FAIM Magazine
20-07-2018 Food

Naiara Reig

Stokes Croft is not a neighborhood, it’s an attitude. And few understood it better than the four gastronomy aces behind the restaurant Jamaica Street Stores. Because here it’s not about food fashion, but about chefs and diners having fun at the same time and everyone feeling welcome. Jamaica Street Stores has made its bet on this area that is today in full swing.

They had barely opened their doors, last September, when many media started calling them “the most exciting opening of 2017.” And they were quite right. The ones who have passed by the massive windows overlooking Jamaica Street – in the centre of the Stokes Croft neighborhood and two steps away from the famous Hamilton House – know that this restaurant doesn’t let you indifferent.

And even if appearance isn’t everything, in spaces such as Jamaica Street Stores, it clearly helps: an old screenprinting atelier, with high ceilings and concrete floors, in the ground floor of a building occupied with artists studios, where there was no running water nor electricity when the team found it. The space is huge, but it has a real chill vibe and, not long after having arrived, one already feels at home.

We let ourselves be guided by the waitress and we order the amazing spicy fried chicken with kimchi – one of the big stars here, that they tried to take away from the menu but always had to bring back at the customers request – and the roasted cauliflower with kale and peanut butter. Both of them amazing. But also, during the meal the chefs surprise us with a couple of tapas that mix sweet and savory, for us to give them our opinion on whether or not they should include them in the menu. Mind blown. We assure them that everyone should be able to taste them.

After the meal, chef Charlie James, who is also one of the restaurant owners, sits with us to talk about the project. “The space is amazing, so we talked to the people from People’s Republic of Stokes Croft [the organisation who tries to keep the traditional spirit from this neighborhood alive, ed.] to make sure that our project would be a good fit,” James explains. Because they didn’t want to arrive to a trendy neighborhood and take advantage of something that took years to be built, but to be “a part of it.”

And this is why they have not just made it to integrate themselves in the neighborhood and their fantastic food offer, but also let the area sneak into their kitchen and their dishes. It is possible to find the influence of the Jamaican community, so present in this area, in many of their creations. And even if it was clear to them that the high-quality produce was meant to be king, it was equally important to them that their offer was affordable, what explains why their value for money is one of the best in town: “We wanted our restaurant to be a place where everyone can come, also people from the neighborhood and young people.”

In Jamaica Street Stores, the team experiments, plays, has fun. And the result is a vibe like no other and dishes with combinations as unusual as they are delicious. They don’t just surprise the ones who sit at their table, but make customers become loveful followers. The one who writes has just joined that list.