Tag Archives: african restaurants

A beginners guide to eating monkey…and human.

monkey stew


Sam’s not a man to make a wahala

I’m going to see Fanta because she had something to eat and then she drop.*

Was it something that she ate?

Well, either that or she’s pregnant.


* Was sick


If it takes one man an hour to paint the fence, how long would it take two men?

One hour.

Louise comes round the house and cooks and cleans for us while we’re at the factory. She comes round for asks us what we want, takes the money for the ingredients, does the shopping and cooks dinner.

All very nice.

Whatever you ask for the ingredients cost 30,000 leones, OK we’re not painting from a very broad palette here but even so there must be some price variation. Surely.

Especially when there’s a variation on the number that she’s cooking for…

So, I’m just on my own I ask for jollof rice. 30,000. But it’s just for me. Lemme say 25,000. But it’s just for me, Louise, I can go to a restaurant and get a plate of fish and rice for that. 25,000.

Which is exactly what I do. Country Side. Fish and rice. By the pool. Lovely.

And that’s fish and rice, groundnut and cruin cruin are only 7,000 in there. And only 4,000 at Palamino, where I could definitely go as I haven’t yet used up all the antibiotics that I brought over.

I just don’t get it, obviously there’s a little bit of creaming from the top, but surely by not being reasonable you’re killing the goose.

Now if it’s only two in the house we don’t bother asking her, next stage is to replace her with someone who can cook for less than it costs to go to a restaurant.


What were you doing ten years ago Sam?

Always worries me that when Sam meets a friend in the pub he greets them by shouting “SOJA”.


Zen burgers

All the white people eat at Sab’s. It’s a small café that sells European and Lebanese food- schwarma, falafel, burgers, fried chicken that sort of thing. Most importantly it’s air-conditioned to a fridge like temperature and has a toilet that actually flushes.

I try not to go too often, it’s not expensive but within my slightly fictitious budget it is- a really large burger that has loads of coleslaw and chips in the bun is 20,000, so that’s less than five bucks, less than three quid.

But if I’m having a frustrating day and I’m over heating sometimes I just feel the need to leave my oven like office get on a bike and treat myself.

My standard order is a falafel, a vanilla milk and changing the channel from the WWF or a movie to Al Jazeera. It actually feels like my little bubble of calm.

And if that isn’t the name of a really shite book it certainly should be.


Go on then, just a little one

People keep trying to get me to try the monkey soup (stew), apparently it’s a really sweet beef (meat). I’m quite tempted but I’m definitely not doing it. Not quite sure why, is it endangered round here? I’m not sure. Is it because they’re cute little guys and a little too much like us? I can’t answer that either.

I guess I am tempted.

But not quite tempted enough.


Sole food

There’s evidence that a lot of humans were eaten during The Great Leap Forward. What seems even more tragic was that there were cases of people eating their own families. Nan’s popped her clogs get a fire going, that sort of thing.

Anyway, the story goes that the real treat is the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

In case you were ever wondering…



Can you just pick up a sample from Carpet World?

Bob Martins

Sierra Leone, West Africa

Niall’s also worried about my blasé approach to street food he’s prescribing me some worming tablets as a going away present.

Which I’m taking as a green light to continue buying the delicious ‘meat’ on a stick.


Can you just pick up a sample from Carpet World?

Saw a Moslem brother with an honest to goodness, just went into Gaucho Grill with a Stanley knife, cow hide prayer mat. Is this allowed? Are there no particular rules?


Any interest?

There’s a Miracle & Deliverance Explosion at the Flaming Bible Church.

Don’t think that we had those at the Johnstone High Parish.


Religion makes you fat

I wouldn’t say that Bob was fat but he could definitely stand to lose a little weight.

He fasts in the morning to feel closer to God and then has lunch, then an absolutely massive dinner. I’ve been trying to persuade him to have some breakfast but he’s not up for it at all.


Fingers in pies


I sometimes go to Obama’s to watch the football, I also sometimes buy fruit at one of his stalls, he has a surprisingly heavily diversified portfolio of businesses in this part of the world.


There’s a tremendous sense of pride in Sierra Leona and I’m sure in all of Africa that a black man is President of the United States Of America. You see his books widely sold- there’s three books sold in St Mary’s Supermarket and two are his- and you see his face on magazines, t-shirts, bags, umbrellas, medallions. Everything really.

You make your money in merch.

You make your money in merch.

Hopefully having such a positive role model in the world’s most high profile job will inspire the next generation of Africans to believe in themselves

Hopefully having such a positive role model in the world’s most high profile job will inspire the next generation of Africans leaders to believe in working for others.


