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African Emporium

Lynda Moyo discovers a whole continent under Newton Street

Written by . Published on November 6th 2008.


African Emporium

When Confidential reviewed This'n'That- the Pakistani café in the Northern Quarter- almost a year ago, the rants revealed that this was a place people were keeping schtum about because it’s so damn good. Charming, authentic and satisfying: the only problem being that sometimes it's so busy, you can't get a seat.

Well, this time, we've unearthed This'n'That's African equivalent. It's not busy yet, but it will be if we have anything to do with it...

African Emporium is on Newton Street just past live music venue and club, the Roadhouse. On our way back from an abandoned review (Central Perk café on Station Approach was closed at 1pm), we were looking for somewhere else to eat. Somewhere cheap, fast, different and exciting.

The first thing you'll notice about African Emporium is the loud music rising from the basement building. It's trying to be inviting in a very African way. I can understand how some may be reluctant to venture in because of the booming volume but what you have to realise is that they're so hidden, short of getting a town crier on the case, it's the only free way of letting passersby know they are there. The entrance is small and low down, it's like discovering the Borrowers have gone into catering.

Once in the hole, you're welcomed by hospitable staff who will explain to you what every single dish is, which African country it originates from and what you should eat with it. Within five minutes of sitting down I had a plate of curry goat meat, jollof rice and cassava spinach in front of me. I'd learnt that the owner, Nimba, was from the Ivory Coast and the cook was Fortunate, from Zimbabwe. Together they bring 11.7 million square miles of African continent to a box room underneath Newton Street. It's an incredibly overlooked, humble little café.

Nimba explained that African Emporium had been and still is an African food store primarily, but that customers were also asking for advice on how to cook the food. That's why he decided to have a go at serving what he already sold. With the help of family members and friends, they've managed to piece together foods such as yam, maize meal, fried fish, chicken dishes, okra, goat and dumplings from every corner of the continent.

Most meals cost £5.50 and for that money you'll get an overly generous helping of fish or meat, rice, vegetables and plenty of sauce. Peanut butter sauce is a popular West African sauce served with many of the dishes, then there are cassava leaves, a rugged almost spinach-like plant from central African countries such as Kenya, and okra, a green vegetable from West Africa and also the Caribbean.

For vegetarians, Attiéké is incredible. Cassava leaves mixed with couscous, fresh tomato, hot pepper and seasoning (£6.50). African Emporium also do take-away trays and snacks such as patties and a Caribbean cake of the day - as well as the usual teas and coffees you'd expect from any café.

The atmosphere is relaxed to the point where you feel pushed away from the bustle of lunchtime in the Northern Quarter down towards the Western Cape. Nimba has done his best to turn a basement into a bright, happy place full of fruit, smiles and music, lots of music. We predict his efforts will pay off, so get there first.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Driven to DistractionNovember 6th 2008.

Great little find this.

AnonymousNovember 6th 2008.

This place is amazing...I am gutted that everyone will know about it now and I will probably be hard pushed to find a table...but it does deserve to be out there. The food is amazing, very cheap and filling.

mark mNovember 6th 2008.

Plantains are to die for. Go and support this little gem

AnonymousNovember 6th 2008.

But this article did not tell us how the food were, or what the taste like. So, this is not a review but just an introduction of the place? Lynda's article is always like this.

BinfridNovember 6th 2008.

P.S. Manchester Confidential - why isn't this place on the African section of your Food & Drink Guide don the left side? Get it on!

BinfridNovember 6th 2008.

It's absolutely quality. All the staff are wicked and my current fave is the jerk chicken (really hot and spicy and tasty, thin sauce perfect for going on rice), fried plantain (hard or soft, the hard one is more like chips, soft is sweeter) and jollof rice washed down with African Fanta - much smoother and softer than our version and in a cool glass bottle too! Get down there, the shop's got some treasures in it too (",)

Snake PlisskenNovember 6th 2008.

Ventured in about 3 weeks ago and was made very welcome.Good scran well priced. Well worth a change from the other out of the way curry shops etc in that neck of the woods. Glad they are getting known.

UnblinkeredNovember 6th 2008.

Yes, i use it quite often, recomend you all try it.

DescartesNovember 6th 2008.

What a hidden gem this place is! Just went in for lunch, had the curried goat and spicy rice and wow, wicked food. Well worth a look if you're anywhere near Piccadilly Gardens

sallyNovember 6th 2008.

mmm the ratings and breakdown at the end suggest it's a review not an introduction, anyway taste is individual, so anonymous you should try it for yourself.

mark mNovember 6th 2008.

Is it me or is anon illiterate?

crazyjohnNovember 6th 2008.

Without Africa and I wouldn't have my favourite type of Lynx which would be an underarm travesty. Well smelt!

Joe DanielsJanuary 23rd 2012.

!

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