Monthly Archives: May 2011

Jamaican Food in Radford (Part 2)

Red snapper in a delicious sweet and sour sauce with callaloo rice.

Just a quick entry to whet your appetite a bit. So, after arriving at the ‘Jamaican Ways’ Carribean food joint in Radford this Sunday only to find it had closed for the afternoon, I made it my mission to go back there at some point this week when it was open. Today’s balmy weather and the blissed-out summer vibes were all indicating to me that it was the perfect time to head out and get some equally feel-good Carribean grub. The omens were good and I had the instinctive feeling the food was gonna be even better…

Jamaican Ways was open and was in full-swing during what seemed to be a busy lunch hour. The place had a varied menu which featured sea bream with polenta and red snapper with callaloo rice as the day’s specials. Something made me fancy the latter more (more vibrant-sounding perhaps) so I went for it. It was amazing, I mean really amazing: freshly cooked and packed full of flavour – it tasted every inch as good as it looked.

I was only in there very briefly, but this place truly lived up to the internet hype I’d been reading earlier and seemed like one of those enduring, unpretentious and authentic eateries you can’t help become fond of. Needless to say, I’ll be back very soon…

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Jamaican Food in Radford

Chantel B's Tasty Bites, Radford

In the depths of Radford – a rather drab and oppressive inner-city district just a stone’s throw from the manicured, rarefied and slightly bourgeois atmosphere of the Nottingham University campus – you can find some of the most authentic and exotic foods this country has to offer. The area is hardly salubrious and you’d do best to avoid it most of the time but it is to it’s credit, an absolute hive of multiculturalism – with Carribean, African and Asian communities mixing it up and contributing to an abundance of foreign influences and foods within a confined, yet densely packed square mile.

Nottingham has a small but visible and long-established Jamaican community and, despite the fact I’ve been living here for some time I’d rarely taken time to venture out into the grittier neighbourhoods in town for a bit of island cuisine. However, the sun was out and the congenial summer feel of a lazy Sunday disolved my somewhat priggish suburban suspicions of the area of Radford which has quite a substantial population of Jamaican settlers and their descendents.

10 minutes into my journey and I’d arrived at Hartley Way – but I’d hit a snag: Jamaican Ways (AKA the place recommended to me by my trusted friend Google on account of it having a wide and varied menu and a long list of praising reviews) was shut and so was seemingly everywhere else. Thankfully, directly opposite me stood a cafe which, despite having a more limited and in some ways a more stereotypical Jamaican menu than the other, looked instantly convivial and appealing. Jamaican staples like jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish, red snapper and curry goat all featured on the menu and I must admit to being a little despondent after having psyched myself up beforehand for the lively and extrinsic-sounding lime-escovitched sea bream at the other place, but I guess this was going to be as good as any.

Curry Mutton with rice and peas.

Chantel of “Chantel B’s Tasty Bites” recommended the curry mutton (a variant of the massively popular Indo-Jamaican dish curry goat) with the obligatory side of rice ‘n peas (a ubiquitous Jamaican side dish of long grain rice with black-eyed peas and soaked in coconut milk to counteract fiery meat and poultry dishes). Done well, this is a wonderfully hearty and filling meal and in a way I was glad I’d ended up with something more traditional to sink my teeth into. The mutton is eaten off the bone and remains delectably tender after having been cooked slowkly in a blend of ingredients reflecting Jamaica’s myriad mix of foreign influences. I thought it only suitable that I washed it all down with a sweet Carribean soft-drink, so I opted for a grape soda in favour of the ultra-sickly Bigga Fruit Punch.

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Restaurant Review #3 – Noodle King

It is surprisingly hard to find a decent Cantonese eatery in Nottingham. Due to a recent influx of students to the city’s two universities from mainland China (namely, the Mandarin-speaking parts), and given the University of Nottingham’s close ties to its overseas campus in Ningbo near Shanghai, the traditional Hong Kong cuisine that used to dominate our Chinese restaurant menus (albeit in a very gloopy, corn starch-laden Westerner-friendly form) is starting to be replaced by newer Mainland Chinese regional varieties in the city. While I honestly believe this to be a positive trend and while many of our high-street Chinese takeaways remain intact despite this change in our eating habits, the traditional and authentic Hong Kong café-style eateries are dying out, as many snub the old-school cuisine that arrived here in the 1950s for more exotic varieties increasingly gaining attention in culinary magazines and on TV. Whereas Hong Kong and Cantonese cuisines are milder and largely rice-based, Northern Chinese cuisines (Sichuan, Peking, Shanghai etc.) tend to be spicier and more wheat-based, with noodles being the main staple. I’m personally a bigger fan of the old-school Cantonese way of cooking and find the cuisine to generally be more robust and mouth-watering than its Northern counterpart cuisines —a higher MSG content might be a contributing factor, but hey, is that necessarily a bad thing?

I’d had a hankering for a plate of authentic Cantonese food for the last week or so and was finally able to satisfy my craving when I inadvertently stumbled across “Noodle King” in Nottingham’s cobbled-street Lace Market quarter. The place was small, unassuming and basic but had a characteristically vast Cantonese menu on offer in addition to a few Northern Chinese specialities. On realising the staff and owner were Cantonese, I immediately knew that what I had to order was a plate of something quintessential to that region; roast duck on a bed of white rice seemed to fit the bill just perfectly and low and behold, it even exceeded my expectations. Tender, glistening with little fat globules and loosely encased in that delectably crispy, sweet molasses-lacquered skin, this was every cured meat lover’s dream. In fact, this is exactly the sort of thing one might go for at a dai pai dong (a typical Hong Kong outdoor food vendor) and one mouthful of this food will make you feel as if you’ve been to the South China metropolis.

