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.
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.