Every Londoner has a different idea of a destination. One person’s paradise is another person’s bog-standard pub. That moss-covered bench you tied your laces on? That’s someone else’s lunchtime haven. This is to say, in a roundabout way, that pretty much anything can be a destination. It doesn’t have to be well-known like the Tate, or glitzy like The Wolseley. It just needs to be good at what it does. And Clapham’s Roti Joupa is seriously good at cooking Trinidadian food.
Walk down Clapham High Street ten times and you might not clock Roti Joupa. It’s a six or seven seater Caribbean spot on a corner, about the size of your average cornershop, with a queue-sized seating area. It’s mainly built for takeaways, or quick counter-top meals where channa is scooped up with paratha, and scoffed without taking breath. It’s easy to become a human metronome here - scoop, scoff, scoop, scoff - and once you throw a can of something fruity into the mix, you’ll be slurping too.
Aesthetically, lots of Roti Joupa’s menu (roti, curry, channa) is somewhere between beige and off-beige, but none of its flavours are. Their macaroni pie is a £2 brick of pasta and cheese covered in a sweet and spicy tamarind sauce. It’s a unanimous winner and something that will unanimously knock you out. And the curry goat roti is best described as ‘an absolute unit’. It’s an A5-sized roti package filled with tender meat, and you should definitely ask for it spicy. That said, before you think ‘meat’, you should definitely order a couple of other things.
One thing is the hot doubles - channa (curried chickpeas) filled bara with cucumber and hot sauce. They’re a softly spiced sensation. Especially at £2 a pop. And especially when you get some homemade pepper sauce on the side. The other is the buss-up shot, a weighty pile of ripped, chewy paratha best served with a choice of vegetable stews to smother and shovel. Scoop. And scoff. The channa and pumpkin stews are our favourites, but all of them are very moreish, so don’t let yourself get too bogged down in what to order. Because after one hot doubles you’ll realise that Roti Joupa is a place you’re destined to find yourself in again and again.
The must-order thing and the best use of that big £2 coin in your pocket. The baras are satisfyingly chewy, the channa is a cumin-rich, gently spiced sensation, topped with hot sauce, and some welcome cucumber and onion shreds on top. Order one for now, and take one away for later.
Though you can get this busted up paratha with curried meat or fish, we like it best with a mix of vegetables. The curry aloo is smooth and spiced, the pumpkin excellently sweet, and garlic bodi and spinach feature because eating your greens is important .
At £6.50, this enormous filled roti is one of the best value portions of food in London. It’s easily big enough to share too. The goat is moist but a little too politely spiced, so make sure to ask for it spicy.
Another beige delight, this macaroni pie is brick-like. It’s the cheesy pasta building block that society needs. Make sure you get it with some sweet tamarind sauce on top too.