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.

Jollof House Review- Nigerian VS Ghanaian Jollof Rice?

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Jollof House UK, a brand new takeaway food service based in the heart of Brixton.

I had seen videos of enviable plates from some of my peers and heard great reviews. I knew I would need to visit as soon as possible.

I’m a huge fan of west African food and one of my goals this year is to master some of the delicious dishes that come from many of the continents dominant countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.

I prefer home cooked food that delivers passion with each bite. Paradoxically, I find that a lot of Caribbean and African restaurants lack consistency across the board because of this reason.

Jollof House is owned by chefs Mina and Cynthia who, combined, make a powerhouse of skilled cooking and intense flavours.

The Food.

Jollof House UK serves their dishes based off a multi choice menu where you can choose one or more types of meat that is then served with set sides.

I ensured I tried everything on the menu to give a full review.

First and foremost, the Jollof rice was delicious. I’m not a Jollof expert but I am an expert on flavours. One of the first questions I asked Jollof House UK was: “Is this Nigerian or Ghanaian style?”.

What makes them extremely unique is that their jollof rice is made combining methods from both Nigeria and Ghana, who both proclaim to have the best style of Jollof rice. Made with basmati, it was the perfect combination of spicy and flavourful. In the past I’ve found some versions of this dish to be oily and more heat than actual taste. I would have been happy to eat this by itself which is a great indication of good rice.

Next in my plate was a huge selection of meats.

I was one of the first to try a pilot of their lemon pepper wings and I wasn’t disappointed. The lemon wasn’t overpowering at all. The chicken was crispy on the outside and flavoured well inside. The barbecue chicken was also a great choice. It has a soft smokey barbecue flavour with a hint of sweetness.

I then got the opportunity to try two dishes I’ve never had which is ‘chofi’ and then ‘shaki’. Why did I not discover chofi sooner? For those unfamiliar with it, it is a dish of Ghanaian origin which is made with turkey tails.The meat was succulent and bursting with taste. The shaki was also really tasty. I have heard many funny stories from my Nigerian friends about shaki being tough and splashing into your eye. I don’t have any story to tell you apart from that it tastes wonderful.

I also had bbq ribs which were conveniently sliced to make them easy to eat. The meat slid off the bone and held the flavour well, a sign of great seasoning.

Finally, I got to try their version of jerk pork. I was surprisingly impressed. The pork was very tasty and flavoured well with a hint of sweetness. I have to mention here that I would personally refer to this as sweet and spicy grilled pork as opposed to jerk pork as the distinct jerk flavours that are unique to jerk, were too subtle to define the dish as this in my opinion. It was delicious nonetheless.

Besides the plethora of main dishes there were also complimenting sides.

I love their Ghanaian take on fried plantain which is called kelewele. The plantain was diced and seasoned which was very enjoyable. As well as this, the meal included a side of mac and cheese.

The mac and cheese was subtle and had three different cheeses used throughout. The mac and cheese wasn’t as cheesy and moist as I’d like it but I feel a super cheesy mac and cheese would have been a little too heavy with everything else going on. I also have to add that I like my mac and cheese super cheesy as a personal preference and not everyone does.

Final Thoughts.

I literally ate the whole meal in silence because of how amazing the food was. If you know me well, you’d know that I’m actually a very harsh critic of food so to hear that coming from me is a rare deal.

At £10 for two meat choices and sides of £12 for three and sides, this was great value as the portions were huge.

The meal was delicious, well thought out and even better executed. Minus some minor tweaks to the mac and cheese, this was virtually a flawless meal for me and they have made a loyal customer in me. Despite them being in Brixton, I urge you to visit, even if you don’t live in the area.

It was absolutely worth the journey and I can’t wait to try what else they have on the menu. You can check out their menu and order from them on Twitter or Instagram at @jollof_houseuk.

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.

Meal Prep Series- Jerk BBQ Chicken Breast and Rice Peas.

As part of my meal prep and healthy eating series, I am putting together some quick, easy and healthy recipes intended to save time and money.
I work in the city and often work 7 days in a row. It is essential for me to cook lunch in advance to save money and dinner in advance as I don’t always have the time to do this when I get home from a long day.
One of my favourite recipes, is a quick adapted version of classic Jerk chicken and rice and peas. This can altered if you prefer BBQ or sweet chilli chicken by simply changing the sauce base.


Ingredient List:

Chicken:

Chicken breast fillets

Chicken seasoning (dunns river)

Black pepper.

Jerk BBQ sauce (or BBQ or Sweet Chilli).
Rice:

1/5th Scotch bonnet pepper.

2 cups of washed basmati rice.

1/2 tin of red kidney beans with water.

1/2 diced onion.

1 spring onion.

Thyme.

1 Tablespoon of creamed coconut.

A knob of butter or low fat margarine.

Dunns river every day seasoning.

Salt.

Method.

The Chicken.

Ideally, I always try to season any meat a minimum of two hours in advance or overnight however life doesn’t always allow this. 

