Saturday, 18 July 2009

This place is rubbish, let's slash the seats.

Les Maquis des Allees
Sometimes when you walk into a place you just get good vibes straight away. Everything seems to be in it's right place: the music is good, staff are smiling, there is some activity at the bar. Your brain solves a very complex equation very quickly and you end up thinking 'Yeah, I like it here', or 'This place is rubbish, lets slash the seats'.

I like Les Maquis des Allees. I like the lack of pretention in the menu, I like the sous-verre style flag advert by the bar, I like the friendly staff, and I particularly like cocktails at 3,000 FCfa a pop.

The chef cares about what comes out of the kitchen, and comes out of the kitchen himself to check that all is going to plan. Don't expect gastronomic miracles, as this is still a maquis, and the occasional stale baguette is bound to find its way into circulation. But do expect decent quality meat, cooked with attention. The chef also knows how to handle a pizza oven, and the pizza bases here are almost flammkuchen thin, with the undersides marked by the occasional burnt black spots - about as perfect as you can get in Dakar. Sadly the toppings are overloaded and the tomato sauce is a little bit sweet. Order a pizza and tell the chef what you think, you never know, by the end of the hivernage he might have it spot on.

Les Maquis des Allees
Villa 4028
Alles Seydou Nourou Tall
Tel: 765 290041
Open 12-3 and 7 to Midnight. Closed Sunday and Monday lunchtime.

Given its middle class status and popularity with Ex-pats Mermoz is a bit short on restaurants and nightlife. By day, Kubata is a standard Thieb eatery, with simple lunches hovering around the 2,000 FCfa mark. Service is friendly and reasonably quick although the restaurant can get a little hot when the power goes off. Not worth going out of your way for, but a good example of its type nonetheless.

By night, Kubata hosts live music, and is gathering a decent local reputation. It's the kind of place where you might go to have a cheap evening out without wanting to get too messy.


Comico2 Mermoz Pyrotechnie
Villa No 59
77 585 25 63
860 47 93

Le Point E
Le Point E is a simliar joint in, surprisingly, Point E. Live music evenings here are few and far between, but it is worth a visit for splendid lunchtime plats. The daily menu usually offers two or three dishes (usually meat or fish) and sometimes dibi. The Senegalese food is as good as you will get outside of a family home, and it's the kind of place where you can comfortably take foreign visitors for a taste of Senegal.

Weekday lunches are always busy with a mix of local residents, office workers and the occasional group of foreign journalists. Service is quick and friendly, and most dishes come in at under 2,500 FCfa.

Le Point E
Rue de Thies
Point E

Restaurant News:
The Radisson Blu has been open for business for a couple of weeks now. The review should be up next week. I can't yet decide whether to kill it quick, and then dance about on its grave, or to linger over a slow and cruel death.

Monday, 6 July 2009

No lollipops?

La Provence
If you're male, there is something strangely democratic about the maquis of Dakar (although I'm told they're not a patch on the super maquis of Abidjan). Who knows who you'll find at the bar - a shopkeeper, drug smuggler, politician, teacher? Female customers seem to be a bit thinner on the ground, and are often working in one way or another.

La Provence on Seydou Nourou Tall has just had something of a refit, with the new restaurant kitted out in the style of 'Former Soviet hotel breakfast room'. Head for the darker barroom for a little more atmosphere, where you'll find drunks watching silent TV news, Congolese beats on the stereo, plastic table cloths and dimmed lights. They have a doorman, which is a good sign that things will start to get livelier later on.

The menu is lengthy, and Mrs Jiffler tentatively orders fahitas. We know it's unlikely they'll have them, but sometimes you can be surprised. The waitress returns and informs us that the new chef only knows how to cook three things: Brochettes, steaks, and fried fish.

Our table tries one of everything, accompanied by cold Gazelle and stories about the aforementioned Former Soviet hotel breakfast rooms. The food arrives and I'm magically transported by the smell to another era. However limited the abilities of the chef, she has somehow managed to recreate the exact smell of a 1980s Little Chef. I'm overwhelmed by childhood memories of the 'popular' British roadside diner, and have a sudden craving for an overpriced toasted teacake and an Olympic feast breakfast.

1980s reverie aside, the chef wasn't strictly telling the truth when she said she could cook a steak. My specimen comes hammered to minute steak thickness and cooked until grey. It resembles the leather tongue from an old pair of hiking boots in both appearance and texture, while its taste is thankfully hidden behind a wall of sauce pebble-dashed with peppercorns. Chips are OK, a bit oily, but at least the oil is fresh.

In this neck of the woods, I'd say you're better off at Maquis des Alles just up the road. Watch out for a review soon.

La Provence
Allees Seydou Nourou Tall
Tel: 77 645 97 78
Open seven days. 7am to midnight, until 1am Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

In search of a breeze

It's getting to that sticky time of year again when you sometimes just feel like lying down on a cool tiled floor wearing only your underpants. I find this particular posture both uncomfortable and undignified when taking lunch. You'll find me at the air-conditioned Les Ambassades with a battered paperback, squeaking on the leather seats and supping my Orangina.

Roof terraces are an ideal place to catch the breeze at this time of year, and there are a couple of venues worth checking out for a cheeky after work snifter.

See what they did there? Vounda-Bar? I bet whoever came up with that is still chuckling. Who says the Germans don't have a sense of humour? Vounda-bar's roost atop the Goethe Institute in Point E affords a different view of Point E. You can spy on people at the nearby piscine while enjoying the, ahem, wonderful breeze. You need to hang on to your quotidien though, otherwise the aforementioned breeze will carry it off all the way to Zone B.

Bar prices are reasonable, and proper panino come in at the 1500 FCfa mark. A small selection of larger meals are available from a weekly menu for around 4000Fcfa. Alternate Sundays host an impressive buffet brunch at 10,000FCfa a head (booking advised).

Café Vounda-Bar sur la terasse du Goethe-Institut
Piscine Olympique angle Rue Diourbel
Point E - Dakar - Senegal /
Tel.: +221 77 560 21 60
11am to 7pm.

Hotel Le Djoloff
This smart boutique hotel (rates from 50,000FCfa/night) has an attractive rooftop terrace overlooking Soumbedioune and the Iles de la Madeleine. The bar is comfy with tinkling salsa music while a blackboard advertises today's menu choices. The fish is reportedly good, which it should be given that you can see the fish market from the terrace, but veal escalopes were somewhat leathery. Smoked salmon came blistered with lemon juice, rather like a Dakar fish carpaccio.

Despite slightly mediocre food This place is hard to beat for a cheeky apres work beer on a Friday evening. Even Soumbedioune looks nice from up on high.

Hotel Le Djoloff
7 Rue Nani
Tel: 33 889 3630

Restaurant Rumblings:
For a look at the Collines de Niassam Lodge in Palmarin, click here.