London’s African Caribbean Fusion Spot: Deluxe Manna Review.

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

Chicken Kitchen- Does this New West London Spot live up to its buzz?

I’ve heard a whole lot about Chicken Kitchen. Especially pertaining to their popularity and their infamous dumpling burger. Located in West London, just a short distance away from Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, Chicken Kitchen is situated on the quieter Goldhawk Road. I paid them a visit to find out whether this new raved about restaurant lives up to its buzz. Read on for my super honest review.First Impressions

I spontaneously decided to take the trip down to have my first Chicken Kitchen experience on a quiet Sunday evening; or so I thought.

On driving past the restaurant, I was alarmed by the amount of people both outside and inside. (The day I decide to come out looking the worst I could possibly look might I add.) This may be a good or bad thing to you depending on how you look at it. Clearly, the restaurant is super popular and it must be for a reason right? In the same breath and without sounding pretentious, I’m not the biggest fan of hyper popular places where I may run into the whole world. I usually stay well away.

After parking up and venturing in, I wasn’t super impressed with the atmosphere inside. It’s far too small and busy to eat-in comfortably. Despite having seats, I promptly changed my eat in review trip to a take away run.

The decor inside is humble with open bricks and tones of red which are consistent with their theme.

There were no visible menus and an extremely long queue. The crowd seemed to be a blend of those who had ordered and those waiting to order. I was quite confused at first but managed to locate the queue and a worse for wear menu on a clipboard towards the front.

Service

The choices on the menu looked great and were very reasonably priced. After waiting about 15 minutes to be served and after running into a couple of people, I placed my order.

The service was unmoving to say the least. I can imagine that with such a busy restaurant, it must be difficult to be cheery consistently throughout the day but the service I received was very cold and not what I would expect from good service.

The shop at the moment also only takes card which is inconvenient and as I rarely carry cash, I had to cap my order at £25 which is a shame because I had intended to buy everything to try. As well as the long wait to be served, I had another 25 minutes wait for my food.

This wasn’t a huge deal to me, it was very clear that the food was made fresh and this comes at the cost of waiting. I also loved the fact that food was made so you could see. I patiently waited in my car as by now even more people had entered the restaurant and the noise levels began to rocket. I ordered the fried dumpling burger with jerk chicken and cheese and one with fried chicken and cheese as well as the wing roulette which came with jerk, fried and barbecue wings. I also got an additional burger for my mom and a bottle of their fruit punch. These were the items recommended to me from more or less everyone and what initially attracted me to the restaurant.

The staff called out the numbers of the orders but as I was outside I had to sort of scurry to the front to check. When my order was eventually called, it was missing the wings which I noticed once I sat in my car, so made the awkward walk back to the shop and to the front which was quickly rectified.

The Food.

Let’s get onto the actual food.

I tried the fried chicken dumpling burger first and all I can say is wow. It’s such a simple invention but it works so well. The dumplings are a little sweet and moreish whilst the way they shape and fry the dumplings stop them from being just chicken and a dumpling.

This was really a hit for me and I had to force myself to stop eating it so I could make my way home. Despite the burger not looking the most glamorous, it was super tasty and simple.

The fruit punch was gorgeous too but a word of warning, it’s very on the sweet side. It was a tiny bit too sweet for my liking because I’ve cut out sugar but the mix was gorgeous. I would definitely throw a few shots of rum in there which would balance out the sweet like a dream.

The wings roulette was also delicious. All the wings were flavourful, my favourite being the fried wings surprisingly. The bbq wings would have been my favourite but were overdone for me which could have been a minor oversight. The char (see pictures below) distracted away from the bbq flavour but oddly enough I could taste their potential.

Finally I tried the jerk burger too and this topped the fried chicken burger for me. The chicken was succulent and well seasoned.

Final thoughts.

I can definitely see why this spot is so popular. Whilst I think there are a lot of minor improvements to make, I have to commend them and appreciate the fact that they are fairly new.

I think in the coming months, the brand will grow into their strengths and really perfect their craft. At present they have the innovation and customer base so I’d love to see improvements made to their staff’s customer service, their wait times and queue management, and their general restaurant atmosphere.

I hope to see the restaurant implement something digital to manage ordering especially. When you look at the customer journey from start to end, 40 minutes is a long time to wait.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a place to eat in but I would recommend a visit for takeaway if you have time on your hands. I would definitely suggest everyone try them especially for the dumpling burger. I really enjoyed my meal and would buy from them again. The dumpling burger really is a must try. You can check them out on instagram @chickenkitchenuk and http://www.chickenkitchenuk.com

I hope you found this review insightful and as always, no matter what review I do, I will always be 100% honest and transparent.

