I have been to Africa exactly twice. The first was to Egypt when I was about nine, at a time when my favourite outfit was a matching purple leopard-print cycling short/t-shirt combo. The second was about 5 years later to Kenya on a safari adventure. I don’t remember my fashion choices having improved much by that point.
The only culinary experience that stands out in my mind from my Kenyan excursion was Carnivore in Nairobi. We spent a whole week exploring the Masai Mara in search of as many animals from The Lion King (my all time favourite Disney film) as possible, only to return to the capital where we proceeded to taste them all. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?
Kenya had the most incredible thunder storms. I vividly remember racing through the grasslands along dirt tracks, as the dark grey clouds rolled in each evening. I would be sat on the back seat (the highest point of the tiered safari vehicle), wrapped up in authentic Masai blankets with my sister as the tour guide navigated the muddy paths at great speed to get us back to the hotel before the rain started. What an amazing experience. I’d love to go back one day.
African cuisine isn’t something I have really explored, so when given the opportunity to eat at TRIBES in Mall of the Emirates, I was rather eager to check out what was on offer. I have mentioned previously that I am not much of a mall-eater. When in MoE I prefer to just get the shopping out of the way as quickly as possibly and leave. But on the off-chance I end up hanging about, I’ll either have coffee, munch a cheeky #fondue or head to trusty MORE Cafe.
So TRIBES was a completely new experience. Africa is a huge continent, bursting with culture. With such a diverse array of influences – the Spice Islands of the North, French flavours in the West, Malay & Dutch from down South as well as a touch of Arabic from Africa’s Middle Eastern connections, I was unsure as to how on earth anyone could fit such a variety on to one menu. Hats off to these guys though, as they have managed to include a taste of everything, without making the menu too over-whelming.
We , myself and my dinner date – let’s call her Bob for simplicity sake, were seated inside, towards the back of the restaurant. A firm choice for mall-dining, in my opinion, as it makes you feel less like you are sitting in a mall. With dark wood furniture, ambient lighting, textured walls, sheep-skin seat covers and cushy leather sofas, the restaurant had a great atmosphere. And it was almost full – impressive for a Sunday night.
Bob and I were immediately brought a small loaf of freshly-baked sun-dried tomato bread, complete with chopping board and bread knife. Still toasty warm, the butter melted as soon as it made contact with the bread. I knew I had been watching too much Bake-Off when I found myself checking the underneath of the loaf and muttering, “hmm, yes, good bake..” Paul Hollywood would be proud. Fast forward approximately 2.5 minutes, and all that was left was a crumby explosion. This was soon swept up at lighting speed by our waiter – an incredibly jolly chap, I must say.
Neither of us had eaten much that day, so we meant business when we arrived. We perused their extensive mocktail menu and, after a strategic recommendation from our trusty waiter, Bob settled for a refreshing peach iced-tea and myself – an “Aroma of Africa”, an orange/lemon/cinnamon/mint mix. We didn’t want to fill up on thick smoothies before the main event.
To start, we shared the West Coast Grilled Calamari – two scored calamari tubes, flavoured with garlic and rosemary, and served on a bed of tomato-marinated zucchini ribbons. After our earlier bread feast, it was the perfect amount to keep us going until the mains arrived. I went for the Spicy Lamb Rump Steaks. When it was put in front of me, I though that the potato was going to be a little bland as there was nothing on it. How wrong I was, though. With the intensity of the Mauritian spiced lamb steaks (beautifully tender and pink inside, might I add), the creaminess and sweetness of the potato was the perfect combination. I think sometimes one can get lost in over-complicated recipes, but this dish brought me back down to earth and made me realise that sometimes simplicity is what you need. I am a lover of lamb, and I have to say that this was some of the best lamb I have tasted in quite a while.
Bob is a seafood fanatic, and therefore opted for the Spicy Salmon Burger. Not really a burger, but more a salmon fillet in a bap. No complaints there, though. Again – beautifully cooked, and served with slices of fresh avocado and sweet relish. Bob and I are both Brits, so the icing on the cake was the teacup of chunky fries. Everything should be served in a teacup, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, it being a dry night, I missed out on the African drumming performance, so I have no option, but to return! For that. And to sample the desert menu. And perhaps test out their breakfast options. And if I am feeling particularly daring – to take on one of their Royal Feasts. Well I guess that’s the rest of my life planned. No, but seriously – with great food and reasonable prices, I’ll definitely be back for a mid-shopping re-fuel. Give it a go! Happy munching y’all.