A restaurant that I have been dying to try is an African and Caribbean fusion specialist called Deluxe Manna in North London.
The establishment was recommended to me by a friend who lives in the area and who often posts enviable plates displaying mouth-watering platters.
Read on to see how the experience and food turned out.
My first step was to call the restaurant to see if I could get a booking and was told that I would be fine to walk in…
What a huge mistake. We arrived around 8 o clock, to an extremely busy restaurant with a range of parties from birthdays and families; to post club goers and couples.
We were told the wait would be around 40 minutes but this was around an hour and fifteen minutes in reality. Normally, I would never wait this long but I was determined to review the restaurant and perhaps it was worth the wait?
Despite the restaurant spanning across two separate rooms, the layout prevents customers from actually utilising or waiting by the bar without looking like misplaced furniture. It’s an incredible shame and waste of what could be a great bar space. I would have been happy to wait an hour if I could have sipped cocktails on a bar stool.
Following the painful wait, we ran into yet another inconvenience. A handwritten ‘cash-only payments ‘ sign. This is a pet hate of mine because I never carry large amounts of cash as a personal preference. The closest cash point was about a 5 minute walk. Not too awful but with very limited parking that felt like an adrenaline induced game, that 5 minute cash point run made my blood pressure rise and I literally had to reverse my car like a getaway driver to steal a space from someone. (Sorry sweetheart but it’s every woman for herself.)
The menu had an incredible range of choice, both in drink and food. There were several starters such as prawns, samosas and wings followed by mains that ranged from west-Indian dishes like curry goat and oxtail to classic West African dishes like jollof.
On recommendation, we ordered the Manna Platter that came with a range of meats and sides. We also had beef skewers to start and a Wray and nephews mixer to wash it all down.
I wasn’t very impressed with the beef skewers which were not flavourful enough for me at all. They were also a little on the chewy side.
Our platter came out very quickly and was a sight for eyes. The menu stated that we had a choice of three sides but we were told it actually came with all sides. This was not the case and should I visit again, I would specific exactly which sides I want.
The platter came with smoked lamb, ribs, wings, jollof rice, salad, plantain and cassava at a very frugal £26.
The jollof was the star of the show for me. It was incredibly flavourful with the right level of spice. The wings and ribs were also really tasty and well seasoned. I had never had smoked lamb prior to this visit and I wasn’t disappointed. The smoky flavour was very distinct and complimented the meat well.
The two elements that really let me down were the cassava and the plantain. The plantain was cut far too thick and was under ripe. A few slices were well done on the outside but ice cold and uncooked in the middle. The cassava didn’t make sense with the meal at all as it requires heavy sauce to be eaten. We practically left this untouched. I would have much preferred a double portion of jollof instead.
The meal also really needed to be wetter with some sort of meat based sauce.
This was definitely a weird visit for me. Despite some clear areas in need of improvement, some of the elements of the dishes were strong enough that I would possibly consider returning. This was very hit and miss. The meal came to £40 for two which included my alcoholic drink, the platter and the starters. A very decently priced meal indeed.
I would like to re-visit at a quieter time for a better experience. I would also order differently. Looking around the restaurant, it seemed like there were some clear favourites which makes me wonder if a different order would make me feel differently. I noticed everyone tried their signature pineapple cream cocktail.
That being said, uncooked food is not acceptable for any restaurant and I don’t say this lightly. I am always disappointed when I give negative reviews to black owned restaurants but I feel the honest feedback is necessary for us to excel besides my ethos of honesty for my readers.
I would love for Deluxe Manna to reconsider the layout of their restaurant and utilise the bar as a bar and not a payment till.
I would also love for them to implement a booking system to give a better customer experience as well as accurate menu descriptions and communication from waiters/waitresses.
I’m not in any rush to return to the restaurant but wouldn’t rule it out. Deluxe Manna has built up a good customer base as evidenced by their busy restaurant which was bustling well into the deep of the night. Perhaps if I’m in the area again, I’ll grab some as a takeaway option.
You can find them here: http://www.DeluxeManna.com