The Food Doll.

Is this the best brunch in West London?- Carpentier & Co

Brunch has solidified itself this year as my favourite meal of the day. It is versatile, modern and acceptable to drink alcohol frugal.

What I also love about brunch is that is makes a great outing for all occasions whether it be a meeting, a date or a catch up with friends. A great brunch place also caters well for vegans, vegetarians of the health conscious.

I’ve become quite a gem finder and my most recent find is one of my favourite so far. A mere stone throw away from my house, hides a quaint cafe called Carpentier & Co just off Pinner High Street in North-West London.

It’s fairly small and cosy, so we were lucky to get a table on a Sunday afternoon. You could almost walk right past the cafe, which looks more like a cool vintage store than anything.

Stepping inside felt like stepping into a house from Alice in Wonderland (if Alice was a rebellious teen from the 50s.) The cafe has so much character which is refreshing with most restaurants opting for minimalistic decor these days.

The first item I tried was their Spanish hot chocolate which is thicker and more chocolatey than your standard hit chocolate. Topped with a thick layer of cream and mini marshmallows, this made the perfect indulgent start to my meal.

As well as the hot chocolate, we ordered two bottles of prosecco. Both were delicious and fairly priced. What is brunch without prosecco?!

We ordered a range of items between us as well as some individual options. These were: The Greek sharing board and the antipasti sharing board. The foods on the sharing boards were of high quality and hand lovingly made.

One of my favourite things about the cafe quite instantly was the fact that everything is made in front of you. I get sensory satisfaction from seeing all the elements of my dish come together.

The star of the visit for me however, was the avocado, halloumi and chilli jam toast drizzled in a balsamic glaze. This was nothing short of divine. It’s always interesting to me how simplicity and quality products can create some of the best dishes you’ve had. This was no different. The saltiness of the halloumi balanced well with sweetness of their homemade chilli jam. The chilli jam deserves its own mention. It had just the right amount of kick; it’s unique blend made me crave more.

As well as the food and the atmosphere, the ladies who work in Carpentier and Co are some of the sweetest women I’ve met along The Food Doll’s journey. They were really helpful and explained everything thoroughly.

Overall, Carpentier and Co easily slides into my list of top venues. Our meal was cheap yet blew some of the more high end, costly brunch spots out of the water.

I can’t wait to re-visit the venue who also offer private hire. You can check them out at http://www.carpentierandco.com

Vietnamese Lunch Date: Union Viet Restaurant.

Still on a Vietnamese cuisine high and realising that it’s frankly one of the best cuisines for healthy eaters, I came across this hidden gem in Southwark, central London.

It purported to be a cheap eat run by a friendly Vietnamese family who believed in quality and authentic flavour. It had great reviews so I had to pay them a visit.

The Restaurant.

The restaurant is just a short walk away from Southwark station on one of the quieter streets: Union Street.

Decorated with hues of blue and tons of character, the establishment has a cool street food feel.

We first found our table upstairs and popped back downstairs to have a look at the menu. We were also told how lucky we were to get a table with ease because they are usually very busy.

The Menu

There was so much choice. I tend to dislike menus that have too much choice because I’m honestly just glutinous and then get frustrated that I won’t be able to try everything. I mean, how will I ever know what the best dish is?! I’m sure not many other people share this problem though.

I opted for the ultimate pho which had sliced beef cooked to medium, chicken breast and king prawns. I also ordered their vegetable spring rolls with sweet chilli and a Vietnamese Iced coffee. My guest chose the chicken curry with rice and pork spring rolls with a mango smoothie.

We noticed they also had a pho challenge where you had a chance to have your picture on the wall for defeating it. I’ve always wanted to enter a food challenge so perhaps I’ll enter this at some point.

The Food.

The Vietnamese iced coffee came first. I’m not usually a fan of cold coffee but had never tried this take. I’m so glad I did. It was delicious. I could taste condensed milk and high quality coffee throughout.

The spring rolls to my delight were baked as opposed to deep fried. They were crispy and delicious. They tasted even better because they weren’t drenched in oil as normal. Unlike some spring rolls that taste like a mouth full of pastry, these had a generous filling. They were also huge! I struggled to finish all three as these weren’t your typical sized spring rolls.

