Food: Jamaican Jills

Jamaican Jills has been one of Neath’s best kept secrets for some time. Now it’s migrated west to Swansea and taken up residence at the bottom of Wind St. You’d be forgiven for thinking Jills was a chain restaurant as the scale and the impact of the place screams success. Perhaps it helps that the previous residents left a shell that could easily be adapted, but it’s really the heart and soul of the cooking and the people who cook it that shines through.

 

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Using the Jamaican flag and the Caribbean as its decorative cornerstone the restaurant is bright and cozy, with splashes of Patois overhead and her signature hot wing challenge on the wall near the kitchens. The design lover in me also noticed the Artek A330S lights, designed by my favourite Architect and designer, Alvar Aalto. Probably a repro, to have something Finnish in the place, seems odd but the glow of the brass on the lights does suit the warmth of the place.

The whole place sings with its unique selling perspective – cosy, good value and gloriously Jamaican. Building on the reputation of its parent restaurant, this bright new light in Swansea’s culinary spectrum looks set to set many a tongue alight with its big flavours and great atmosphere.

 

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The menu sports the dishes one would expect of a Jamaican restaurant but I think, and I’d hope, that people would be brave enough to go off piste and try some lesser known delights. Standouts for me included the wonderfully tender and spicy goat curry, served with rice & pea, her Ackee and Saltfish is also deliciously moreish, served with gorgeous fried dumplings. Lunch menus and seasonal special menus are available too (like the recent one for Valentine’s Day) and are as varied and interesting as can be. Typically, the Jerk chicken is bold and punchy, the wings big and juicy. If you’re feeling brave you can try the Spicy Wing Challenge and get a t-shirt and your face on the wall. If you’re bold enough to sign the disclaimer then bragging rights come at the price of 7 hot wings in fifteen minutes with a 5 minute cool down – no drinks!

 

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Their bar is fully stocked with regular favourites (including Red Stripe, naturally) with a particular emphasis on cocktails for that Caribbean dimension. Two for one exists on most of the favourites with the Rum Punch being a particularly delicious and unique offering. They also offer a range of “smoking” cocktails served over dry ice for that added wow factor. The Children don’t get short shrift either, their meals echo the adult menu but come in Small Portions or Big Portions so you can gauge them by the appetite of your child. They also come with unlimited drinks and a dessert, which is a nice touch.

 

It’s so easy with new restaurants for them to have a muddy and confusing atmosphere, like they don’t know what they’re about, but that definitely isn’t the case with Jamaican Jills. From the bubbly staff to the slick management, Jills has hit the ground running and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. Locally grown successes like this should be sung from the rooftops and supported wherever possible, but when the food is this good it’s all the more satisfying to just go along and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.

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Food: Calabrisella in Canton

After getting my Mac fixed and a trip to Ikea (why not, like) instead of having the usual köttbullar at Ikea,we were on the way to this unassuming place in Canton on Cowbridge Road East, following the review from Gourmet Gorro. The aesthetics of the place, make the place even more special to me, with its slightly tacky brick effect wallpaper and clocks with a mug of coffee on them, you’d expect to see at B&M Bargains, it totally adds to the charm of the place. Beneath the Ikea bistro chairs and the ropey Italian power ballads playing on the stereo, this joint is serving phenominal food.

Walking in at around 7ish, it was already packed with families celebrating birthdays, couples celebrating new jobs, luckily we were able to get a seat.

The staff (all Italian) greeted us and asked what would we like to drink, Myself and the Mr ordered two bottles of Peroni Rossa whilst we perused the menu (and taking a note from Gourmet Gorro’s book I also ordered a can of Chinotto – the amazing bitter Italian soda.

Scanning the menu, we quickly knew what we wanted and ordered…

To start we had the Aranccino Bolognese. Amazing deep fried, pockets of risotto, ragu and cheese (so much cheese!) in a golden crispy jacket, they were huge! At first we thought we screwed up by ordering two, but I’m a greedy bugger and we managaged to finish them.

Next, was the main.

Pizza, the signature dish of the place.

I ordered the Campagnolo, an earthy mix of mushrooms, Italian sausage, peppers and weirdly cooked iceberg lettuce (it worked, somehow). Tom ordered the Milano, punchy and creamy with mozzarella, Milano salami and Strachino cheese.

Whilst we waited for the pizzas to be made, the lads entered the restaurant. Presumably family of the owners or friends, or something, but they came in chatted, one charged his phone next to us, then left… you couldn’t have made it up, was imagining they’d sit outside chatting and eating like they were at Satriale’s.

Our 14” pizzas (they don’t some in any other size) came shortly afterwards and oh my! They were so big, and thin, and mmmmm. The fennel seeds in the sausage popping, with each bite releasing their anise-tinged goodness and the lettuce, giving a nice bitterness, we had to ask to ‘doggy bag’ it up for us, so we had room for dessert!

Too full for a dessert each, we decided to share one. With my love for pistachios, when an opportunity arises to have something made from the nut of the Gods, well I just had to 😉

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A pistachio mille feuille, the buttery flaky pastry, the gorgeous pistachio and mascarpone filling topped with chantilly cream and chopped pistachios. It was almost a Meg Ryan moment, I tell ya!

With some time for our food to settle we decided on a little something to cap off our lovely evening. Tom ordered a latte, and myself a digestivo of Limoncello (again- pistachos & lemon anybody 😉 ) Having a sip of Tom’s coffee. It was amazing, so deep and smooth. I could tell this was good coffee not some burned crap from Starbucks (and this is coming from a guy who historically has hated coffee)….well I’m growing to like it now, but I’d still say I’m a tea man, myself.

When we asked for the bill we thought it would be at least 50 quid for the quality of food, but £36 quid is all that it came to!

We really need to go here again, and if anybody is near here, it would be silly not to pop in.