To get the best flavour out of a short seasoning time, I score my chicken breast diagonally about 3/4 of the way through the fillet. This allows the seasoning and sauce to penetrate the meat whilst cooking and creates wells of flavour when cooked.


I kept the seasoning simple. Using a sheet of foil; add your pepper, chicken seasoning mix, jerk BBQ marinade (or swap with BBQ or sweet chilli if you wish!) add the dry seasonings first then follow this with the sauce.
Bring the foil around the chicken breast to meet in the middle and roll it downwards to seal. Finally, fold the sides upwards to create a pocket. This will allow tender cooking of your chicken breast in the sauce and it’s own juice.

Pop this into the oven at 180 degrees to cook for about 20 minutes.

Leave the rest for a few minutes before opening the foil pocket. (beware of escaping steam). The gravy can be poured straight from the pocket onto the rice.


You can alternate the sauces to create variety. Why not try a smoky barbecue sauce, a sweet chilli base or some garlic paste mixed with lemon juice?

The Rice.

The rice and peas is much simpler than meets the eye. For a traditional dinner, I would use a different recipe with additional ingredients and steps. 

For meal prep, wash two cups of rice with lukewarm water.


Put this into a pot and fill with the 1 1/2 parts water. I used 3 cups of water to my two cups of rice.


They key is to over season the water to hold the flavour. Add all the rice ingredients to the pot except the kidney beans which will be added later.


Bring the rice to the boil on a medium to high heat. Once brought to the boil, stir once cover and turn down to the lowest heat.
After five minutes, add half of the tin of kidney beans and pour in half of the kidney bean water. 

Steam until the rice is fluffy and box into containers for lunch or dinner. 

You can freeze the containers to eat or store in the fridge for a maximum of three days.

Enjoy! 

The Food Doll.

Authentic Jamaican Curry Goat. 

Besides jerk chicken, this is hands down the most popular dish to come out of the Caribbean and for good reason. Being raised in Jamaica has blessed me with some of my country’s most delicious dishes as taught to me by the women of my family.


I decided to share one of my most precious dishes: Curry Goat/Curry Mutton as I know this dish can be tricky for some. Especially because Caribbean cooking rarely use measurements, instead relying on our eye and experience. Nevertheless, here is my recipe for succulent flavourful Jamaican Curry Goat.

Ingredients: 3-4lbs of goat or mutton meat cubes. salt 1.5 teaspoon, pepper 1.5 teaspoon, curry powder 6 teaspoons, pimento seeds (15), thyme (2 teaspoons), scotch bonnet (1, chopped), butter (1 tablespoon), onion (1, chopped), scallions (two sprigs, chopped) water (to cover), carrots (1-2 diced) and potatoes (1-2 diced).
Step one: mix together all the ingredients except the carrots, potatoes and butter. Leave to season overnight or at least 2 hours in the fridge.


Step Two: Add the butter in a Dutch pot or deep pot. Brown your meat on a high heat for a few minutes to seal the juices in by turning periodically.

Step three: Add enough water cover your meat and bring it to the boil.

Step four: Turn the heat down to very low and slow cook for about 2-3 hours. At 45 minutes before end of cooking, add potatoes & carrots. 

Step five: Boil some white rice or rice and peas, fry some plantain and serve with coleslaw.

Tip: The longer this dish sits before serving is generally the better it tastes. I often cook this in the morning or afternoon, then reheat it on the stove whilst preparing the rice. By this time, the meat has truly soaked up the flavour of the sauce and becomes uniquely tasty.

Enjoy!

The Food Doll ❤

Soul Food: Crispy Fried Chicken Wings.

For meat lovers, chicken wings are a classic undefeated favourite that reigns globally.
My chicken wings have always been a love amongst my family and friends so I wanted to share a simplified version of my recipe that you can make without difficultly and with time constraints.

Most of the ingredients should be staples in your cupboards and chicken wings are super cheap to buy.

These come out flavourful, crispy and can be be enjoyed hot or cold.

Enjoy!


Ingredients: 

Diced onion (half)

Spring onions (two)

Soy sauce (two tablespoons)

Liquid seasoning (one tablespoon)

Black pepper (one teaspoon)

Chopped garlic (one clove)

Paprika (one teaspoon)

Chilli powder(optional/one teaspoon)

Chicken seasoning (two teaspoons)

All purpose seasoning. (two teaspoons)

Flour (enough to coat)

Oil.

Method:

Cut extended wing off chicken wings and clean by washing in some vinegar or lemon juice.
Season the prepared chicken wings with all the ingredients except the flour by combining and rubbing well. Leave this overnight if possible or for a minimum of two hours.


Add a teaspoon of all purpose seasoning to self raising flour and coat the chicken thoroughly. (You don’t need to add egg or any additional ingredients as the soy sauce should help to coat)
Fry the wings in a generous amount of vegetable oil on a medium heat. Constantly rotate the wings until dark brown and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and serve.


The Food Doll. ❤