Roti Joupa isn’t a restaurant and it isn’treally a café either. It’s a Trinidadian take-out shop with about 7 counter seats for the really keen people who’ve trekked all the way to Clapham to eat there. (OK so Clapham is not that far away but it’s not next door to campus!)
My friends and I were those keen people.
“They’re supposed to serve great Trinidadian food,” my friend told me. She is half-Trinidadian and cooks a lot of Trinidadian food for her Trinidadian husband. She’d done her research and Roti Joupa was the place for Trini food in London.
I’m a quarter Trinidadian. I would like to pretend that I am wonderfully ethnic and grew up on goat curry and that I long to connect more strongly with my Trini roots. But that would be a load of rubbish. I am quite possibly the epitome of middle-class Britishness. So this was the first Trinidadian food (or even Caribbean food) that I would be sampling.
Roti Joupa is painted cheerfully enough to make me wish I could just pop over to the Caribbean at any time. Although it has the familiar tiled floors and counter set-up like most take-aways, it has some bright blue walls and a beach scene to get you in the mood.
We ordered doubles (£1.50) which is a classic Trinidadian street food, consisting of flat fried bread and filled with curried chickpeas. This was ridiculously tasty and quite filling too. And soooo cheap. If £1.50 always bought me such deliciousness, I would be very, very happy. And fat.
For the main, I kept things ‘traditional’ and got a curried goat roti (£5.50).
Roti is a thin-flat bread, like a wrap but with a firmer texture. This roti was HUGE and possibly one of the heaviest lunches I’d had in a while. The curry contained a lot of goat (which tastes a lot like mutton) but also quite a few potatoes so eating one of these gives you a double-carb-whammy! The curry itself was tasty, but I wasn’t keen on its pepperiness – not because I don’t like spice, but because I’m not a huge fan of peppery spice (I find the flavour a little one-dimensional). However, you can order it without this (which is what I’ll do in future) and for those who don’t want goat, there are plenty of other options, including pumpkin.
The acid test was, of course, what my half-Trinidadian friend thought.
“Pretty good,” she grinned, wolfing down her roti. “Outside of Trinidad, this is as good as it gets.”
All of her goat curry roti vanished incredibly quickly. I think that says it all.
For dessert, my other companion and I ordered some tamarind balls (£0.50) which are possibly the most horrifying thing I’ve tried in a while. We scrunched up our faces as sour sweetneess and sweet sourness scraped our tongues.
My half-Trinidadian friend laughed. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
Tamarind balls should be tried for the experience. But whatever you do, don’t leav Roti Joupa without trying doubles.
Roti Joupa – Giant roti for under £6? Need I say more?
Where: 12 Clapham High St, London, Greater London SW4 7UT
When: 12pm – 11pm (but double check by calling them: 020 7627 8637)