Jonathan Schofield is full of beans after a visit to this new South African shack (….alaka)
THIS is a bright and vivid addition to Oldham Street. There are lots of bright yellows and a wall patterned like an African fabric. The logo is a luscious pair of red lips wrapped round a plump chilli, that also looks a like a tongue. There’s something vaguely disturbing about the image, like that Rolling Stones ‘lips’ image. It adds character and makes for a bold statement of intent to be different.
I could quite easily munch on jaffles watching a match or strolling through the streets
Chakalaka does South African food and the decor reflects that. All you need is a vuvuzela in your mush to complete the theme. The menu is a piece of equally vivid A5 with lots of words which were helpfully explained underneath. I needed that as, a) I haven’t been to South Africa, b) it’s not a food tradition that has travelled much.
Chakalaka is an attractive word which means a bean laden spicy vegetable relish with chillis to add interest and heat. This comes with most of the dishes on the menu. The place definitely has its finger on the pulse. All the dishes are £5 each.
The Bobotie is a dish described as a ‘sweet cottage pie’. It’s got curried beef, mango, apricot and a curious topping that resembles that on a good rice pudding. It was very pleasant. Filling too. For my palate it needed more edge, extra seasoning, some chilli maybe. Something to add depth.
The Wors was a Catherine Wheel of sausage on a bed of chakalaka. The sausage was thin and tame, but stuffed on a fork and dragged through the relish it was entertaining enough. This is described as a BBQ staple and you can see why, it’s highly portable and again filling.
The best dish for me was the jaffle (£5 but £7.50 with the extras), which resembled a pair of exotic toasties but far more substantial. I got the extra beef and cheese. I am glad I did, otherwise you just get the chakalaka filling and I was becoming chakalaked out. I could quite easily munch on jaffles watching a match or strolling through the streets in a rush between appointments.
A pudding of koek balls provided more dough this time as chubby balls of sustenance with a ginger and cinnamon syrup. It again resembled take-away nosh and might easily have sat in a paper bag.
This is what Chakalaka is in truth; street food sold in a restaurant with a proper bar for drinks including South African beer and cocktails. It’s not a meal-out in town sort of place, but will make a good filling station en route to somewhere else. Given the prices, it provides an out of the ordinary lunch alternative too.
Chakalaka, 105a Oldham Street, Manchester, M4 1LW. Tel: 0161 258 5188
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Jaffles 6, Bobotie 6, Wors 5, Koek balls 5
Pleasant and willing to discuss the food
Just finding its feet but colourful