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

The Best Vietnamese in London?- Saigon Saigon Review.

Considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, Vietnamese is a combination of fresh ingredients and an explosion of distinct flavours. Some of the most amazing dishes of the cuisine range from Pho and spring rolls to rice, noodles and seafood.

The word on the foodie street was that Saigon Saigon in West London, served the best of its kind in London so I couldn’t wait to try.

Location and Decor.

The restaurant is in a good location with great transport links and an abundance of free parking after 7. The outside itself was dramatic and bold. You couldn’t miss it if you tried.

Inside was decorated with strong lines of mahogany and cream which gave a very vintage Asian feel. The restaurant it self was very cosy and warm.

First Impressions

On first impression, I noticed it was fairly loud. Typical of a Friday night but at 9pm, I was quite surprised it was still so busy. A testament to their popularity perhaps?

Service was initially a little slow; it took around 18 minutes before we were offered drinks. The waitress also didn’t seem to know the menu very well which we were understanding to but it was a little frustrating. The wine we were advised to get was the opposite of the flavours we asked for but this was changed quickly with no fuss. Their menu is very extensive so take some time to see all the options and ask for recommendations.

Starters.

For starters, we ordered a selection of foods to try. We opted for the pork meatballs with hoisin sauce, the Vietnamese spring rolls and the soft shell crab.

The starters all came quickly, with an amazing side of rice noodles or fresh seasoned salad. A tasty touch.

The deep fried soft shell crab was one of the best I have ever had. It was crispy on the outside with an incredible flavour inside. It came on a bed of garlic and chilli with a side of salt, pepper and lime. A must try. I’m actually still dreaming of its taste right now.

The Vietnamese spring rolls were tasty too. The pastry crunched in your mouth as the prawns and meat burst out. The mixture inside was well balanced with a good ratio of meat to vegetables.

The pork meatballs were succulent and well seasoned in coriander, chilli and topped with mint. I’m not a huge fan of pork but heard good things about this dish. I was most impressed that they came with a size of fresh egg noodles. The Hoisin sauce really took this dish further for me. Overall, a great trio of starters that were very filling.

Mains.

Once again, we went for a range of dishes for variety.

We chose the rib eye steak salad, the tamarind prawns and a vegetarian stir fry with egg fried rice on the side.

The first dish I bolted for was the rib eye steak. Marinated cubes of succulent steak with chilli and garlic on a bed of fresh salad and tomatoes. This was, to put it simply, amazing. The steak was perfectly cooked and sauce it was drenched it was incredible.

The tamarind prawns were a perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Six juicy large prawns in a sticky delicious marinade hit the spot perfectly.

The vegetables and the egg fried rice were great additions. The egg fried rice was cooked so well that I would have been happy to eat this on its own. (I do feel the vegetable dish was over priced for what came with it and that this should be offered as a side.)

The waiters became very attentive as the night quietened down and topped up our wine glasses without question. They also wrapped up our meal to go as we didn’t manage to finish despite it being so delicious. I was tempted to just keep eating until I popped but then remembered that taking some home means I get to taste it all again.

We didn’t opt for desserts as we were super full, but we were given sugared ginger and tamarind sweets which was a very nice touch.

The meal came to around £45 each (including service) which sounds pricey at first glance but my guest and I had: a bottle of wine, three starters, three mains and two sides. A very reasonable price. Without wine and with just one starter, main and side each, this meal would be around £20 each.

This was definitely some of the best Vietnamese I’ve had and needless to say, I’ll definitely be back. The dishes I absolutely recommend are: the soft shell crab and the steak salad. Next time, I aim to try a classic Pho, their calamari and their steam boat menu. (A dish that comes with raw ingredients that you choose which then cook slowly in a special broth on your table)

The atmosphere was buzzing and the staff were nice albeit a little slow at times due to the busy nature of the restaurant.

Above all, what made the food even better for me was that alongside being extremely delicious, it was a healthier option both nutrition wise and bank account wise. This would make an amazing date venue or catch up restaurant.

Thank you Saigon Saigon, I am swooning over your food and can’t wait to come back.

The Food Doll.

Matts BBQ 2017 & The Food Doll’s Rum Punch.

This weekend, I was invited by Matt and his team to experience the infamous festival ‘Matts BBQ’ sponsored by ORS.
I had heard of the event which boasts a mature, care free vibe with endless food, alcohol and incredible music, but hadn’t the chance to attend.
Set in Tunbridge wells Kent across open green grounds and a beautiful lake, it had the perfect festival feel. My guest and I had an amazing welcome by the team as we got whisked away to the ORS VIP tent with a private bar, food station, shisha, bean bags and makeup stations where the beautiful ORS ladies glammed up attendees.



If you know me, you’d know of my long term love affair with Wray and Nephews white rum, so to see the ORS ladies making fresh rum punch with bottles and bottles of it, I was bouncing with excitement.


After a few complimentary glasses of rum punch, we walked around to enjoy the vibes, first walking over to the house tent set by the lake. It was such an interesting paradox with bass filled house and garage, set next to one of the most serene lakes you could ever think of.
The festival, and I say festival because the event in my opinion is far bigger than the name suggests, had a row of food vans boasting a range of cuisines from West Indian and west African to American and Confectionary.
My favourite part? The demolition dome and inflatable slides. Festival goers under safe influence living out their inner child’s nostalgic moments.
There was so much to do and by no means in the background, was the main stage that showcased djs, acts and Matt himself. Infront, the thousands of attendees who drank, danced and laughed well into the night. It’s not a surprise that I ran into a many people I know. The vibe honestly was incredible and it’s not often you can attend such a big event with little worries. It was controlled, safe and more importantly: fun.
Now… the food!


I didn’t get to eat to my heart’s content how I planned as I had to run off to another event in London but I wasn’t disappointed.
The star of the show for me was the rum punch. (Which has inspired me to share a quick recipe below. ) Served in transparent dispensers, the rum punch tasted authentic and silently dangerous. After a few, I was most definitely in the festival spirit.


To follow up, I ungracefully hoovered down oxtail with butterbeans , rice and peas and coleslaw whilst whining away in the crowd to bashment.
The cherry on top for me were the patties and small bites that I got to take away and eat on my transport back into London.



I had a ton of fun and will definitely be back next year, especially as the festival has grown and gotten better year to year. These are the kind of events we need. Thank you to Matt and his team and ORS for a great day and their hospitality.
The Food Doll’s Rum Punch.
Ingredients:
Wray and Nephews White Rum. (2 parts)

Dark rum (optional/1 part)

Fresh limes and lemons. (3 of each sliced and squeezed)

Pineapple juice (1.5 parts)

Orange juice (1 part)

Fruit punch syrup or grenadine. (0.5 parts)

Nutmeg (one teaspoon)

Method: 

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and stir vigorously. Chill for a minimum of three hours to age the flavour and serve over ice.

Drink responsibly!


The Food Doll ❤