Monday, 29 June 2009


What a peculiar place. The restaurant stylings immediately give the away Sherherazade's principle role as a hotel, but there are some nice touches such as the swimming pool outside, the use of dead flowers to decorate each table, and an abundant population of cats. The owner is also strangely feline in appearance, adding to the vaguely Roald Dahl atmosphere of the place.

Foodwise it's a mix of Moroccan, Senegalese and Steaknchips. We order tagines which come in large portions, but are somewhat poulet bicyclette. There is better value to be had at the Moroccan joint on Rue A in point E. Service is enthusiastic, although being mid-week we are the only diners. The waitress is a touch distracted by the entertainment coming from a curtained off side room. I'm not exactly sure what was going on in there, but it sounded like they were showing a pornographic film at high volume. At least I hope it was a film.


Fann Mermoz
Tel: 33 860 13 83
Open Seven Days, 8am - midnight.

Restaurant Rumblings:
A couple of recent evenings in New Africa have worried me a little. The kitchen here produces some marvellous stuff, but it seems cannot cope under the pressure of having a half full restaurant. Normally a chef would apologise for a two hour wait on the food, not come out and blame the customers for turning up.

Mixed reports are coming from Dakar Sushi - possibly the first restaurant in Dakar to have their own Twitter feed. I'm not entirely convinced by the Twitter feed to be honest, but judge for yourself. I'll be dropping by soon for a look.

It looks like something is actually happening at Zaika on the corniche. The Indian restaurant has been 'closed for refurbishment' for over a year, leading me to speculate that it had been abandoned altogether. It looks like work is progressing though, and we might see it reopening soon. Fann-Hok might slowly become a decent quartier for a night out, what with the Djollof boutique hotel, Brazilian restaurant, and Terrou-bi just up the road for those in the mood for a slice of goat cheese and honey pizza.

The architects have handed over the keys to the new Radisson 'Blu' hotel on the corniche. Apparently the kitchens are ready and chefs are trialling the menu to on-site staff, so 'Fellini's' restaurant should hit the ground running on the 1st July opening. I haven't received my opening night invitation yet though... please send it to Mr The Jiffler c/o Dakar Restaurant Reviews.

The original Experimental Jifflings website has been tarted up a little. Have a look here.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Pick & mix/hit & miss

Usually I avoid 'Fusion Food' like I avoid Dakar gendarmes. Aside from its resemblance to the the Bandiera, there is a good reason why insalata tricolore consists of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil (alright, maybe avocado, but I'm a purist) - the ingredients form a magic combination of tastes, textures, smells and indeed colours. The addition of, say, battered prawns, tahini, or HP sauce is not going to improve it in any way shape or form.

Despite this, Mrs Jiffler and I have been curious about Alkimia and its promises of Japanese and Spanish fusion cooking. A water shortage in Mermoz, leading to the postponement of an eagerly awaited ping-pong tournament presented a spur of the moment opportunity to see what it is all about.

The restaurant itself looks expensive, all Japanesey partition walls and heavy looking tables, and an outdoor bar area looks like an ideal place for a spot of after work liming. We're shown to a wobbly table in the corner, which is quickly recified by the deployment of my folded up shopping list.

The somewhat pricey menu doesn't so much go in for fushion as a selection of Spanish specialities, slightly customised Italian staples, and the odd bit of Japanese thrown in. The sushi woman is on holiday, so there'll be none of that.

Amuses are generous and appropriately tapas, while our table casts a majority vote for salmon croustillant served on a bed of spinach with almonds and lemon juice. Unusual flavours for Dakar and, I reckon, a hint of French-Japanese fusion that actually works. Portions are generous too, although both the main dish and vegetable side could do with a gentler hand on the seasoning. The minority vote is cast in favour of suckling pig, which again could do without the fistful of seasoning but seems to satisfy the carniverous cravings of a growing Canuck of our acquaintance.

A little freebie of a kind of coconut zabaglione causes excitement with the Brazilian representative, who has to be discouraged from licking the inside of the glass, and we leave with Sunday night smiles, satisfied stomachs and not too big a dent in the wallet. The kitchen at Alkimia is offering something different in Dakar, some new flavours and ideas not covered elsewhere, but suffers a little from the common problem in Dakar restaurants - managing the larder. How does a restaurant run out of potatoes (although still have enough for a plate of frites), or Flag beer? If you can forgive these tendencies then Alkimia is worth a visit one evening when you're feeling a bit flush, or fancy getting your teeth into a bit of suckling pig.