The politics of tribes

One of the problems with politics in Sierra Leone is that it’s often more tribal than political. For example Bo is SLPP country, if you’re Mende you probably vote SLPP.  Not because you believe in their policies as much as the fact that you believe that they represent you.

These are your guys.

So you win or you lose, either the people in power represent you or they don’t. At the very least you don’t completely believe that they do.

I don’t know if this is the same in every African country but I know that when Kenyatta said that he was going to do the best that he could for ‘his people’ it’s stretching credulity to believe that he meant all Kenyans.


So how many ‘people’ get to vote?

You get tremendously varying estimates on the population of Sierra Leone. According to the CIA Factbook the population is 6,440,052 with 1,070,200 living in Freetown. I live in the second biggest city which I’ve been told has 300,000 people living there but I find that difficult to believe. People live cheek to jowl but 300,000 of them? In Bo? Nah, just don’t believe it.

But even if you accept it that’s a long way down 1.4million of 6.4million live in the biggest two cities. Where are the rest?

And when you count up the most recent census data for each of the 14 districts that make up the country you only get to 4.6million in total.

There’s a little bit of Salone ‘reckoning’ going into these numbers.


He’s the Chet Baker of restaurateurs

What’s wrong with Salone

In the UK we occasionally get a lot of snow, roads close, schools close, factories close and everybody moans. Why haven’t we planned for this? In Denmark/ Canada/Russia they get much worse weather and the world doesn’t stop.

They miss the point.

It’s worth the investment in infrastructure in these countries to compensate for the climate and, so, the investment is made. In the UK it’s, simply, not, or they would do it. It’s just not worth it for the sporadic bouts of exceptionally bad weather that we get in our temperate little climate. To illustrate this how many people in the UK do you know that buy snow tyres or chains for their tyres? How many people do you think have them in Norway? I would guess, maybe, all of them.

We should just moan less and get the sledge out the cupboard. The one we don’t get to use every year.

In Salone there will always be problems with the lack of infrastructure, or at least there will be for the foreseeable future, but sometimes I feel like everyone is planning as if everything is perfect.

Or not planning at all.

The UN were in town for some team bonding, they hired out an entire hotel. The Dohas hotel. The best in town. It’s 400,000 per room per night, that’s a months salary for a lot of people in Bo.

My friend James asked me to come down and watch the Spurs Chelsea game with him, they have a lovely TV poolside, it’s really nice. Really, really nice. The game kicked off and then the TV went off. The staff knew that we were watching it but no-one came to explain or apologise. We had to go and ask. No apology was given but the explanation offered was that the generator needed maintenance so there would be no power for an indeterminate length of time. Generators ALWAYS need maintenance. You’re charging a king’s ransom for a room buy two. Sod it, buy three.

Sometimes you just think, ‘come on guys, is this shit really, really this difficult’?!


He’s the Chet Baker of restaurateurs

Maurie runs Mars internet café, he also owns a restaurant called Kama. He’s spent a lot of time in San Francisco and he exudes West Coast cool. Does he? Or am I just making shit up. You’ll never know… Anyway, I was told in January that it was the best restaurant in Bo but it’s never actually been open. It’s closed for maintenance. It’s been closed for maintenance for five months.

Don’t get me wrong it’s getting there- “Small small Gareth, small small”- but the Easter grand opening became “Lemme say April, Gareth. Lemme say April” and we’re now quite far into May.

I don’t know if I’ll even be here long enough to get to eat there.


Menu for reference only

Most restaurants will only have light during the day so you buy most of the stock for the restaurant on a daily basis. If you go for food later on you might have to take what they have not what you originally wanted. Sometimes the giving out of menus with long lists of available dining options feels like a formality, a nod to what a restaurant is rather than any guide to what you might actually be having to eat that evening.

Often menus will be laid out orders taken, drinks brought and then after what can sometimes be a lengthy wait the waitress comes back to say that they don’t have what you ordered, this can also be followed up by a further lengthy wait to find that they don’t have choice number two either. If there’s a large table of you then this can take some time.

If you’re dining late at night in Bo my advice is to wander in cut out the niceties and say:

“OK guys, what have you actually got?”

I love a nice pear

Pageant season

I got invited to Miss Djalla University Beauty Pageant at the Rio Cinema on Friday night. I didn’t think I could make it but as my friend pointed out ‘when is the next time that you’ll get asked to a beauty pageant’.

