OSSIE'S JERK CHICKEN:
Can anyone tell me how long Ossie’s Jerk Chicken has been on Exeter St near Covent Garden?
I must have walked down that street a thousand times on my way to somewhere more important and yet it was not until Tuesday evening that I first spotted this small café with its lurid green frontage, nestled next to the doorway for Joe Allen’s. Bizarre, but it stuck in my mind for long enough for me to consider it as a lunch spot today after a mid-morning meeting.
The notion of a small café selling Caribbean staples amongst the tawdry tourist tat of Covent Garden is an odd one and everybody else must have thought so too given that, for my short time there, no one else bothered to darken their doors. A shame given that Ossie obviously knows what he is about and the menu is filled with a fantastic sounding selection of Jamaican staples. Jerk pork, curry mutton, cow foot, rice & peas, fried dumpling and callaloo, it all sounded like the stuff that could agreeably fill a lunch time hole
But, if Ossie feels strongly enough about it to put his name to it, then it had to be the jerk chicken and I ordered two pieces with some rice and peas, a side order of akee dumpling and a can of fiery Jamaican ginger beer. For £9.00, pretty reasonable value, particularly when you consider that what arrived would have fed two people.
The akee, mixed with salt fish sat on top of a fried dumpling that, if you did believe God existed would convince you he was not a benign and loving overlord. Although the small pieces I tore off tasted good in a deep fried lump of dough kind of way, I can still feel them digesting some hours later. The akee itself was, as I remembered it, an acquired taste, as HP puts it, “more of a texture thing” and I soon pushed that portion of my lunch to one side to concentrate on the chicken.
Now, that was more like it. Well-flavoured and spiced rice, plumped out with beans next to a generous mound of bone-in chicken glistening in its jerk coating. The meat fell from the bone and the chilli heat hit the tongue, then the back of the throat before working its way down to the stomach in a satisfying flame of savoury heat as I turned the bones to shreds.
Ossie’s with its two tables and a handful of chairs is not a place to linger and I was in, fed and about my business in twenty minutes. But, it is an interesting place to stop for a quick snack, particularly in an area bereft of any options outside the standard chains.
That is, of course, unless I have missed them.