Route des Almadies
Tel: 33 820 68 68
Open evenings from 1900hrs and Sunday lunchtimes. Closed Monday.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Brazilian Triumph.

La Table Bresilienne
'Secret' restaurants are all the rage in New York and London these days. At least that's what the increasingly tedious Guardian food site says. Rejoice then, as we have a secret restaurant to call our own in Dakar. Although judging by the number of toubabs there on Saturday evening, it isn't much of a secret anymore.

I've a soft spot for a churrasco dinner. Something about all that meat, roasting over a big fire, then carved up rodizio-style at your table using very large knives appeals to my primal instincts. La Table Bresilienne does a good job of satisfying these instincts, and it has taken me some time to recover from over-indulgence in the various cuts of beef, pork and chicken (salty little chicken hearts that would make great pub snacks). Salads are inventive and the feijao and pork-studded farofa get a double thumbs up from the bona fide Brazilian at my table (who will hopefully forgive my attempt at spelling those dishes). Happy days.

Service is amiably slapdash and the rooftop vibes are convivial. Around 15,000FCfa per head buys you plenty of caipirinha and wine, and enough serious meat to feed a hungry shark.

Being unlicensed, I probably shouldn't say where it is or when it opens. Ask around, get the phone number from a friend, and get your booking in.

Le Loft
We've been here before, singing Le Loft's praises, and it saddens me, really saddens me, that I have to return to give it the fecking good kicking it deserves.

So much was going right. The Loft was smart, had good service, a good value menu with plenty of freebies... But on my last visit we had to ask to see the good value salon du the menu. Perhaps it was because they hardly had anything on the menu left.

When my burger arrived sans beefburger, the kitchen quickly subsitituted some hastily prepared chicken, which the lobotomised, tooth-sucking waiter tried to convince me was what I'd ordered all along. Yes really, the beefburger with green and red peppers I had ordered was actually supposed to be some slices of grilled chicken smothered in mayonnaise..? Really? I decided that laughing and shaking my head was more insulting than arguing with this cretin.

All told, the food wasn't bad at all, it was just wrong. A shame really, because no matter how good the food is, if you treat the - mild mannered and friendly - customers like a bunch of c*nts, they won't come back.

Le Loft
68 rue something or other, don't bother until they pull their fingers out.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The third place?

A friend had just been lamenting the lack of a Starbucks-like place in Dakar (OK, there is Time's Cafe, but that is so smoky these days, and the pizza isn't much to sing about) when another friend bought me a Gazelle and filled me in on Fratelli's cafe in Almadies. This was the second recommendation I'd had in a week, so I scheduled in a lunch with Mrs Jiffler the following Saturday.

Fratelli's should do well from the staff at Ericsson nextdoor, as well as passing trade. There is a relatively hassle-free outdoor terrace and a vaguely Starbucksy indoor area that looks a bit unfinished. I've never gone in for the whole Starbucks 'the third place' ideal. It seems a bit contrived to me. Besides, I prefer my 'third place' to serve beer and peanuts.

Coffee is decent enough to linger over, far better than the usual salon du the fare. You'll find decent helpings of reasonably priced salads and sandwiches on the menu, making it a good option for a light Saturday lunch.

Route des Almadies (next to Ericsson).

Carre Vert
A less good option for a Saturday lunch is Carre Vert at the Dakar City shopping complex. If Fratelli's opened up here they would probably be the talk of the town, as in the right hands this location could be a little goldmine.

The offerings are similar to Fratelli's - coffee, salads, sandwiches. Unfortunately the coffee is unremarkable and suffers from the dreaded squirty cream treatment. Sandwiches are a little boring and salads would be fine if they didn't come presented in a weird parabola-shaped bowl which prohibits a sensible eating posture. The kitchen is open, so you can see that it is clean enough, but totally disorganised, with nothing prepped.

At the end of the day, you're eating in a slightly naff shopping centre. How depressing.

Carre Vert
Dakar City Shopping Centre
Airport Road

Restaurant News:
It's quite hard to get excited about new openings these days, since they tend to be a bit underwhelming. Dakar Sushi, on the airport road is the latest. Initial reports from a reliable foodie source are that it isn't up to much, but I'd like to give it a couple of weeks to get going. Meanwhile I hear that Mezzo in plateau has shut down. A shame, if only for their salty chocolate cake.