MODERN British chefs spend their time raiding the larders of South East Asia ,India, the Mediterranean and Japan but they do seem to have overlooked the West Indies.
That’s a shame because they would have a treat doing something clever with Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish.
Perhaps it’s because ackee, a vegetable said to look like a peach and taste like scrambled eggs, invariably comes in a can. It looks like scrambled eggs, too.
The combination, with firm-fleshed salted cod, which the process turns blue-grey, is greater than the parts, in the same way that sausages always go better with onions. It’s a bit like eating a broken fish omelette.
Serve ackee and saltfish with some of the best fried dumplings I’ve had, crisp on the outside, sweet and light within (eat your heart out Levi Roots), and the £3.50 spent on a starter at Dunn’s River Caribbean Café and Bistro is excellent value.
This is a new venture, rising from the ashes of the much-loved Bohemian on Chesterfield Road, Sheffield.
It’s owned and run by chef Chris Dallas and his partner Angela Galloway, and is their first eatery.
Chris started off in the hospitality business in the kitchen but soon moved front of house, with the Dam House, Beauchief Hotel and Abbeydale Sports Club among his jobs.
There are West Indian takeaways in the city but “Since the days of the Mango Tree and Calabash there have not really been many Caribbean restaurants. I thought there was a niche market,” says Chris.
I’m sure he’s right. Dunn’s River is named after the famous waterway in Jamaica with a 1,000ft high waterfall which tourists like to scale. “I’ve climbed it,” says Chris. “And I’ve stood at the bottom and watched him,” says Angela, mother of twins.
Dunn’s River is one of the scenic sights of Jamaica. This Dunn’s River is just across the road from Lidl.
The café, which tucks bistro on the end of its name, is their first restaurant. It’s a homely sort of place with a dozen tables and a BYO policy. These are early days so the decor is a bit minimal although fresh flowers on the table add a splash of colour.
There are seven starters (nothing over £3.50) and nine mains, all under a tenner and some comfortably so. Most are Caribbean classics.
“Certain dishes need to be left alone, with others you can jazz them up,” says Chris.
As well as the ackee and saltfish the same money buys a good portion of lively flavoured jerk prawns and I also tried one of the beef patties (£2.50), Jamaica’s reply to the Cornish Pasty. Tasty, although he buys them in. All our starters came with plenty of salad and sweet peppers.
There’s also a soup of the day, fried plantain with mango chutney, jerk spare ribs and a seafood platter.
After ackee and saltfish I just had to have Jamaica’s second national dish, curry mutton (or goat). Say it the other way round and it’s Indian.
This was a very home-style dish, at £9.95, which had good, gently spicy meat on the bone although I could have done with a little more sauce to moisten my rice and peas which, of course, are rice and beans. It was a nice, substantial dish.
There is also, among others, jerk chicken, whole pan-fried snapper, peppered pork and, one Chris made up earlier, Jamaican sizzler, as chicken, beef or pork.
“I found some sizzling dishes when I took over the place so I thought up a way to use them,” he says.
My wife’s sizzler (£7.50) was strips of chicken with onion and lots of peppers, spiced with, among other things, some fiery black pepper. You can easily eat your daily five portions of sweet peppers here!
There’s not much in the way of sweets apart from a bought-in chocolate cake and some ice cream although the couple plan to offer goodies like home made rum cake and sweet potato pudding.
We share a slice of cake just to round the meal off.
With bouncy music, tasty food and pleasant service from Angela, this was a fun evening out.
Our bill for food came to £29.45 and soft drinks and coffee added another £7.
While I only had two courses to review I’m going to give the cooking four, not three stars, on the promise that he’ll be rustling up some proper desserts in the near future.
Dunn’s River is open all day for drinks, snacks, coffee and cakes, as well as takeaways. Avoid tables near the door if it’s a chilly evening.
Dunn’s River Cafe
53 Chesterfield Road, Sheffield S8 0RL.
Tel: 0114 255 7797.
Open all week 11am-11pm. Credit cards. Veggie and vegan menus (ask in advance for gluten-free dishes). Music. No disabled toilet. BYO. Street parking.
My star ratings (out of five):