The pho was incredible and fresh. I couldn’t choose which pho to have so was happy they offered this deluxe version for those who want it all. The beef slices used were of very high quality and all the ingredients were crisp and tasty. The broth itself was well seasoned and had strong tones of ginger, spring onion and meat throughout.

I had a taste of my guest’s meal too (because I’m a typical woman who wants whatever you’re having as well). The chicken was incredible and the dish, even down to the chilli used, was fresh and well thought out. My guest seemed pretty impressed.

Above all, I was delighted not only by the friendliness of the staff, but how affordable this was with such high quality ingredients. My meal came to just under £14, (£17 with the iced coffee) which is extremely reasonable for the choice and size of what I had. The portions were monumental and I actually took home half of my pho which I then had for dinner too. Their prices are around £1 cheaper per dish if you get your food to go.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you’re passing through the area of for an affordable date where you could easily eat for under £10 or £20 for a more extravagant selection. There’s also something really refreshing about spending your money somewhere so family orientated. I felt really at home.

http://www.unionviet.com

The Food Doll.

The Daddy Burger- Halloumi, avocado, crispy bacon, smoked cheese and double patties on a brioche bun.

I make my cheat days really count and I always let my cravings lead me. All week, I’ve been craving brioche and mountains of cheese. Last night, I ruffled around my fridge and came up with the ultimate indulgent dish idea.

I rewarded myself and made what I call, The Daddy.

Two succulent beef patties, layered with grilled halloumi, peppered avocado slices, crispy bacon, perinaise, smoked cheese, fresh lettuce and ketchup.

The flavours were absolutely incredible. This isn’t quite a recipe but more of a suggestion that you just have to try.

On some toasted brioche, layer some sliced avocado and sprinkle some fresh black pepper over it. Layer one of your succulent beef patties onto the avocado followed by your some ketchup, melted smokey cheese and your crispy bacon above that.

Add another beef patty and then your grilled halloumi. Add a dollop of perinaise mayo and your fresh lettuce.

Try it!

The Food Doll.

Garlic, Chilli & Lemon King Prawn and Salmon Pasta Recipe.

Seafood and pasta is a match made in culinary heaven. I am beyond obsessed with king prawns and it genuinely confuses me as to how and why they are so delicious. (Not to be dramatic or anything but if there was a choice between my friends and an unlimited supply of prawns, then… I guess my birthday would be a very lonely event.)

My favourite thing about pasta is how flexible and fool proof it is. You can take pasta from basic to luxurious or from healthy to indulgent.

I developed this recipe for seafood lovers. It is simple, healthy and tasty. There is no heavy or sugary sauce which allows the salmon and prawns to be the primary flavour of the dish. It is filling and fresh, not to mention quick. A perfect dish for when you want a full flavoured pasta dish without the guilt.

Ingredients.

  • Salmon fillet (one per person, skin removed)
  • 6-8 raw king prawns (per person)
  • Low fat margarine (or olive oil)
  • 1 spring onion (chopped)
  • 4 Cherry tomatoes (per person)
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • Parsley
  • Lemon juice
  • Red chilli (de seeded, amount dependent on heat preference)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Cooked pasta (spaghetti or linguine recommended)

Method.

1.     Cut your salmon fillet into equal sized chunks. (Not too small or it will overcook)

2.     Season your salmon and king prawns with some salt and black pepper (If you don’t have raw king prawns, you can use cooked but this makes a big difference to the taste.)

3.     Put some margarine into a frying pan on medium heat and add your spring onion, garlic and chilli. This will become the base to your sauce. Sautee for about 20 seconds.

4.     Add your king prawns followed by your salmon chunks. (These will cook very quickly so make sure you are attentive.)

5.     After a few minutes, once the salmon and king prawns have almost cooked through (not all the way otherwise they will be overcooked by the end), add the chopped cherry tomatoes and stir through gently.

6.      Add some more margarine to the pan and about two tablespoons of lemon juice, and then turn the heat down slightly.

7.     Add a little bit more garlic, some parsley,  salt and pepper and simmer for a couple of minutes until you have a slightly thicker sauce.

8.     Add your hot, cooked pasta to the pan and turn gently so the sauce coats all the pasta. (be careful not to be too heavy-handed as you will break up the salmon)

9.     Serve with some parsley and parmesan sprinkled on top. Enjoy!

I’d love to see how this dish came out for you! Why not post a picture of Instagram or Twitter and tag me @thefooddoll in.

The Food Doll.

Delicious & Easy Pepper Steak Recipe.

