There can be many moments in London when one misses ‘The Rock’ and hankers for some good Bajan food. It is a challenge that is not easily met.
A couple of weeks ago the taste buds cried out for some pudding and souse and cou cou and flying fish. After many calls, I was directed to Barbadian Shaun Walcott whose business ‘Luxcious Catering’ operates on weekends from the Black Cat Public House in Catford, London SE6. It was said that her food is of the highest and most exquisite standard of taste and quality.
After greeting the group with a warm smile and even warmer embraces, Shaun escorted us to a table where sat the 86-year-old Harold Sandiford, a product of the Bay Land, St Michael who has lived in the UK for the last 58 years. Sandy, as he is affectionately known, is one of the backbones of the operation and with his wife Yvonne, scarcely ever misses a week.
We were soon served with portions of delicious souse, the sizes of which my American/Bajan friend had not seen ever before. The portions certainly outstripped those he was used to in New York. He was overwhelmed and suitably impressed. One of the group who is anti-pork decided he would close his eyes and have it blessed as beef. I doubted whether I could eat it all but was soon asking for a salt bread to mop up those wonderful juices that accompanied the pickle.
My appetite was now primed for whatever else was on the menu. There was rice and stewed pork, cou cou and stewed pork and cou cou and fish. Alas, there was no flying fish so Shaun served up some sea bass. How upmarket can you get with your cou cou?
These meals were so authentically Bajan that I asked Shaun for a brief insight into the secrets of her cooking. She said she got many tips from her grandmother in Barbados. I should have known. Her grandmother is the late Evelyn ‘Granny’ Walcott MBE who founded and managed the well known Grannies Restaurant at Oistins, Christ Church.
Shaun said: “I was always a grandmother’s child. I was fortunate to be able to spend lots of time with her and she taught me the finer points needed when preparing a meal for the public. My father also helped.”
But, I enquired, what was the inspiration behind going fully into a public setting? She continued: “It became a natural pastime, and I got great pleasure from seeing people enjoying the meals I served.”
Shaun wants to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and she yearns for the opportunity to be able to provide Bajan cuisine to the London diaspora of Caribbean people.
She said: “You can get food of all descriptions from nationals of all Caribbean countries except Barbados. It is my dream to provide a setting in a restaurant so that I can fully expand my services to cater for the wide Bajan community.” Shaun is passionate about building a business of which she can be proud and does not dismiss the idea of joining in a partnership.
The restlessness of a yet unfulfilled ambition peeped through as customers came and left with their take-away bags. However, one sensed that although Shaun is happy with providing a service to her current customers, she will not give up on her dreams and aspirations to bring her skills to a wider clientele.
However much one delighted in Shaun’s offerings, the meal would not have been complete without something from the bakery. To this end we were introduced to Joan Clarke who specialises in coconut bread, turnovers, conkies, (regardless of the time of the year) and the Gwen Workman patented lead pipes. Joan’s trademark is ‘Bajan Bites’ and it is also her ambition to expand into a more formal setting.
Action at the Black Cat at weekends provides opportunities for Bajans, particularly in South London, to experience and get stuck into some excellent Bajan cuisine. All the offerings of these ladies provoke memories of eating out in most places in Barbados. The professionalism of Shaun and Joan deserves admiration and support.
They have taken leaps into the dark and one hopes success awaits them. We wish them well.
Should you get a feeling to experience the Bajan way any weekend, you can contact Shaun Walcott at 07873256210 and Joan Clarke 07885327599.
Bajans in the UK eagerly await the arrival of PM Mottley
Barbados Prime Minister, the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley is due shortly to visit the UK for a series of official functions. It will be the first time Miss Mottley will be visiting London since she became Prime Minister of the country.
The occasion which is most expected to capture the nationals’ interest is a Town Hall Meeting which will be held at the Kensington Town Hall, Kensington High Street in West London, on Saturday June 8 commencing at 7 p.m. Doors will be opened at 6 p.m.
The Prime Minister will speak on the wide range of subjects that currently affect the country. She will take questions at the end of her discourse.
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and disapora.