We love Caribbean/West Indian food, but our local options in Chicago are somewhat limited to Jamaican food and a Trinidadian spot or two. However, our trip to London provided us with the rare opportunity to sample Guyanese cuisine and we jumped at the chance. The ultimate Guyanese dish is the roti, an unleavened bread popular in Indian cuisine, which was brought to the West Indies by immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. The beauty of the roti is in its role as a wrap, that can be filled with nearly anything! We learned about a couple of roti restaurants in the Brixton area which seemed to be located in food trucks or markets, and were near-impossible to track down. However, we heard great things about Umana Yana (294 Croxted Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24 9DA).
Umana Yana is located south of the Caribbean-flavored area of Brixton, definitely off the tourist track. The name “Umana Yana” comes from a famous monument in Guyana whose name means “meeting house of the people” in the indigenous Wai-Wai language. The shop was tiny, but fully stocked with rotis and curries of every stripe, including chicken and eggplant, pumpkin, oxtail and goat (among many others). The curry was kept in small containers separately in the refrigerated counter, so you mix and match, or take your options to-go, which seemed to be a popular option. There was only one table inside, so we took advantage of the nice weather and waited for our food at a table outside. Aside from the huge variety of curries there were other Guyanese appetizers, including poulourie (fried green pea dough fritters) and bara (lentil fritters). We decided to split a Goat curry on dohl puri, at the behest of the chef/owner Deborah. We really enjoyed the dohl puri, a roti filled with chickpeas, which was unusual and different from a garden variety roti (we ordered one of those on the side too – see above). The rotis were made fresh to order, and were like thin, rich naan: soft and a little flaky, but not too greasy. Unfortunately the curry was not too photogenic, but it was certainly delicious. To finish, we recommend washing your meal down with a delicious, floral sorrel drink. It also bears mentioning that the owner of Umana Yana, Deborah is a sweet as can be, and made us feel incredibly welcome. If you are in search of Guyanese food in London, Umana Yana is the real deal.