If you wander down Wandsworth Road, there’s one spot sure to stand out against London’s grey skies and pavements: Sugarcane London. With its brightly coloured sign, handpainted by its founder, Tarell McIntosh, the Caribbean restaurant carves out a welcoming spot for the locals to hang out, have some drinks, and enjoy abundant Caribbean meals.
Community is at the heart of this place. At first glance, the main islands that seem to influence the menu are Jamaica, St Lucia and Trinidad. However, after speaking to Tarell, we learnt that the influences are more the people in his life, rather than the places. The Trinidadian mac and cheese, for example, is inspired by a friend who taught him the recipe aged 17. The vibe here is proper, home cooked food, but in a restaurant setting – something that draws in the regulars and newbies alike.
80% of the menu at Sugarcane London is vegan friendly. We’re talking plantain, pineapple, sweet peppers, callaloo, coconut… the Caribbean is abound with verdant crops, after all. For the meat-eaters among us, the authentic menu also offers curried favourites, like chicken and goat, and the iconic oxtail stew. From light bites to full-on sharing platters, there is plenty to choose from. Oh, and the desserts. How does alcohol-soaked cake sound? To say you’ll leave with a full belly is an understatement.
When it comes to the drinks menu, Sugarcane London honours its heritage from the cocktails to the coffee, while simultaneously championing local businesses. The likes of Wray and Nephew and Ting sodas stand side by side with Brixton rum and beers from local breweries. There are a range of fruity juices, alcoholic slushie jugs and homemade lemonades, plus a comprehensive list of rum cocktails – naturally. If you’re looking for something a little more warming, there are a whole heap of herbal tea blends on offer, as well as coffee that uses beans from Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. These mountains are hailed as producing some of the best coffee in the world.
Tarell describes the restaurant as a “physical manifestation of [himself]” and it’s easy to see why; he put the flooring in, he secured the ceiling, he tiled the walls. One of the tables in the restaurant was once his dining table, while the frames around the artwork previously held his degrees. Even today, when the kitchen needs a cook, the team are a waiter down, or someone extra is needed behind the bar, he’s there. It’s the familial feeling you don’t often find in a restaurant as a guest – a sense of ‘home’ that Tarell feels too.
Sugarcane London opened at the height of the pandemic in August 2020, just two weeks after Tarell spotted the vacant storefront, and after a break-in, reopened thanks to crowdfunding from the local community. This sense of ‘family’ doesn’t stop there either; the founder prides himself on offering young people a foot onto the hospitality ladder in the restaurant.
Now, Tarell will be opening a second spot this year: Guava London. Situated just an easy 15-minute stroll from Sugarcane London, this vegan-friendly cocktail bar will offer even more delicious drinks, inspired by island life. You can join the Sugarcane community and follow Sugarcane London’s story on their Instagram page, which posts candid updates about the restaurant – and now the upcoming cocktail bar – in real time.