Bantaba Afro Caribbean Restaurant


ARE you having that with fufu or ugali, or just the plain rice, is what the waitress actually says. Causing a momentary pause as a giant speech bubble containing a flashing question mark rises gently above my head. 

Umm, is what I reply, and while the young lady starts to talk about cassava and corn starch I am speed-hitting Mr Google. Turns out Mr Google’s not actually home tonight due to Mr 3G and as a decision must be made … fufu it is. 
On the basis simply, scientifically-put, that the name just sounds great: floaty, light, airy, lovely. Oh, lamb please, yes – the lamb to go with that fufu and the peanut butter soup, I now hear myself adding. 
And to put you fully in the picture here, we’ve already been told the mutton’s off tonight, so that rules that out in the jerk patties. 

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Yeah, the egusi sounds interesting but I’m not that big on tripe so maybe not but – oh, beef jerk patties? OK. 
From where Joe and I are sitting, down here towards the restaurant’s back wall, in a corner, at this table booked (somewhat unnecessarily) in advance, there’s a clear view into the kitchen back there. 
I can see two Jeffs (Google “The Bear”) working away, and an assistant too. Is that a charcoal grill being loaded up? Orders are definitely being processed. But frankly? There ain’t nobody else out here right now but us chickens. 
I’m thinking home deliveries, then. Or maybe tomorrow’s prep. Anyway, there’s a bright, very clean open and continental feel to Bantaba: white-tiled floors, windows with hoisted Venetian blinds, veneered table tops, a few vibrant African prints on the walls. 

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Our jerk patties are arriving on wooden boards, the pastry puffy, hot, just-from-the-oven baked, the spiced filling steaming as we crack them apart and start eating. “Greggs should make these,” says Joe a minute or two later as we push the remnants back, a few scattered crispy pastry flakes being all that remain of our starter. 
They are more bridie-like, steak-bake shaped, than I had expected. Good though. We’ve got incoming parcels to unwrap now. Tinfoil wrapped, clingfilm bound. Unfolding and peeling back takes place – ah, this will be the fufu, or foofoo, or foufou (yes I’ve got a signal again). Sticky dough, it says online, pounded, boiled cassava or plantain. Don’t think light, floaty, airy or fluffy. Think kinda dense, springy mashed potato. Not so much taste. 
A mouth-feel really, a filler, a staple which we tear bits from and dip into a surprisingly fiery peanut butter soup that’s thick, dense, absolutely pepped to the max with flavours and, as my mother always used to say about things that taste good – very moreish. 
That goat curry then, deep, dark and almost chocolatey in its aftertaste; curry powder comes smacking the old chops at one moment, garlicky tones, then peppers. Ooft. 

On another platter we have chicken Afra. I think it is, hard to tell after a few moments of our forks pulling hunks off. This is a gold-standard marinade, fire-cracker flavours, really very, very good. My old pal Mr Greggs, sitting across from me, super-skinny so never seems that much motivated about any food, suddenly pronounces this as: delicious. 

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And there is still fried plantain to scarf, a decent fried rice alongside that. The table is starting to look like a car-crash, large oblong gold platters that brought this food now simply containing what looks like the aftermath of a good party. 
African food then? Rumoured to be about to arrive at a city near you in what will probably be a more sanitised, watered-down restaurant-chain style. Bantaba has been here for a good few years. 
Surprising really that when we came in and looked at the menu with its tilapias, banku or tenku or jollof  rices, yassa and plassa – not to mention the fufu – that it all seemed so unusual and unknown. Because I’ll tell you this: it shouldn’t be. This is good stuff. 


507 London Road


0141 237 0580

Menu: Jollof rices, Yassas, charcoal-grilled Afras, plus that Fufu and much, much more: an interesting place for the jaded palate. 5/5

Service: Pleasant, efficient and friendly. No complaints. 4/5

Atmosphere: Clean, bright. Was very quiet when we were in but on a sunny evening, it was a cool comfortable place to sit. 4/5

Price: Starters hover around the £5-£6 mark, mains float in that £13 to £14 zone and slope slightly upward, everything served in generous proportions. 4/5

Food: The spices not that unusual to me, yet the flavours are, hot, rich, sometimes exciting food. Peanut soup, Chicken Afra, tidily prepared too. 8/10  

Total: 25/30