The Life Of Brian

Croydon

12 Aug 17

The Life of Brian 

Guess what? Contrary to the norm, it turns out Caribbean food’s not all jerk chicken and curried goat. Especially if Fish, Wings & Tings’ Brian Danclair has anything to do about it.

This is a man who went from Trinidad to the US, kicked some ass while at some of the top restaurants in Washington DC when he was 19, jumped on a plane to the UK where he landed jobs at the Ritz and under borderline national treasure Angela Hartnett at the Connaught, set up his own catering business to feed celebrities – the likes of Les Bleus legend Patrick Vieira – and high commissions (‘when I speak to Prime Ministers,’ he tells one magazine, ‘they listen’), before reinventing Caribbean food for the London people.

That’s a helluva ride. One that has culminated with Fish, Wings & Tings in Brixton and at Boxpark Croydon; Brian’s way of planting the Caribbean flag in London and saying, ‘this is how we do it.’

‘Fish, Wings & Tings was basically a dream I had in Washington,’ says Brian. ‘I had the plan laid out a long time ago, and was waiting for the time and place to execute it.’

While in Washington, Brian fell in love. With a pretty little thing. It was called Provençal cuisine. He was working under Yannick Cam, the chef who bought the new light and delicate hallmarks of nouvelle cuisine under the noses of Washingtonians for the first time. ‘He’s the best French chef I’ve worked with,’ says Brian. ‘He did Provençal food – Mediterranean, full of colour, but with all these stews as well. I immersed myself in it. I love Provence so much I want to live in Provence. I travel there every year.’

Like Yannick, Brian ended up trailblazing a cuisine in a place that hadn’t necessarily seen it up close before. ‘When I came over [to the UK], I was quite shocked at the state of Caribbean food,’ he says. ‘Up until recently, we were still doing a lot of nonsense. The food at a lot of Caribbean restaurants all tastes the same – that’s because most of them will go and buy, say, packets of soup from Greece rather than make a fresh pot of chicken soup or fresh red bean soup. So you find they all have a similar taste between them.’

That love of Provençal cuisine – and the malcontent towards the way Caribbean food was represented – came together to make one thing: Fish, Wings & Tings. It’s a marriage of colour and counter-culture. Just like the menu. ‘We have things like yellow pineapple mango chutney with red cabbage coleslaw, rice, and peas; tamarind barbeque sauce; or a yellow curry,’ says Brian. ‘The language is different too – on a typical Caribbean menu, you’ll never see aioli. For the codfish fritters, we do ginger and lime aioli.’

Those cod fritters have worked up a bit of a reputation. Why? Maybe it’s the delicateness of the cod; the crispiness of the batter’s shell. Maybe it’s because they’re like a ‘high-five from Jesus,’ as a guest once put. Or maybe it’s because they help people realise that, with Caribbean fare, there’s way more to it than what first meets the eye.