Calypso Kitchen, Wapping Wharf: Review

 

Calypso Kitchen at Wapping Wharf is a place that shows that appearances can be deceptive. At the time of writing, there was no outside signage in place – surprising, as with so many dining establishments in the area, you’d think the Biblos team (the venue’s owners) would be trying their hardest to catch passing trade.

Step, inside, though, and you’re transported straight to the Caribbean: big, bold colours and natural wood jostling for space with the building’s industrial vibe, along with a massive mural behind the counter and plenty of foliage above the blackboards. As a nod to nearby CARGO, they’ve even installed a shipping container inside, which they’ve used to create Calypso Kitchen’s toilets.

 

Calypso Kitchen - Interior 1

Calypso Kitchen - Interior 2

 

As soon as we sat down, we had a bottle of tap water and two glasses brought over to our table without having to ask, which we poured while browsing the menu.

With wraps and salads priced at between £5 and £7, and more substantial mains from £8 to £12.50, prices are pretty on par with other restaurants in the area. But here, the menu’s totally different to anything you’ll find at the other places: it’s a Bajan-Jamaican hybrid, with jerk, gumbos and rice ‘n’ peas galore.

The Calypso Kitchen team can cater for all dietary requirements, and there’s a children’s menu on offer too.

We found it too hard to choose, so opted for two starters and two mains to share, to get a bit more of a flavour of the menu.

The first dish to arrive was the hummus and flatbreads (£3.50) – a generous and beautifully presented plate of food, the hummus itself topped with a generous drizzle of good quality olive oil, plus pumpkin and sunflower seeds for added texture. The dip was delicious, with plenty of tahini bitterness and a lovely smooth texture, but the toasted flatbreads – which work so well in the much-loved Biblos wraps – were a little limp and uninspiring.

 

Calypso Kitchen - Hummus and Flatbreads

 

We were intrigued by the black eyed pea and coconut arancini (£5): three golden breaded globes served with a retro balsamic drizzle and pomegranate seeds, which seemed like an odd accompaniment to the Caribbean flavours of the rice balls themselves. The coconut flavour was delicious, although possibly a little too sweet, and the texture was a little lacking – the rice could have done with a shorter cooking time, and the peas were just as soft.

 

Calypso Kitchen - Arancini

 

The mains were an equally mixed bag. We loved the jerk red mullet (£11): the presentation wasn’t up there with other Bristol restaurants, but for good reason. With the sauce confined to one side of the tray, it meant that the flavours of the rice ‘n’ peas and crispy kale weren’t overwhelmed by the jerk flavour. There was a decent amount of heat to the sauce with a good, strong thyme flavour, and the mullet fillets were beautifully cooked. We felt that a little more coconut could have elevated the rice ‘n’ peas even more, though, and the crispy kale was a bit overcooked, with a slightly unpleasant charred flavour.

 

Calypso Kitchen - Jerk Red Mullet

 

Our second choice was the goat curry and butter beans (£11), served with more rice ‘n’ peas and a Caribbean slaw. Definitely an Instagrammable bowl of food, and we loved the fact that the meat was cooked on the bone, imparting plenty of flavour. We’d have liked more of the gravy – and more chilli heat too, as it was pretty mild. The slaw was interesting – a lurid yellowish colour which, we discovered, was down to the addition of plenty of mustard, which – along with the crunch of the veg, was a nice contrast to the tender goat meat and beans.

 

Calypso Kitchen - Goat Curry

 

All in all, a bit of a mixed bag – Calypso Kitchen is a beautifully decorated place, but every single dish was a little hit and miss. There were definitely some great highlights in there, though – these guys do a mean jerk sauce and hummus – so I have no doubt that I’ll be back to try more of the menu, especially as it’s right on my doorstep. I’m keen to head back and try the cakes that we saw on the counter too…

 

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