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We review Ockys Caribbean Kitchen in Upper Stone Street, Maidstone, for Eat My Words


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I'm shivering in a motorbike shop's car park on a drizzly Wednesday night trying to inconspicuously snap a picture of a Caribbean food truck.

I imagine this may be why the man inside Ockys Caribbean Kitchen seems suspicious when I arrive.

Ockys Caribbean Kitchen in Upper Stone Street, Maidstone
Ockys Caribbean Kitchen in Upper Stone Street, Maidstone

I must look like an inspector of some kind, which I suppose I technically am.

I phoned 15 minutes ago to ask what he can do to help out a hungry vegetarian and her meat-eating partner.

For those steering clear of cooked animals steamed cabbage is an option as is Callaloo, he told me.

Ignorantly, I asked what Callaloo is and he patiently explained it's "like Jamaican cabbage".

Correctly, he assumed I needed it dumbed down.

Some of the items on sale at Ockys
Some of the items on sale at Ockys

To be more precise it's a dish made with the indigenous leaf vegetable of the same name, peppers, garlic and onions.

It comes with rice, peas and plantain. It's not on the online menu and I forgot to check the exact price but a quick calculation estimates it at £6.50.

Sadly, ackee and saltfish – the Jamaican national dish made of cod and the fruit ackee – isn't available until Friday.

Instead I opted for the £10 curried goat, which also comes with rice, peas and plantain.

An admission: I have almost made it to 30 and only learned on this trip that 'peas' means kidney beans in the Caribbean.

The cosy inside of Ockys
The cosy inside of Ockys

This tiny white trailer permanently sat on a slab of concrete along Maidstone's Upper Stone Street is perhaps the worst located takeaway I've ever visited.

That said, I only know of its existence due to countless hours spent negotiating the town's traffic-choked one-way system.

In an attempt to park I drive past twice, circling in like a petrol-powered vulture. Pedestrians dart out in front of me briefly illuminated in the street lights, looking like they're fleeing.

Countless times I've cursed these people but I'm about to join them.

I come to rest in a puddle opposite Ockys and psych myself up for the crossing, eventually running in front of a bus with a rumbling stomach.

Splashing onto the hardstanding and after the aforementioned photo shoot I approach the kiosk to see our food crammed into plastic tubs and waiting on the counter.

Our host shows off the vegetable dish and it's immediately clear he's not one to let you go hungry – there's enough food in these two boxes to feed a family of five.

Still, three dumplings (£1.50 each) are of course ordered plus drinks; a can of Old Jamaica ginger beer and a bottle of 'BIGGA grape flavour soft drink'.

My back-of-a-fag-packet calculation has these at £1.50 each too, as the whole order comes in at £24.

He happily informs us he's made our dinner fresh and hopes we enjoy it, I wish him a good evening and head off to run the Upper Stone Street gauntlet.

I'm pleased to report I survived the return crossing with food intact and joined the queues of commuters for a journey made infinitely more bearable by the smog of Jamaican food filling the car.

We returned home and plonked down a heavy bag on a work top in front of a dog who had developed a sudden penchant for the scent of far off islands.

First, a tip: Under no circumstances empty the heaving containers on to a plate, it's a ridiculous idea and oily rice will rain down on your tiles.

A Caribbean feast
A Caribbean feast

Plus, I reckon this food is best enjoyed straight from the box anyway. That way you can easily spear a slice of plantain, chunk of goat, several peas and a good bit of rice in one swift stab of a fork.

And if you did you'd be in for a treat, the goat is properly tender and packed with flavour and is complemented well by the soft and sweet plantain. Bits of bone bring more flavour still.

If I was to nitpick there's easily enough rice and peas for two people and it's a little on the oily side but they are minor gripes with an all-round great dish.

The curried goat
The curried goat

Now, I'm only recently getting into cabbage and I'm not sure I'd have gone for a main neatly summarised by the chef as "like Jamaican cabbage" but thankfully that decision wasn't down to me.

My review companion was blown away by the Callaloo. It's a great name and an even better dinner and as she approached the end of the mountainous portion she declared it was "her new death row meal".

It's a culinary standard I have previously overlooked and high praise indeed. I'm not sure my curried goat, excellent as it was, would be my go to but I also don't know what would and it's as good a choice as any.

Ockys declares on its website it caters for events, so if we're ever locked up for some heinous crime in a country with capital offences (hopefully unlikely) perhaps it can supply our final feed?

The Callaloo from Ockys
The Callaloo from Ockys

One dumpling each is enough but our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. They are stodgy goodness in a crusty shell, like the product of a bread roll and a dumpling's late-night liaison.

I've had a chilled can of Old Jamaica ginger beer before and while recognising how ludicrous this sounds this was the best yet. Yes, I know it's a brand and they're all the same but as an accompaniment to authentic Caribbean cuisine this drink is in its element.

Three dumplings just in case we didn't have enough
Three dumplings just in case we didn't have enough

I was dubious about the 'BIGGA grape flavoured soft drink' when my tasting accomplice opted for it but can report it is a revelation. I'm not entirely sure it tastes much like grapes but it does a job on the taste buds and might be a new favourite.

Ockys offers good, wholesome food and while perhaps not intended to be picked up from a damp car park and scoffed on a miserable January night it makes a great comfort meal.

I'll be going back on Fridays for the saltfish and then again and again after that – but next time I'll plan my parking arrangements in advance.

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Out of five:

Food: "My death row meal" is quite the endorsement and mine was almost faultless, perhaps a tad oily but that's a tiny issue ****1/2

Drink: No faults and a new favourite in the BIGGA *****

Decor: At the end of the day it's a trailer. It has got little flags and lights but can only be judged relative to other trailers ***

Staff: He is all patient explanations and eagerness to flaunt his cooking ****

Price: Given the volume of food and quality £24 was fair ***

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