Friday, 23 April 2010

Thoughts on Tunisian cuisine, or, a review of Adam's Cafe, Shepherd's Bush..

Last week I had an intriguing though whilst watching a Michael Palin documentary on Tunisia; he proclaims that it's the only Islamic country in which there's no compulsory fasting during Ramadan. Seems to me, (admittedly after only one Tunisian culinary experience), that this decision probably has little to do with secularist tendencies and much more to do with the fact that their food is basically just really very tasty...

Anyhow, first things first, before we get too deep into this review I should declare a conflict of interest. The owner's daughter is a friend and I did eat here for free. In many ways this write-up could be seen as pay back (i did promise to review it; clearly advocacy from a blog with this kind of readership is a major table filler..) and it would be somewhat ungrateful to slate it. But luckily for you, unlike Geoff Hoon and other Labour Party cronies, this reviewer cannot be hired like a London taxicab. There shall be no aggrandisment.

So let's begin. For a starter i managed to order something akin to a Velociraptor's comb. Behaving like the stupidest Englishman in an ethnic (that word itself fittingly being the stupidest word for 'foreign') restuarant I asked for "the most Tunisian thing on the menu please?" and swiftly one of the stars of Jurrasic Park's baby brother showed up. The menu describes it as a "fan of fried filo pastry with egg and herbs" and it's shown in the picture below.

Known to everyone but Steven Spielberg as a 'Brik a l'oeuf' I've decided after subsequent rumination that this dish is a great concept. The runny, rich, warm egg complements the fried crispiness of the filo excellently. It amounts to a much more refined version of our eggs and fried bread breakfast.. Interestingly Adam's Cafe doubles up as a traditional Brit style "local caf" during the day, so perhaps this is where inspiration came from?

When main course came round my choices were slightly limited sadly, as they usually are. At the moment I'm still pursuing a mistaken semi-Vegetarian phase and so am trying to avoid meat unless the animal's been given a candlelight pigsty, it's own crockery set or similar. This lead to me missing out on all sorts of amazing sounding main courses like Gargoulette Tunisienne (a spicy lamb tagine) and a plethora of kebab choices.

Instead I tipped my hat to the Berbers and opted for a 'Tagine Berber Aux Lentilles'. It was a fantastic musky, legume-y, spinach stew served with a gigantic mound of cous-cous. The stew reeked of the desert and summoned up just the right kinds of images of sun's setting over Roman ruins and lutes and other such Maghreb-y things. As did the whole room infact - the walls are all kitted out with street maps and other Tunisian goodies so it really is a little slice of the Sahara. The meal finished up with freshly minted tea and earthy coffee in dinky cups.

The prices were even decent as well (especially considering the admire-ably genorous portions); I can't actually remember 'specifically as i went ages ago (and wasn't paying!), but I do remember thinking to myself 'wow, that's pretty reasonable'. All in all, highly recommended.