Saturday came and I managed to gate crash the UNDP team bonding weekend, a nice Lithuanian chap gave me some beer tokens so I was upscaled from Star to Carlsberg immediately.

Then I heard that someone had slaughtered a goat and was having a shindig, there’s not a man alive (sorry Mozza) that’s knocking back an offer like that. So off I went.

Rolled home at four in the morning having had my fill of beer and goat, forgot all about the pageant.

Saturday got invited to the Miss Dohas Hotel Beauty Pageant.


Awright bawbags.

I met this really amazing doctor, Irish paediatrician called Niall he used to work in the RAH so he knew where I’m from really well. He said:

“I can’t believe someone from Paisley is running the Bennimix factory. Rock and Roll. Turning up in the morning saying awright bawbags, let’s get to work.”

A phrase that I rarely, if ever, employ. Well, certainly not nearly enough.

He’s been here three weeks and I’m meeting him tonight to watch the Arsenal Wigan game. Well, hopefully.

The thing is with Niall he’s so dedicated that he’s been working seven days and he doesn’t like to be too far away from the ward as he’s worried that if he is a child will die.

My concern is that if he tries to keep that up for a year he’ll kill himself.


Malaria optional

I know of a girl, a Scottish girl, who is waiting to be flown home. They think that she has meningitis. If she does a doctor I know (who, thankfully, no longer has braids) will have saved her life. She wasn’t taking her anti-malarials (the Jock not the Doc) and malaria massively affects your immune system.

Did I mention that she was Scottish?

A lot of ex-pats will tell you that anti-malarials are dangerous, they do your organs long term damage.

All the doctors I’ve spoken to tell you to take them.

I’ll leave that particular decision up to you.


I love a nice pear

It’s funny living in a community. It’s so different from London. I lived in a flat in London for six years and didn’t know the person next door. Our front doors were half a metre apart.

When I go to the well in the morning I say hello to Alpha Rogers, through his bedroom window, lying on his bed, in his pants.

This morning a woman shouted me over because she had nice (avocado) pears and she knows I often buy pears.

You don’t get that service in Tesco.

I thought Jesus sorted that out years ago…

My kind of people

Bo is home to the Mende tribe which should make things hard for me as Mende is their first language, Krio is second so any English is third.

What makes this not such a big problem is the fact that they are by far the friendliest most helpful people in the world.

Genuinely, nothing is too much trouble for them.

If you ask a Mende to bring you an amphibious flying car I’m sure that you won’t get one but I’m, equally, sure that he’ll have a bloody good go at getting you something similar.


The Gazette

If you want to know how much you should be getting paid in Salone you consult the Sierra Leone Gazette. You simply find the pay bracket for your occupation, say, miller, go down the column for the amount of years of experience you have and there you have it.

Might pop out for a Senegalese tonight. Fancy it?

A few people have told me that the best restaurant in Freetown is Senegalese. I don’t know if it’s the best but it’s really, really good. You get barracuda or snapper with ‘Irish potahto’ chips or achieke. I like the achieke, it’s somewhere between couscous and bulgar wheat and comes with a really nicely dressed spiced salad on top.

Makes me wonder if African restaurants will make more of an ‘impact’ at some point back home.  It’s certainly odd that a continent of such a size with such diversity of cuisine hasn’t really broken out of small restaurants mainly serving the ‘ex-pat’ community in London.

If you feel like trying it I would recommend the groundnut soup, or maybe some cruin cruin, or the snapper with fried rice. Or anything really, it’s all good.

I thought Jesus sorted that out years ago

The 27th of January was the 60th World Leprosy Day aimed at stamping out discrimination against sufferers of leprosy.

I really, really did not think that this was still a problem in the modern world, I don’t know what causes it and I don’t really know what needs to be done to stop the problem.

And I don’t know where they live now but if we’re not allowed to have colonies anymore…….



Wallace-Johnson Street

If you walk down Wallace-Johnson street you get to a statue of the man himself, Isaac Thephilus Akunna Wallace-Johnson.

It’s a great statue, I think that it looks a little like a statue that Herge might have sculpted had he not been too busy with the cartoons. He has pen aloft and a natty little double breasted blazed atop a jumper, shirt tie combo.

If, like me, you had never heard of him look him up he’s got one helluva story to tell.

My brother from another mother

Like Scotland the motto of Sierra Leone is ‘if it moves, fry it’; it’s like we’re in a competition to see who can fry the most ridiculous things. “Mars bars, you say? Fuck that I’m frying coconuts.”

So Hamid’s been doing me a fry up in the morning, plantain rather than square slice but still, it feels like a home from home.