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M and M's Caribbean Spice

Lynda Moyo loves the food and then delivers a personal judgement on the lack of proper Afro-Caribbean restraurants in Manchester

Written by . Published on July 28th 2008.

M and M's Caribbean Spice

I am no fine food connoisseur. I don't care for finicky foam, flamboyant faff or anything which gives the impression that my food has been fingered in any way. When I'm hungry I want to eat and I want to eat good and plenty.

The meals came with free coleslaw and salad and were washed down with a can of 'Ting' each. I'm guessing the name 'Ting' was chosen for this beverage because no one could be bothered to think of a name, so just referred to it as a thing...a ting.

Perhaps it's down to my upbringing. There were occasions when all six of us kids were denied a drink until the food was gone so, “you don't fill yourself up on pop”. Tears were shed, as we struggled to swallow with sandpaper palates. We were then allowed a small glass of water - every under-12s' favourite drink.

Visiting M and M's Caribbean Spice in Old Trafford was like taking a trip down a memory lane of pleasure and pain. Not just because I come from a Caribbean household, but because it is like being in someone's family home. Someone's family home in the 1960s. Someone who hasn't got much money but has a huge amount of pride in their food and welcomes all guests with a good home cooked meal.

The counter area is like that of any chippy, kebab house or Chinese takeaway, only minus the rush and readiness. Three women, who I like to think are my distant aunties, control and stroll around the kitchen, cooking in massive pots and handling plucky chickens like nobody's business in a restaurant which is falling apart at the seams.

When tiles are hanging damply off the wall, you know you're teetering on the Environmental Health borderline. Come to think of it, we did have an earthquake in Manchester earlier this year. Evidently M and M's was the epicentre of the rupture.

Most types of restaurants would rectify these DIY issues through sheer fear of closure - replacing the tiles fully and promptly. But the Caribbean way? 'If ya aint got a horse ride a cow'. That explains the silver masking tape 'art deco' currently pinning the tiles in place.

Back to the food: jerk chicken is of course a staple dish. Other lesser known dishes on the menu include the old Jamaican recipe of fried red fish (£5.20), oxtail stewed with butter beans (£6.50) and side dishes such as patties (£1), callaloo which is leafy vegetables (£1.80) and the all important rice and peas (£2.30) - although I prefer, like the locals, to drop the 's' from the latter dish. If there's one thing about this type of cuisine, it's that you can never have too many different things on your plate at once.

We went for the jerk chicken (£5.20) and the ackee and saltfish (£6.10), which is Jamaica's national dish. Both came with rice 'n' pea. Standard. We also ordered fried plantain (80p per portion). The meals came with free coleslaw and salad and were washed down with a can of 'Ting' each. I'm guessing the name 'Ting' was chosen for this beverage because no one could be bothered to think of a name, so just referred to it as a thing...a ting.

'Ting' is flavoured with St. Kitt's or Jamaican grapefruit juice and is basically fizzy E-numbers. Combine it with vodka and it becomes 'Ving', fizzy, alcoholic, E-numbers. Combine it with milk and it becomes 'Ming'...you get the idea.

Trying to keep the experience as authentic as possible we also ordered the homemade pineapple punch (£1.80 a glass). This tasted like a blend of sherbet dip, Carnation milk and tripe: in summary, awful. I dread to think what comparison the Guinness punch (£1.80 a glass) would offer.

But M and M's won't lose marks from me over that punch, it's just proof that not all homemade things work. However, if you're at your Aunt's house, like I said before, waste is just not acceptable. So like a naughty seven-year-old I poured the pungent punch into my empty can of 'Ting'. It would have gone in the table plant, but at M and M's the plant was of course plastic.

Photographs can't begin to reflect the taste. This food is not prepared to be marveled at visually. It's often called soul food for a reason: the reason being that it's for your soul (and your body) to survive in times of hardship. Or these days just because it tastes so good and fills you up.

I was so satisfied by my meal that I almost had to be air-lifted home. My qualms are totally un-food related and concern the business sense of the Afro-Caribbean community - my community - as a whole. The people are nice, the food tastes good, hearts (and souls) are all in the right places. Frustratingly however, there is so much passion and potential but little assertion and effort to go with it. What we're left with are half-hearted time-warped restaurants and cafes which if done properly would laugh in the face Nando's.

Taking the 's' off rice and peas is one thing, calling a drink ' Ting' because you can't be bothered is fine: both reflect the unceremonious nature of the culture. But sometimes it literally doesn't pay to be too laid-back. Like those Malibu adverts say: 'Imagine if we Caribbeans took life as seriously as the rest of the world'.... we'd be making an absolute fortune, that's what. Shame really.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 9/10 Food
3/5 Service
2/5 Ambience
Address: M&M's Caribbean Spice
127 Stamford Street
Old Trafford
M16 9LT

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

rosieJuly 28th 2008.

Francs restaurant in Alty is doing a Caribbean menu throughout August.The food there is usually good,so may be worth a go for those who would like to try West Indian food in slightly more comfortable surroundings.

Thoroughbred MancJuly 28th 2008.

