Visit Barbados and you’ll experience a sun-sprinkled fusion of West African and British culture. British interest in the island began in 1625 when Barbados was claimed in the name of James I, but it wasn’t until two years later that settlers arrived; a mixture of British colonialists and African slaves.
The nation’s dual roots are still evident today but have evolved into the Bajan culture we know and love. English endures as the official language of the island, but the distinctive dialect it’s spoken in is a classic part of Barbadian culture. Bajan cuisine remains a surprising but delicious blend of African spices, British staples and Caribbean ingredients: it’s as easy to pick up swordfish or cou-cou on the island as it is to find black pudding!
Just as the British had descended on Barbados, between 1955 and 1966 Barbadian migrants began flooding into Britain looking for work. The UK is now home to several proud and thriving Bajan communities, notably around London, Reading and Ipswich.
Sample the Bajan background
Visiting the island is one way to sample its unique Caribbean culture, but you no longer need to travel to Barbados for a genuine Bajan experience. We’ve created the following maps to share a handful of our favourite Bajan haunts, in Britain and Barbados.
London – Rum and Relish
When you think of Bajan food, you think of African spices and no one handles the jerk better than Mama in this family run restaurant. Jerk chicken, jerk pork sausages and even jerk vegetables are lovingly prepared in her kitchen which must surely be a byword for authentic Caribbean fodder. Delicious dumpling soups and plantain are also available for a real taste of Bajan.
Bajan cuisine is as much about drink as it is food, and it’s impossible to overlook Barbados’ oldest and most popular tipple: rum. Stocking a ridiculous amount of different brands, The Rum Kitchen prides itself on selling a variety of sumptuous Caribbean-flavoured cocktails all day long. These are available alongside gumbo and saltfish bites, and played out with some swinging reggae beats for a truly immersive Bajan experience.
Barbados – Views and Vigour
The Brighton Farmers Market is less of a destination and more of a day out! Opening at 10.00am each Saturday morning, you can pick up a delicious breakfast of juices and patties before embarking on a market that stocks anything from art and jewellery to vegetables or clothing. Best described as lively, its colourful ambience is what keeps it popular year on year.
Get to The Deck to sample real Barbadian cuisine in amazing surroundings. Situated on the beautiful Garrison Historic Area beach, this mouth-watering restaurant has a great line in shrimp and blackened seafood on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesdays. However, head down any other night of the week for a real taste of the Caribbean by sampling their Bajan buffets of BBQ, stews and plantain.
Have you enjoyed an authentic Caribbean experience? Let us know where.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.