*Update* - Mr G's Soul Kitchen has closed down
When I think of soul food I think of the food of the deep south of America – fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens, meat loaf and ribs. Whilst some of these dishes are on the menu at Mr G’s Soul Food Kitchen (No not Mr G from Summer Heights High), the food they serve has more of a Caribbean slant.
However as Mr G says “Who says Soul Food has to be Southern American cooking? .....Cook that food with love and you have food for the Soul” And there’s no disputing their food is cooked with love. Mr G’s generous portions of flavour packed food didn’t just feed my soul. They gave it a hot water bottle, chauffeured it home and tucked it up for bed. Just the kind of thing you need on a subzero winter’s evening.
Located at the bottom end of Bute Street, Mr G’s is a couple of minute’s walk from the heart of the Bay. Escaping the bitter cold, the Reggae music playing on the stereo and the artwork of musical legends set the tone for what Mr G’s is all about. Their menu reads like a who’s who of Caribbean classics – Jerk chicken, mutton curry, curry goat, oxtail stew and ackee and saltfish. I found myself in the happy position of having to choose from a multitude of options which I wanted to eat.
For starters I opted for spiced lamb ribs (£3.95) whilst Mrs G (Don't confuse her with Mr G! ) opted for the spiced fish cakes (£3.50). Whilst there was a good half hour wait on the starters, the waiter was apologetic and explained the delay was to ensure the lamb ribs were cooked to perfection. They were worth the wait. Melt in the mouth lamb was coated in a slightly sweet and intense mix of spices. Mrs G’s fishcakes with sweet chilli sauce were a crisp, deep fried treat but were a little one dimensional in flavour. A little more of the advertised spicing wouldn’t have gone a miss.
There was only ever one dish I was going to order for main course and that was Jerk Chicken with rice and peas (£7.75). Mrs G deliberated a little longer and in the end went for Mutton Curry with coconut rice (£8.50). The mains were dished up in exactly the way you’d hope for food of this style; no poncing around with small portions or painting the food on the plate.
My jerk chicken was moist and slathered in the familiar taste of Jerk; a spicy and sweet combination of spices, spring onions and scotch bonnet chillis. I’ve eaten plenty of Jerk over the years and Mr G’s is a pretty fine example. The only thing that would have improved the dish would have been the chargrilled taste of a barbecue. The accompanying rice and peas too were excellent. Perfectly fluffy rice and soft beans were packed with more flavour than you could imagine is possible from a bowl of rice. Creamy coleslaw finished off the dish perfectly.
Mrs G’s mutton curry was jammed with flavoursome pieces of meat which had fallen off the bones on which they were cooked. The dish reminded me how good mutton can be when treated properly. Once again the sauce was packed with a menagerie of spicing, including a fairly good whack of chilli. The accompaniments of lovely sticky coconut rice and more of that creamy coleslaw are also worth a mention.
I almost forgot to mention the side dish of fried plantains (£1.50) we ordered. It’s probably because we’d already devoured the whole bowl in the minute it took the waiter to pick up our main dishes from the kitchen. Crisp, salty and a little bit sweet they were seriously addictive. A far cry from the sad starchy equivalents I cooked for Mrs G on one of our first dates.
After all this we were too stuffed for dessert. Mr G serves the kind of food which makes you happy. I’d quite happily scoff a plate of their jerk chicken and wash it down with a couple of beers any day of the week.
Mr G's Soul Kitchen, 106 Bute Street, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 5AD