Finally, a review of Caribbean food on ManCon. Hallelujah! Someone left a well made comment about this on the recent dinner party competition, regards acknowledging smaller, more diverse establishments around Manchester that I wholly agreed with. Good to read M & M's is still going strong (Mike & Maureen's). I worked with Mike many, many years ago when he was head chef at Manchester City Art Gallery's, Cafe Gallery, before the refurbishment. He took the plunge and decided to set up shop. I'm glad to hear he's still trading. He was a talented chef and a great personality. Dougy's just down the road is an institution. The Feeding Tree (take-out food only) in Levenshulme fairs well too.

mike m&msJuly 28th 2008.

hi crazyb,have you tried m&ms we might not be posh but everyone is welcom we pride ourselves on that we have the widest cultral mix of customers 10yrs,established we were given 3 stars by Ray King of M.E.N several years ago,featured in citylife food guid several times,i was chef of the month in may 08 on http://www.atasteoftrafford.com come and try us our taste is moorish.ps i was the first caribbean chef in this area to cater for halal the rest followed.

jeaniesJuly 28th 2008.

I just dont get why there is such a distinct lack of carribean restaurants in Manchester, when west indian cuisine is undoubtedly one of the tastiest cuisines out there.I agree with alot of the comments made re location and atmosphere of carribean restaurants which have come and gone, but they are suceeding in London, Birmingham and Leeds so why not Manchester...? I will always support the local takeaways who are representing what west indian food is all about but would love to be able to go out and have a romantic carribean meal without having to cook it myself!!For west indian take outs - My recomendations are Henry's takeway, stretford rd, Hulme, Cool Runnings, Chorlton rd, and they guy in Hulme Market (sorry dont know his name!!)..Buzzrocks for me went downhill along time ago..

AnonymousJuly 28th 2008.

I agree that there definitely needs to be more Carribean restaurants! Try the Mint Lounge for lunch, its a bit strange eating in a nightclub during the day but the curried goat is gorgeous and well worth a visit.

MelJuly 28th 2008.

Great article Lynda, you know ive never been to M and M's, but will certainly give it a go! I usually go to Cool Runnings, Chicken Run or Douggies! Although they are not resturants, just take aways. Shame really that you can't sit down and enjoy the food in a nice resturant. They need to get with the programme.However, Carribean resturants such as Dr Livvys and Vernons didn't last long did they? Maybe due to not enough advertising, or because they are not in the right location to appeal to their audience, but I guess this will all change now thanks to Media Moyo! Spread the word girl, spread the love!

soulfood part2July 28th 2008.

@ tev: to say cool running and chicken run are better than Buzz Rocks is a statement of epic failure...everyone i know rates buzz rocks as the best around, they may not frequent this site, but they do know their Carribbean food. Not sure where you're going with the cheap ingredients argument, either. I much prefer the way Buzz Rocks uses Basmati rice as well, and I've never had anything but a great meal from there

candlestickchimneyJuly 28th 2008.

Luna gets another vote from me, a very good & friendly restaurant indeed!

LegslellithJuly 28th 2008.

Also had lunch from the Dutch Pot. It's proper Caribbean food cooked with love. i have tried them all and it's got to be the best in Manchester. Suggest you all check it out. Essex St (way), Stretford Rd, OT.

soulfoodJuly 28th 2008.

buzzrocks is the best Carribean food I've tasted in Manc...more for taking out than sitting in though

The Elder statesmanJuly 28th 2008.

If you like Goat Curry, jerk chicken, or fried chicken, get your self down to Big Taste, Gorton road, just down the road from Reddish North station.I think it is currently just open during the day, but their Goat is magnificent.Mainly take away, but they do have a counter and stools to eat in at lunch if you want.

StephJuly 28th 2008.

Luna appears to have closed - drove past there on Sunday night and all the windows have paper to them and no lights on - Shame

samJuly 28th 2008.

God I read your write up and very surprised it rated 14 out of 20. You must be someone who loves food no matter where it comes from. If the facilities was such a disgrace as you have laboured in your aticle why would you want to eat in that place.This is no posh restaurant for couples to enjoy a romantic meal.Its more a established take away than restaurant.Further more what are you expecting for where it is located.M & M's must be doing ok as they have been there years. Another thing did you tell them what you thought about their tiles or just decided to rank them of in local press? It really gets to me when our own bring our one another down.

johnthebriefJuly 28th 2008.

If you're looking for a good caribbean meal, try Luna in Prestwich. Great food, great service, great value.

angusmcrJuly 28th 2008.

I just had the most delightful lunch from the Dutch Oven. Which is a little take away van next the the Caribbean shop in Hulme/old trafford, on Essex street, off Stretford Road. I had the cocked-down chicken with rice and peas plus veg. realy nice Couldn't fault it at all, will be going back again and again. I'm also a fan of Douggies! I love a bit of jerk chicken. Remember too get there early for the jerk chicken, just leave enough for me.Nice to read about all the other places to try, thanks every one.

MeMayJuly 28th 2008.

