Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A Sausage to India

Sure you can get curry in Dakar, but it usually an insipid Frenchified version, mildly spiced and served with - Cyril Fielding-esque - pasta.

There are two Indian restaurants proper in Dakar, the recently re-opened Zaika, and Indiana:

There isn't much interest in the lunchtime buffet, probably due to Ramadan, so our table of five has the run of the restaurant. 5,000 FCfa gets you half a dozen average curries, cooked on the bone, and an assortment of slightly spongy deep-fried pakora. Roti are pretty good though, and service is friendly. You should see the state of their napkins though - you wound't use them to wipe the floor.

Not bad, for a cheapish buffet lunch, but not somewhere I'd rush to make a booking.

Adjoining the restaurant is a small shop selling spices and a few indian products. It's slightly cheaper than Haldiram's, and sells some of the harder to find items like mustard seeds.

After a long wait - it must be over 18 months - Zaika has finally re-opened. I'm sure what took so long to be honest, as the refurbishments are barely noticable, and the place looks like it could do with, er, a bit of a refit. The toilets are somewhat nearer to the restaurant than before, so no need to take your hiking boots anymore.

Never mind. Mango lassi is inconsistent - a little better the second time round, while curries are about the average UK bottom end of the high street standard. I've had better biriyani elsewhere, although the tandoori chicken and fish come up to scratch. Samosas come shaped like cornish pasties, and are a bit heavy, but otherwise OK.

Of the two, Zaika is the better in terms of quality of food, and cleanliness of table linen. Don't expect too much from Zaika, but when you've been without a proper curry for a while, it might just satisfy the craving.

Radisson Blu

How do we pronounce this exactly? Is it blu as in bleu, or blur, or bleurgh?

Blu looks nice enough, all slaty coloured tiles and impressive thingies. The atrium is an eyecatching surprise as you enter the hotel from the top down, all hanging bits of fibre-optic (clearly inspired by the power lines outside my house) and fancy ikea lamps. Poolside is impressive too, with a dark blue (blu?) infinity pool that is already proving popular with Lebanese teenagers as a high profile heavy petting spot.

It has three sort of restaurants. Perhaps three menus is a more appropriate description. The flagship is the Filini Italian restaurant, the kind of blanded out upmarket restaurant you can find in five-star joints anywhere in the world. There is a more generic international menu served poolside, or you can sit indoors in some sort of weird corridor arrangement and tuck into club sandwiches and chicken wings.

The menu at Fillini's actually looks promising. There is none of the tedious pasta-pizza-steaknchips stuff one might normally expect, instead fillini's goes gently off piste with some interesting seafood options. The option is there for those who want the fully orchestrated multi-course Italian style blowout, but that would require both a thick waist and a thicker wallet.

Breads - onion foccacia, brown sliced, and grissini - are very good indeed, and I hope the in-house bakery will open to the public sometime soon. Mixed meat and vegetable antipasti are reasonable, with green beans in mint proving to be the star player. Pizzas are pretty good, but double the price of equally fine pizzas elsewhere in town.

Mrs Jiffler's risotto comes stacked with juicy prawns and a decent saffron punch, but tell tale white spots on the rice give away hasty cooking - surprising given the 40 minute wait in an almost empty restaurant.

Over at the poolside bar they knock out a very fine hamburger indeed. Cooked rare as requested and served with a robust, no-nonsense, toasted sesame bun. The burgers come with those little jarred condiments that they serve at every upmarket hotel in the tropics. The sort that visiting mothers of the Road to Wigan Pier generation like to slip into their handbags for later. Barracuda steak is tasty too, despite being hidden under a fizzy green salad toupe studded with the occasional shock anchovy nugget.

If I were to judge the Radisson on the quality of its food alone then things would be reasonably positive. You get decent food at a five-star price, what else should one expect? Well, one would expect decent coffee for 3,000FCfa, not insipid frothless cappuccino. At 7,000FCfa a pop I'd expect properly mixed cocktails made from quality spirits and fresh fruits. Most of all I'd expect a decent. Even after a couple of months to settle down the staff are not co-ordinated, customers have to play musical chairs, drinks don't arrive, bills don't arrive, change doesn't arrive... Little jars of mustard and piment and starched napkins don't make a five star hotel restaurant.

You can enjoy the pool for 10,000 FCfa/day
Weekend poolside + buffet is 28,000 FCfa

Radisson Blu Hotel, Dakar
Route de la Corniche ouest

Tel: +221 33 869 33 33

Restaurant News:
Indian restaurant Zaika has reopened on the Corniche. Check for a review soon.

The Ecole Superieure Gastronomique Hoteliere Arnaud has reopened on Allees Seydou Nourou Tall. Hopefully they'll still be turning out bargain lunches (Tel:+ 221 33 869 92 92).

Anyone tried the new 'J'Go' restaurant up in Almadies (Route de Ngor)? I had a look in on the opening night, but the place was filled with mediocre celebrities, and various poorly dressed members of the Dakar nightclub "set". Mrs Jiffler and I were given short shrift, possibly because we didn't have enough gold writing on our clothes.