Sunday 18 March 2012

Bubbas, Tulse Hill

I really wanted Bubbas in Tulse Hill, styled as a fine dining Caribbean restaurant, to blow me away but warning bells rang on the approach. There was a lot of blue neon shining out of those windows. For the most part, I did like it - the food was well spiced and had flavour so there was obviously some talent in the kitchen in the form of their Michelin-trained chef. But it was all the fripperies that made me cringe; things served in kilner jars are cute to a certain extent, but when everyone round the table (of 5) has one, it becomes a bit of a cheesy gimmick.

Fried prawn and okra balls were served with a pretty orange smear and presented on an awkwardly shaped plate. The sliminess of the okra shone through - I am a huge fan of slime - and it was served with a delicious sweet and sour sauce, once you can dig it out of its jar.

Elsewhere on the table, huge prawns made us all gasp and were meatily delicious, coated in a rum glaze and having a hint of the scotch bonnet fruitiness. Jerk chicken lollipops were decently spiced (top photo) and the jerk ketchup it was served with had some serious kick. We scooped the remnants of the sauce jar with our fingers.

Onto mains, and I shunned menu items like Red Stripe battered fish with sweet potato chips for a more traditional stewed oxtail. This was served with a potato galette and dumpling. Without much sauce with the deboned oxtail meat, this was a little dry but the potato, meat and earthiness of the beetroot smear worked well together and I finished it without much effort.

Goat curry was served in a 'rose tuile', essentially a basket made of thin pastry that was all about presentation rather than flavour. My friend awkwardly smashed it apart, revealing well spiced but otherwise unremarkable curry. The blue neon light really did a number with that photo; the rest were rescuable with the genius of Lightroom, but there was no saving that one.

We declined desserts opting instead for the pub. I found the experience (bar the company) oddly joyless, something I don't associate with Caribbean food. Usually a splash of colour and flavour, the lighting within the restaurant didn't do much to help it. At around £10 - £15 per main course, the food isn't likely to bankrupt you but I've taken more delight from eating jerk pork out of a silver takeaway box on a plastic-topped table in a cafe for half the price. Still, it is refreshing to see a Caribbean restaurant go beyond your usual brown stew chicken, curry goat and jerk options.

While the waiting staff were sweet and helpful, they seemed uncomfortable with their starched whites and formal uniform, and the food somehow seemed that way too. Although flavoursome and ultimately satisfying, the styling was overdone and fussy. We were invited to the restaurant on only its' second day of opening, so hopefully the presentation of the dishes will relax as it beds in. But seriously. Lose the neon.


7A Station Rise
Tulse Hill
London SE27 9BW

We were guests of the restaurant.


Unknown said...

Hmm, sounds like some good intentions perhaps not matched by the stiffness - am going this week so will see if it's eased up any.

Jessica said...

Those plates are a sin man. That leaf thing. No.

Hollow Legs said...

Hugh - let me know how it goes1

Jess - I KNOW.

Anonymous said...

I thought the decor was nice for South London - at least you'll remember it

Anonymous said...

Hi- I don't see anything wrong with a Caribbean restaurant actually venturing into the sphere of fine dining. Although you may be used to it that way, it doesn't have to be all "jerk pork out of a silver takeaway box on a plastic-topped table in a cafe for half the price".

Hollow Legs said...

Anon - I don't see anything wrong with it either, if it's good. By no means does it have to be out of a takeaway container, but my point was that their fripperies and jars of this and that didn't do anything to add to the dishes.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree, the food was amazing when I went but the whole experience was let down because it was clear the staff were trying too hard. It's difficult to relax among people that seem on edge. I couldn't speak two words to my sister without being asked if I was ok. I didn't need the waiter to unravel my napkin and place it on my lap. And I do not need all my sauces to be placed in a jar. It's unnecessary1 Fine dining is elegance and ease. Something about it lacked soul. I felt as though I had travelled back in time. That said, I would go again. The food was truly delicious.