Peppers Caribbean takeaway on Ashton old Road sells a delicious Jerk Chicken meal their Curried Mutton is also fab, meal prices start from £3.80 its great to see a Caribbean food shop on this side of Manchester. M & Ms was my first sit down experience of a Caribbean takeaway I used to love the fried dumplings uum.

crazybJuly 28th 2008.

I agree totally with the article and love caribbean food, but there has been a couple of attempts in Manchester to open 'more appealing' Carribean restaurants, if I remember rightly the old Barclays Bank on Wilmslow Road Rusholme which has homed various venues, tried its hand! It may have been called 'V' or Vernons, it looked like alot of money was spent but didn't last five minutes!! As stated the food is great but sometimes the atmosphere lets these ventures down, every walk of life needs to feel they can walk through the door and feel as welcome as the next man, but I think that this area is greatly lacking. Its crazy to say but in our multi cultural city non blacks still feel slightly nervous about crossing the doorstep. This is stopping many a spender sampling the pure delights of caribbean cooking. And if there are no budding Jamaican Restaurant entrepeneurs willing to take the chance what about sone of our well known eateries having caribbean nights, cooked by the people that know best, it'll surely get the message out there, afterall one of the busiest restaurants I visited recently in Soho London was Caribbean and it was filled to the rafters with everyone you could think of and everything came with a welcoming smile!!!

tevJuly 28th 2008.

I agree that Mint Lounge's Lunch menu does the best curry goat ever and the city centre location is ace. Peppers is also really good, friendly and opened late. I find Buzzrock uses cheap ingredients though it is well cooked but not friendly at all. Cool Running and Chicken Run are also the best in South Manchetster

AnonymousJuly 28th 2008.

In my humble opinion the reason why west indian restraunts have not really taken off in Manchester is due to short sightedness. The latest venue - I can't remember the name but you will know which one Opposit Arndale city centre where the old Yates wine bar was. Anyway it had a great start but went rapidly downhill. No one is prepared to put the work in, they just want to "cook like mum" rice chicken and peas then what??. If you know west indian food you know it's all in the preporation and seasoning. A restraunt/take away/mobile vendor will start off by seasoning everything properly, then as business gets brisk they will start to cut corners and think "oh that will do". Menus are not extensive enough - the carribean consisist of many islands and I reckon all of them should be encompassed in a West Indian Restraunt or you have to call it a Jamaican Restruant. In short what I'm saying is if you gonna do it do it right all the time not just for the first 6 months of trading then the next 6 months make do then close the business. It only means that when you go to the bank for a loan for a west indian restraunt they won't laugh at you and say "we can't take the risk, the last 5 restraunts failed"

Thoroughbred MancJuly 28th 2008.

It's a shame crazyb feels that way about entering Caribbean restaurants. Personally, I couldn't give a stuff about crossing the doorstep of any establishment: I'm led solely by my tum and the potential of new culinary delights. I also ant as real a deal as possible, particularly when I'm trying out new international dishes (when in Rome and all that). I think it's best to roll with the flow, keep an open mind and ask questions if you don't know what to try. Ultimately I believe everyone wants to share their food and introduce it to as many others as possible. However, now we've had a Caribbean restaurant review I'm curious whether ManCon is going to continue filling in the blanks and review a kosher restaurant? (I nominate JS Kosher Restaurant over on King's Road, Salford) Yum! (http://www.the-js.co.uk)

mike m&msJuly 28th 2008.

hi sam well said, it clearly says cafe and takeaway above the door and we dont charge restaurant prices,and like you said if the said lady had spoken to us she would have learned the the problem was inherited and is due for refurbishment and that all the plants are real no plastic in sight.

mike m&msJuly 28th 2008.

hi thoroughbred manc,who are you iam trying to think who you are from the art gallery could be one of sevral people mike.

NeilJuly 28th 2008.

I have to agree that the food in M&Ms is superb. I used to work just near there so regularly went at lunch. And...the comment above that it's sometimes intimidating for non-blacks...I've regularly eaten in there and at Buzzrocks on my own and never once felt uncomfortable. Give them a go...they're fantastic.

samJuly 28th 2008.

Response to Bonita Applebum. Hi - in answer to question yes and got licked down for it. I don't mind the reviewer putting in the press that's her job, it would also be nice to express her views to the restaurant 2, hence me asking the question. She made the facilities sound so bad, that punters would choose not to eat there! Have a good day.

bonita applebumJuly 28th 2008.

response to sam; have you ever back-chatted to your mother or auntie? the reviewer was wise to keep it in the press - at least it's been said...by the way a good review!

ancoats girlJuly 28th 2008.

Does anyone know what happened to Soul Food in Ardwick Green? They did amazing jerk chicken and beautiful pineapple punch. Then they moved apparently... but I can't seem to find details on the net and their old number is dead.

Thoroughbred MancJuly 28th 2008.

I also WANT a real a deal as possible...not 'ant'!

dimpsJuly 28th 2008.

What happened to the one in cheetham hill, I was driving all ova last week looking for some FOOD! not into all this Kebab business (worse than dog food!!) and wasnt in mood to start cooking so late I'm a North Manchester girl so dont want to be treking too far!

Joanne CorcoranJuly 28th 2008.

Soul Food has moved to Market St Denton

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