One of the things that Leicester can pretty much not be beaten for is the variety of restaurants available within a very short distance. Forget your boring chain restaurants with their microwaved food and disinterested staff, join the independent revolution and try something a bit more interesting!
Turkish food, the work of students in training, steakhouses, fantastic British cooking – I’ve been enjoying all of these in recent months. But one thing that I do not often get to experience is African food. So it’s safe to say that I’m no judge of authenticity, but I hope I can offer something in regard to flavour!
We stopped by Alino African Bar & Restaurant at the top of Narborough Road recently. I’ve never visited them before, and I don’t recall having eaten any African cuisine since visiting an Ethopian restaurant in Reading about 10 years ago. It’s not the most salubrious environment, I’ll be honest, but the staff were extremely welcoming – perhaps their enthusiasm is partly the only way to be heard over the deafening music that is pumped out none stop in the restaurant!
We kicked off with a selection of African beers from the menu, not realising that Star is the official Nigerian beer of Man City! You learn something new every day. Essentially the options were all large bottles of strong lager, served well chilled they were crisp and refreshing. But lager nonetheless.
After a short wait, our food was brought out. The Boy enjoyed a curried goat, which was slow cooked and strongly spiced. I tasted a little and it would have been a little too spicy for me had I had the whole thing, but he got stuck right in and enjoyed every mouthful of powerful sauce and melt-in-the-mouth meat. You can order from a range of sides to accompany your main, and he went for a simple rice, which I didn’t bother to photograph. Because rice.
I had had some trouble ordering from the menu as there were so many new things that I hadn’t heard of before which I wanted to try! Nigerian ogbono soup made with ogbono seeds, egussi (melon seed) dishes served with your choice of meat, jellof rice made with tomatoes, onions and spices – all of these are things I have never heard of before and have no idea what they will taste like! In the end I settled for ordering a chicken maffe – a peanut stew. This was absolutely to my taste, with a rich, creamy peanut sauced which was fragrant and more delicately spiced than the in your face flavour of the goat dish.
I had this with pounded yam, a traditional Nigerian side dish. This was bloomin’ delicious. A dense ‘sausage’ of yam was simply presented on the plate. It’s thick, relatively bland texture made a superb vehicle for mopping up the delicious maffe sauce and made for a hugely filling meal. It was kind of like a really, really dense mashed potato. But better.
Uncomplicated, home cooked food then, but certainly somewhere I will be happy to return to. What new food have you tried recently?