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- Photograph­y: Dani Fro

While she may not have followed the traditiona­l route into the culinary world, Ruby Tuesday’s Soul Food at Berlin on Dame Street has proved a hit with food critics and casual diners alike. The Brixton native talks perfecting her jerk recipe, reggae in the kitchen, and Dublin’s growing appetite for Afro-Caribbean soul food. Interview: Lucy O’Toole

Ruby Tuesday has had a passion for Afro-Caribbean home cooking from a young age, but when she arrived in Dublin 14 years ago, becoming one of Dublin’s most popular chefs was de nitely not on her agenda. “Soul food is what I grew up on, back home in London,” she explains. “Brixton is a melting pot of Caribbean and African culture. I didn’t realise how much I missed it until I’d been over here for a while.”

There was no tradition of catering in Ruby’s family. Her mother, originally from Ghana, was a seamstress who made traditiona­l African attire. In fact, it wasn’t until Ruby found herself serving up jerk chicken to hungry crowds at Mantua Festival in Roscommon, over a decade ago, that she began to seriously consider pursuing her love of soul food. Soon, she began developing her own jerk recipe.

“I rang up one of my Jamaican relatives, as well as my friends and family in London, and picked their brains about how they do their jerk seasoning,” she recalls. “So I took the bits of advice I liked, and then put my own spin on it. I became more con dent when it was my own sauce.”

Her big break came two years ago, when a friend allowed her to use the kitchen space in his café in Smith eld. From there, the enterprise only continued to grow. She’s now based in Berlin, a popular bar on Dame Street, where she serves her soul food every evening.

Although she nds it hard to pick her personal favourite item on the menu (“I’ll eat everything!” she laughs), Ruby admits that her oxtail has a special place in her heart. Curry goat, Jamaican patties, and, of course, jerk chicken, are also fan favourites. She has some delicious options for vegetarian­s too.

“We do a vegetarian salsa wrap, with tomatoes, red onions, balsamic, pineapples and plantains. It’s a real fusion of avour. If people want it hot and spicy, I’ll give them our chilli sauce. It’s got a little vinegary twang to it, so it gives the wrap a real zing.”

“Just recently we’ve decided to throw salsa into the jollof rice

and mix it together,” she adds. “It’s amazing. The jollof rice is basically onions, garlic and ginger stewed down, with chopped tomatoes and tomato purée to thicken it a bit. You marinate with some seasoning, and as it boils through, you throw the rice in and let it cook slowly.”

Berlin’s exquisite cocktails also provide the ideal pairing for Ruby’s dishes.

“They do the meanest Pornstar cocktails!” she says. “So sweet. They go nicely with the food, because the passion fruit has that Caribbean vibe. Berlin do the best Guinness on the southside, too – I’d know, because I’m a Guinness fanatic!”

Considerin­g that her culinary career was essentiall­y born at a music festival, it’s not too surprising to hear that she likes a nice, eclectic mix of music in her kitchen.

“My kitchen’s bubblin’,” she laughs. “Bubblin’ in Dublin! I might start off with a bit of gospel, move into some reggae, and then get into house. I don’t like it being quiet and serious. Life itself is too serious.”

Although Afro-Caribbean soul food is not quite a Dublin staple (yet), Ruby believes there’s a great appetite for it in the city.

“Recently an Irish guy came in, and he told me that he used to live in Fulham,” she says. “He said he was so excited to be able to have Caribbean food at home now. We have to remember that there are a lot of people going in and out of London from here, and the Irish often live among Afro-Caribbean communitie­s over there.”

“The Irish are always up for gallivanti­ng too,” she adds. “They’re not afraid to try something new. I like to keep the humbleness, but I have to be honest: everybody has to taste this food.”

Ruby Tuesday’s @ Berlin, 14 Dame Street, Dublin 2

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