I sort of pride myself on my knowledge of food from around the world, thirty odd years of doing this has brought me into contact with a huge range of cuisines, and whilst I remain almost totally mono-lingual I am fairly fluent in menu, providing of course that it is presented phonetically. There are of course gaps and amongst them rather surprisingly is South Africa. Yes of course I have tried, and happily dismissed, biltong, but beyond that nothing. Dad worked in Johannesburg when I was very young but returned with very little to report except a life long hatred of apartheid.
So in my current state of exile, yes I am in my own way a refugee of a flood, finding a small and unpretentious place to eat just a short walk from my billet at the very new, and very comfortable, Staybridge Suites hotel behind the station, came as a very welcome surprise.
It has in fact become a regular haunt, I even have a loyalty card! It’s a pretty basic space, charmingly rough and ready but at the same time spotlessly clean. The staff, a band of very jolly young men, great you with wide smiles and will happily explain the short and very simple menu.
On my first foray I arrived in time for happy hour and enjoyed a rather good mango based cocktail with a salty edge and wrecklessly had a beer too.
The menu is very simple. there are a few dishes that can be treated as either starters of sides, then a range of curries, two vegetable curries, one chicken,one lamb, one beef and one prawn. Each can be ordered as mild, spicy or very spicy. When you have chosen your curry and the strength you order your accompaniment of either rice, fries or slaw. You can add extras but the quoted price for the main includes one of the above.
On my first visit I chose lamb and it was so tasty, being made from what I call breast of lamb but what I see now being called belly of lamb – and why, is this food censorship, will we be seeing chicken bellies next? Anyway it was good and I had it with good crunchy slaw and a buttered roti.
Since thenI have been back many many times and tried them all, beef, lamb, chicken and prawn, and I have taken and converted friends and family.
Most recently one of the guys queried why I had not tried the pumpkin fritters and pork belly rashers – so I did and now I am hooked on pumpkin fritters dusted in sugar and cinnamon, a serious addiction and potential problem.
There’s a terrace outside which is nice if it’s dry, a good range of soft drinks and beers, some South African and I even like the music they play. And if this is all starting to sound too good to be true then just wait for the punchline…
So here it is, the main courses, including your choice of side, start at a very modest £7 and rise to only £9, and yes you read that right. You can upsize any of the dishes for a few pounds more but on the one occasion that I did I simply could not finish.
It’s getting popular, not surprisingly, and around me I see regulars and lots of young and older people. There’s more to choose from too, a rather surprisingly named bunny chow which looked dauntingly large as it comprises a hollowed out loaf filled with curry, that said the rather smart lady who had ordered it seemed to make light work of it.
I will be back many times, this is exactly the kind of unpretentious place that ticks so many boxes, simple tasty and affordable food served with a wide smile.
1 Fenchurch Walk, BN1 4GX
11:30am to 10:00pm
MONDAY TO SUNDAY!