Carnival Cuisine

The August bank holiday weekend is nearly upon us and for many in the London area, this can only mean one thing…Notting Hill Carnival!   This huge annual parade, which celebrates London’s multicultural past and present, sees around one million people descend on West London every year for a party on an epic scale.  Food is an essential part of Carnival so read on to find out what makes up the best of carnival cuisine.

The History of Carnival

The Notting Hill Carnival began life in 1964 as a celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture in London.  It emanated the Trinidadian carnivals of the early 19th century that used songs and dance to celebrate the abolition of slavery.   The first London Carnival attracted 500 people to the Earl’s Court where it was originally held.  Now people from all over the UK and indeed the world travel to the maze of streets around Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove to partake in this massive street party which is an incredible mix of sights, sounds, stages and parades that combine to create an electric atmosphere like no other.

CarnivalFoodStandsThis year, over 50,000 people will perform over Carnival weekend and over 40 sound systems will be set up.  With so much to see and so much partying to be had, you’ll be needing sustenance.  Luckily, Carnival is a foodie’s paradise with food and drink stands everywhere.  Caribbean food is of course the cornerstone of all things culinary at Carnival so here’s some of the delicious delights you can expect to find in abundance on the streets of West London this weekend.

Carnival Food: The Highlights

Jerk Chicken or Pork with Rice & Peas

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken (image via)

Average amount  of Jerk Chicken consumed at Carnival: 5 tonnes
Rice and Peas: 1 ton

This is the classic West Indian dish that is at the culinary heart of carnival.  Chicken or Pork is typically seasoned in a hot marinade that doesn’t skimp on allspice, hot pepper and chilies.  It’s usually served alongside rice and peas.  During carnival, you’ll find vendors selling it on every street corner, jerk food trucks parked in every available space and even people selling homemade jerk chicken on their doorsteps so there’s no excuse not to gorge on it!

Fried Plantain


Fried plantain (image via)

Number of fried plantain eaten at Carnival: 15,000

Plantain, which in its unpeeled form resembles a rather large banana, is technically a fruit but is considered a vegetable.  They’re hugely popular in Caribbean cuisine as they’re so versatile and can be eaten at any stage of ripeness – green, yellow or black, though the riper the plantain the sweeter it is.  Traditionally plantains are chopped, fried and lightly seasoned with salt.  They’re sold everywhere at carnival and make a great snack or delicious accompaniment to a jerk meal.


Roti. (image via)


Roti is a type of flatbread that is made from wheat flour and is common to the southern Caribbean.  It’s often eaten alongside a curry or stew or as a wrap filled with curried meat or vegetables.


Patty. (image via)

Jamaican Patties

Amount consumed at carnival: 1 ton

Patties are a savoury pasty sandwich filled with a variety of savoury fillings such as beef, vegetables and ackee.  Perfect to snack on as you make your way through the carnival crowds.

Curried Goat

(image via)

Curried Goat

Curry goat is a staple dish of the West Indians, the goat meat is diced and cooked extremely slowly so that it is tender when eaten.  The meat is flavoured with a spice mix that is heavy on scotch bonnet peppers and then usually served with rice and fried plantain.  A hugely tasty meal and in abundance at carnival, don’t miss out!

Rum Punch

(image via)

Rum Punch

Number of bottles of Rum consumed during Carnival: 25,000

There’s nothing quite like sipping (or glugging) on a makeshift rum punch cocktail to help get you in the mood for carnival.  The cocktail hails from Jamaica and typically consists of a delicious mix of white rum, strawberry syrup and lime or lemon juice. There’s every kind of rum punch seller at Notting Hill Carnival ranging from the official bars to enterprising locals serving their home-made concoctions.  Opt for the latter for a truly authentic (and likelier boozier) experience!

Red Stripe

(image via)

Red Stripe

Jamaica’s national beer is Carnival’s unofficial beer.  It’s everywhere at Carnival so be sure to grab a can when you need to be refreshed!
(Feature image via)