One may immediately deem a restaurant review aimed at an inconspicuous and unknown African cafeteria in Catford, as the perfect way to waste 2 valuable minutes in ones diminishing life clock, however we can’t all afford a fine dining experience at Benares every night. Therefore, I think it’s only fair that we give a diamond in the dirt a chance to enter the rat race of culinary prowess.
Wedged between Catford Noodles and the Diamond Edge Hair & Nail Salon, ‘Island Spice’ is a jewel encrusted in characteristics that would send Gordon Ramsay into a seizure of obscene mouth diarrhoea and rid Nigella of any cupcake based innuendo’s faster than you could say ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’
You enter to find the manager, a colossal addition to the room, wearing gold framed sunglasses and talking stupidly loud on the phone. However, please persist...bite your tongue...give it a chance.
Advance 4 steps across the postage stamp dining room to the reception/counter thing, where you are greeted by 2 rather attractive young women from the Ivory Coast who upon the request of a menu, look at you as though you have just announced yourself as Jesus Christ: Our Saviour venturing out for a quick bite.
After choosing from the poorly rehearsed menu recital, with choices ranging from chicken, rabbit, pork or turkey, all of which are served either grilled, or in ‘soup’ (Please note: nobody explains, soup viscosity, what’s in the soup, it’s just soup...take it or leave it), you are then ushered to the drinks cabinet, or Fanta branded, half broken refrigerator to the untrained eye.
To wash things down: brandy, punch or a highly recommended bottle of homemade ginger beer presented beautifully in a collection of old Evian bottles: all branded, however, not the dry martini you were hoping for. Genuinely though, all cynicism aside, spicy, refreshing and despite the fact that you are forced to cough between sips, armed with a welcome kick.
Steeped in negativity thus far I know, but upon receiving my ‘Pork in Soup’ served with a hefty portion of cassava of couscous consistency and grilled chicken accompanied with the most delicious serving of plantain...I stand corrected.
Crispy, yet moist grilled chicken; simple yet exquisitely prepared receives a keen ‘thumbs up’ from this happy customer. Soft succulent pork meat submerged in a moorish sea of full bodied sauce. All seasoned to perfection and spicy enough to enjoy yet not so spicy that flavour elopes and your digestive system consequently hates you in the morning.
My taste buds were awakened transporting me to the vibrant shores of the Ivory Coast with every mouthful. A portal through which tarragon, paprika, ginger and chilli coat the taste buds leaving one satisfied and smiling.
Service: impeccable, no sooner had the need for a napkin left my brain had a thick wad arrived with a smile I might add and a friendly enquiry as to how the complimentary meat platter I was currently nibbling on was going down.
With this hidden gem, leave judgement at the door. Don’t expect to find marble floors or high end architectural visual delights or menus for that matter. Expect a tantalisingly tasty journey back to basics and at a fraction of the price: £27.50 and my dining companion and I left satisfied to the point of pain and pleasantly tipsy.
Overall rating: 7/10