My prediction is that Cantonese food will enjoy a resurgence in the near future as soon as people realise how incredible the REAL stuff is. Until that time, you can enjoy flirting with the now bewildering range of regional Chinese cuisines available in this country – as well as indulging guiltily from time-to-time, in that electric-pink coloured sweet and sour pork you might get at places like Tung Fong or Fortune Boy.

Noodle King, 15 Goose Gate, Nottingham

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Restaurant Review #2 – MemSaab

Another restaurant review that is sure to whet your appetite. This time it’s MemSaab, which is one of several of Nottingham’s flagship Indian restaurants aligning Maid Marian Way (a well-known stretch of Nottingham’s central ring road). But how you ask, does a poor twenty-something student like me afford to eat here? Well, thankfully I wasn’t the one paying; however, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge footing the bill next time as this was by far the most exquisite Indian food I’ve ever experienced in the UK.

From the outset of your MemSaab experience, you’re made well aware of the restaurant’s prestigious local and national reputation by a long-list of effusively praising reviews written by the likes of The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph emblazoning the front door, as well as a proud and shimmering display of its countless restaurant awards — including Best Indian in Nottingham for four consecutive years — which face you directly as you enter. It was clear to me that the restaurant upheld standards that were far higher than that of your average high-street Indian, and that it was more than keen to assert its stature. Despite this — and to the restaurant’s credit — there wasn’t even a hint of self-aggrandizing about the overall presentation. The waiters who served us throughout the meal were impeccably mannered and attired, incredibly attentive and unerringly professional (perhaps even teetering on being slightly austere — but I won’t hold that against them). The restaurant’s interior was positively cavernous (with seating for over 150), but still made to feel intimate by its dim lighting and tasteful modern/traditional fusion décor complete with ornate Vastu Shastra stone arches and colourful avant-garde canvass portraits.  As expected, the food was absolutely exquisite: the menu featured dishes from various Indian regions including Punjab and Goa, and was as varied as it was vibrant. The obligatory pre-starter of poppadoms with a side of three chutneys was perhaps the most memorable part of the meal given the sheer freshness of the homemade chutneys (the mint one was truly exceptional, I must say). My starter of local ostrich meat marinated in a tandoori spice mix was a perfect synergy of mouthwatering flavours with a delectably tender, melt-in-the-mouth texture. For my main, I opted for the Goan fish curry which consisted of silky white fish in a strong fishy-infused gravy, calmed by sweet and milky essences of coconut. Indeed, it was nothing short of culinary perfection. Sides of peshawari naan, Bombay aloo and vegetable curry were again, all thoroughly delicious and impossible to fault. In short, this was unpretentious pan-Indian fayre done according to exceptional standards.

Overall, dining at MemSaab was a memorable experience; but, being a critic, I feel I ought to ask myself if there’s any way I can possibly find fault: well, I’d say that given how immensely enjoyable the experience was, MemSaab ought to have discovered a way of slowing time by now, in order that you may enjoy your dining experience for longer. And yes, it was THAT good.

12-14 Maid Marian Way
Nottingham NG1 6HS
0115 957 0009

Open Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm; Sun 5pm-10pm

 

MemSaab on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review #1 – Petit Paris

I came across this little French/Parisian-style bistro place quite inadvertently when traipsing the back alleys of Nottingham city centre in search of a quiet and unpretentious eatery, primarily to avoid the soul-destroying and inevitable mediocrity of one of these faceless corporate chains (although it’s quite rare to find the former in central Notts these days). It was lunchtime, and right at the point when I’d decided to give up searching for that elusive independent eatery for fear of stomach self-digestion brought on by a severe lack of satiety (made worse by my consuming three cappuccinos that morning), I stumbled quite fortuitously upon “Petit Paris” on Kings Walk.

Catering to a large extent for the pre-theatre meal-going crowd, Petit Paris emphasises its very reasonably priced lunch menu, which features three courses of simple and robust French bistro cooking: Soupe du jour, saumon en croûte, moules-frites and fillet steak served with that ubiquitous side of fries all feature on this menu and are the sort of French classics we Brits may love to tuck into on our yearly booze cruises to Boulogne, but aren’t that readily available in many other restaurants back home. Of course, there’s that dire and depressing pseudo-Gallic chain known as Cafe Rouge that I shan’t even bother to deplore for fear of corporate reprisals, as well as those  depressingly anglicised permutations of French classics you might see on gastro-pub menus for over-inflated prices (see. coq au vin, duck a l’orange etc), bu it’s generally accepted that you can’t get decent French food unless you drag your arse across the channel. However, Petit Paris delivers authentic French fair to the East Midlands and creates a microcosmic space within the confines of a cramped ex-appartment building in Nottingham where one can feel utterly immersed in a quintessentially Parisian dining scene.

Indeed from the moment you step into its dining room you can sense Paris and the whole place exudes French: from the impeccably attired waiter in a white starched-ironed shirt and shiny polished black leather shoes to the shabby chic faux-antique wooden furniture and the wafting smell of mussels soaked in delicious white wine jus emanating from the kitchen. As I thought, the food was great; I opted for mussels (I just couldn’t resist), a filet mignon and a delectably light tarte tatin to finish. The whole thing tasted like it had been cooked by French chefs who really new what they were doing – no uncessary garnishes, no frills and no gimmicks just hearty and robust food cooked with an appreciation of the simple but wonderful ingredients used.

Could I fault it? No, because it does everything a modest Parisian bistro ought to with consummate flair and skill to boot. I just hope that this place stays afloat during the recession and that people continue to dine here because it’s a much-needed slice of French passion and refinement in amidst a pool of manufactured, profit-driven ordinariness.

Petit Paris, 2 Kings Walk, Nottingham, NG1 2AE | Tel: 0115 947 3767

Le Petit Paris on Urbanspoon

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