Castle Square celebrated its first birthday with a Latin Folk festival of great music, fantastic dancing and an insight into many cultures, plus, the chance to sample foods from African, Caribbean, and South American cuisines, so a good opportunity to meet up with my spiritual guru Paul Brown to sample the delights on offer, writes Michael Holland.
It was all go from the start: A lady from Paraguay modelled her hat with a spider web design, then introduced us to her lavishly-costumed daughter who was about to go on and perform a traditional dance after the troupe from Peru had finished their performance. Behind her waiting to hit the stage were the glittery and spangly Colombian dancers.
After speaking to several locals whose judgement I trust, we headed for Kaieteur Kitchen Original where, I was told, chef ‘Faye Gomes cooks up a Guyanese storm’!
Myself and Paul were greeted with warm smiles from a happy staff, directed to a table, given a glass of fruit punch and royally entertained by Ms Gomes with tales of her native Guyana, the beauty of the country’s waterfalls, some backstory of her culinary journey and, most importantly, of the dishes she had prepared for this special day.
My mouth watered as Faye talked us through rice dishes, fish dishes, dishes for celebration days and how she has been featured in august publications such as the Financial Times, and that tourists to the UK can read all about her restaurant as they fly in on Virgin Airlines because she is front-page news in the airline’s magazine. A man on the next table interrupted to tell us that he had come down from Manchester just to eat here!
Kaieteur Kitchen Original is a bright and shiny place with photos of Guyana adorning the walls. Staff were busy running in and out to deliver food samples out in to the square where festival-goers were enjoying the music and sunshine. But inside we were getting high on the aromas of meats and spices emanating from the kitchen.
And it did not take long before those aromas were wafting right beneath our noses as steaming plates of food were placed before us. Mr Brown’s Beef and Vegetable Stew, with plantain and spinach rice looked very special from where I was sitting, although my Guyanese Traditional Pepper Pot, which was full of oxtail and cow foot, and only made on certain days, looked like an adventure about to begin.
Dipping into the gravy I could identify some of the spices, but there were those that remained an exotic mystery to me. And I know never to ask a chef their recipe because they always keep their best ones a secret. The meat was so tender and succulent it dropped off the bone, but what surprised me was the spinach rice — a new one on me. It was so tasty, and looked like something I could recreate at home.
Paul, across the table, was keeping quiet and taking his time over his food, so I didn’t disturb him but just watched as he added small dabs of the hot chilli sauce that had been provided to see his reaction when it took the roof of his mouth off.
It never did. This man is well-schooled in the world of the Scotch Bonnet and knows his chilli limitations. He ate that chilli sauce like a Boss!
Faye Gomes has become an Elephant & Castle legend since she began cooking food here, and now I know why. Her fame is international so I recommend booking early before it will be impossible to get a table.
Kaieteur Kitchen Original, Castle Square, Unit 11-12, First Floor, Elephant Road, SE17 1EU
07466 616137 – https://kaieteurkitchen.business.site/
Mon – Sat 11am – 8pm
Beef and Vegetable Stew 10.00
Pepper Pot 8.50
Homemade Fruit Punch x 2 7.00
Spinach Rice x 2 8.00
Plantain x 2 3.00