’s most legit jerk chicken. It’s rubbed dry, cooked fresh, and has that smokiness and crisp char that can’t be replicated. You’ll want the jerk chicken, wings, and the pork belly chunks for sure. When the fat’s rendered perfectly those chunks are the business. You won’t need or want anything else. The whole set-up is out of a shipping container so it’s takeaway only, but there are plenty of places to sit in the square and shops around to grab a drink.
If you’re looking for a jerk marinade with a little more kick, then you can head over to All Island Grill on Bradbury Street, adjacent to Gillett Square. This tiny spot is almost never without a queue, whether for their enormous crispy fried chicken pieces, or their alway-moist jerk. What this chicken lacks in smokiness it more than makes up for in a tart chilli hit and perfect cooking. Ask for an extra pot of sauce on the side to smother your rice and pea, plantain, and whatever else in.
People’s Choice is another spot that opts for maximum char-factor with its jerk-filled drum out front. The little spot in Homerton, off a corner of Chatsworth Road, has always been a popular hangout on sunny days and that’s without doubt thanks to its food. The chicken legs are sufficiently smoky with nice crisp skin and, more often than not. perfectly juicy. Find us on a nearby pavement corner tucking into our own gargantuan portion.
Picking up a patty or two from Peppers & Spice has long been one of our favourite it-would-be-rude-not-to activities around Dalston and, in fact, everything from this local takeaway favourite hits the mark. Their jerk - marinaded, oven cooked and finished on the grill - is best slathered with a pot of fruity, punchy sauce. Although not cooked fresh, the skin still manages to retain a smoky hit and on a full plate next to their oxtail stew and macaroni pie, makes for an extremely satisfying meal. Expect to queue, expect to have a nice chat, and expect to leave very happy.
Imperial Flavors East
Like most spots, Imperial Flavors finishes its jerk on the grill rather than cooking fresh. That said, their dry rub packs so much flavour that no sauce on the side is necessary. It’s got the kind of heat that’s neither too subtle or overpowering, a happy background hum that you’ll want more and more of. The Caribbean spot is in between Homerton and Hackney Marshes and it’s worth seeking out to eat in or for delivery and collection.