Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Umana Yana
294 Croxted Road
Herne Hill
020 8671 8227

"Hello sweetheart!"

At least I think that's what the lady at Umana Yana said to me as I walked through the door with my earphones plugged in. It's a simple place, a takeaway with a single table by the window, but welcomes don't get much warmer.

The charming lady behind the counter, who, if the health and safety certificates on the wall are to be believed, is called Deborah, listened patiently as I expressed my delight at finding food in London from a country with a smaller population than Bristol. She then gave me a taste of everything in front of her. There was poulourie, a deep-fried split pea fritter; doubles just like those I found at Roti Joupa, and a channa dal, an Indian chick pea dish.

A week earlier at the Lambeth Country Show I'd relished a chicken and pumpkin roti wrap at the Umama Yana stall. On that occasion it had been prepared by Deborah's daughters; this time it was her son cooking soft, spongy rotis at the back of the restaurant. Again it was delicious, a blend of tender chicken breast and stewed pumpkin in what Debs unhelpfully described as "many different spices". There's certainly a blast of curry powder in there and perhaps some jerk seasoning, too.

A look at Guyana's history explains the eccentric nature of its cuisine. The Spanish, French, Dutch and British each had a go ruling the country, and between them imported African slaves, plantation workers from China, indentured labour from India, and Portuguese settlers (used by the Brits to bolster the white population). This ethnic mix has blended with a dominant Caribbean culture, and the flavours and recipes of Trinidad and Jamaica are very evident.

Umama Yana, named after an iconic thatched hut in the capital Georgetown, may not be the world's prettiest restaurant - there are no plates to be seen - but it's the only place I know of serving this great little cuisine.

1 comment:

Helen Around the World said...

I can't wait to try this place !