Tubby’s Corner @ 40 Alfred Place: Review

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Stuart Roberts heads to 40 Alfred Place for an African-inspired pop-up from Tubby’s Corner…

 

The first thing that hits you when you walk into 40 Alfred Place, the Kingsdown home of Tubby’s Corner on November 30th, isn’t the stripped wooden floors, or fresh, minimal feel of the front-of-house, it’s the warm welcome of the staff. Greeted by Tubby’s Corner owners Jordan Jones and Huw Lloyd (who is also the enthusiastically passionate head chef), we’re told we’re a little early for the sitting, some 15 minutes. No matter, a swift pint in the Green Man across the road and we’re back in and ready to eat.

This is a BYOB affair, the lack of license due to its pop-up restaurant status; although the bring-your-own aesthetic is fitting for such a relaxed and accommodating atmosphere. The room is light and airy, which gives the place a feeling of space which belies the small venue, while the kitchen is open, the three chefs beavering away out back. There’s a downstairs area too, seating around 20; a cosy nook which nevertheless loses the laid-back chic of the front space. The picture of Haile Selassie hanging from the wall is the only nod towards the menu to come.

Just as the Ethiopian Emperor became an icon for the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica, the poster is a window into the soul of Tubby’s itself. The restaurant team is also Crucial Atlantik, a collective which brings the finest dusty reggae grooves and dancehall to Bristol’s nightlife. It almost goes without saying that the soundtrack for the meal was perfectly judged, and the menu shows their discerning selection isn’t just limited to the record box either.

Their first pop-up at the end of October was a Caribbean-inspired affair, today’s menu represents a culinary journey down through Africa, starting up north in Morocco, moving down along the West Coast for the main, then ending up with dessert in South Africa.

 

Tubby's Corner - Menu

 

For the Moroccan leg of this road-trip, a selection of street food inspired snacks and nibbles, representing the vendors’ wares from the port of Essaouira. A solitary falafel, a Chemoula fish ball (a staple of local fishermen’s lunchboxes the menu tells us), aubergine dip, and a fresh salad of tomato, cucumber, onion and mint make up the platter. It’s an inauspicious start to the meal for sure, and not necessarily one which prepares you to be blown away.

But…BUT…the main courses are a revelation. Tubby’s Chicken Maafe Stew, or Ground Nut Stew, is a rich and unctuous bowl of delights, maybe a little rich for some, but perfect for this palate. The stew comes with a side plate of garnishes which includes a kick-in-the-face strong chilli sauce, fresh coconut, roasted chicken skin, and fresh spring onion. It’s the onion which lifts things, a glimmer of light in a murky world of deep flavour. If you’re not a fan of peanut or satay you might be disappointed, the nut flavour is quite prominent, but the sauce is complex, the chicken well-cooked, and the side of boiled rice simple and classic.

 

Tubby's Corner - Stew

 

For nut haters, or if you’re allergic, fear not, the vegetarian option is certainly not the short straw. Quite the contrary, it’s the star of the show. Cooked in much the same way as the Chicken Maafe, the addition of courgettes, peppers and fresh tomato offer more lightness and texture, while the paneer is sensational – perfectly cooked and, even for a devout carnivore such as myself, more than satisfying. Our dining partner for the day called the dish “deliciously delicious” which, despite its adjectival shortcomings, is hard to argue with. The side of spicy chicken wings is a little gluttonous, but tasty nonetheless.

And so to dessert, the South African Peppermint Crisp Tart, an Afrikaans specialty. After the warm, thick and toasty main, this creamy afters looked like it was going to be too much for our straining waistbands. But one bite and we knew we’d end up polishing the lot off. This won’t do it justice at all, but it tastes a bit like a warm mint choc chip Cornetto nestled atop a cheesecake base. Luxuriously delicious. Creamy yes, but lighter than it looks, and the mint still freshens things up in some way. Let’s not pull any punches though, if you’d come in looking for a light three course lunch, this isn’t the one.

 

Tubby's Corner - Dessert 2

 

Perhaps the main thing that stands out about Tubby’s Corner is its representation of traditional home-cooking. With ingredients sourced from Kalahari Moon in St Nick’s Market, a well-researched menu and an eye for detail, every dish is a rustic, unpretentious slice of the culture of the continent. Despite the leafy suburban surroundings of Kingsdown, this is food which belongs on the street corners and in the homes of Africa, a warming chunk of well-cooked, balanced and flavoursome comfort food, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon in a welcoming atmosphere.

For their next pop-up venture, head chef Huw tells us they’re considering a Christmas special, a Scandinavian menu which, if it happens, will be one to watch out for. Haile Selassie once said “only God and history will remember your judgement.” Well hopefully people remember this judgement and pay Tubby’s a visit when they next get a chance.

 

Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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