Pepper steak is one of the most delicious, yet lesser known signature dishes to come out the Caribbean. West Indian cuisine tends to favour red meat in their dishes, from oxtail to curry goat.

I adore this dish because of how easy it is to make and how well it keeps for meal prep. I actually find it tastes even better the day after as the flavour truly permeates the steak. It’s also one of the quickest dishes to make which suits the working person.

I hadn’t planned to do a recipe post for this. I had only planned to do a tutorial but on my soon to be released YouTube channel (subscribe so you are the first to see my first video once it goes up!), but I was asked so many times, it was only right.

I’ll also be showing a live tutorial of this recipe with some luxurious additions at What’s New Pop Up: Food, on the 11th February which you do not want to miss. Use my code FOODDOLL10 to receive 10% off the final release tickets here:

Ingredients:

  • Steak- pre cut strips or any tender cut such as sirloin, flank etc. 900g
  • 2-3 Bell Peppers- various colours sliced
  • Scotch Bonnet- ½ chopped, de-seeded
  • Soy Sauce- 2 tablespoon
  • Olive Oil- to coat pan
  • Garlic- 1 crushed
  • Crushed black peppercorns- enough to coat
  • Pimento- 5
  • Everyday or oxtail seasoning- 1 tablespoon
  • Black pepper- ½ teaspoon
  • Thyme- 3 fresh sprigs or one teaspoon
  • Stock cube- 1 beef flavoured
  • Honey- 1 tablespoon
  • Onion- 1 small sliced thinly
  • Scallion- 1 diced

Method.

1.    First combine the sliced steak with half of the garlic, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the seasoning, black pepper, pimento and half of the thyme. Rub this in thoroughly.

2.    Place your crushed pepper corns and a little salt on some cling film and coat the slices in the dry coating and leave to marinade for at least 20 minutes.

3.    Heat some olive oil and brown your steak by rotating the pieces periodically. You’ll need to fry it on all sides to lock the flavour in.

4.    Add the remaining chopped onions, scallion, thyme and garlic, followed by the bell peppers about 1 minute after (bell peppers sprout water so will prevent the onions from caramelising properly if put in at the same time)

5.    Add the remaining soy sauce and honey, then combine thoroughly.

6.     Add about half a cup of water, the scotch bonnet, the stock cube and then cover and cook down until the sauce is thick and the meat is tender.

7.    Serve over white rice or a healthier option such as quinoa. You can also leave this to rest then portion this off into containers for meal prep.

The Food Doll.

Melt in the Middle Mozzarella Meatballs Recipe.

Italian is by far one of my favourite cuisines. Besides West Indian culture, a lot of my recipes are influenced from the time I’ve spent in Italy and being taught dishes by Italian friends.

I fell in love with homemade meatballs when they were made for me by an Italian friend. They were juicy, bursting with flavour and extremely versatile. I decided to combine this with my love of cheese and finding delightful surprises within my food. Thus was born this recipe.

Read below for the ingredients list and recipe.

  • 1 small pack of minced meat (I used beef but you can use any. For super tasty meatballs, use half beef, half pork.)
  • Blended brioche rolls or hard/stale bread
  • Garlic (2 cloves fresh or 1 teaspoon dry)
  • Rosemary (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Thyme (1 teaspoon)
  • Oregano (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 egg
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 Finely chopped onion
  • 1 Mozzarella ball.

Method.

Brown the chopped onions in some olive oil spray until translucent.

Drain off the oil and add into a bowl with your mince and seasonings; then mix well with your fingertips so that the mixture incorporates the seasoning.

Add your brioche or bread to a blender/nutri-bullet and blitz until at breadcrumb texture.

Add your brioche breadcrumbs and beaten egg to your mince mixture and combine until into a workable texture with your hands. It should be moist enough to work into ball but not soggy.

Spray some olive oil onto a tray and create meatball shapes by moulding the mixture in the palm of your hands. Ensure that these are equal sized. Try not to handle the mixture too much between your hands.

Once your meatballs have been mounded, cut your mozzarella into equal chunks.

Using your index finger, press down into your meatballs to create a dip.

Place your chopped mozzarella into the grooves of the meatballs and re-roll to enclosure the mozzarella chunk evenly into the mixture.

Finally brown your meatballs in a little olive oil in a frying pan until browned and crispy on the outside. You can either cook your meatballs fully this way or pop then into the oven as I do to finish then cooking.

Enjoy these meatballs by themselves, in a sauce or with pasta. The choice is yours!

The Food Doll. ❤