*I was invited to dine at Chakalaka FOC for the purpose of this review, however, all opinions are my own as always
Situated in an unassuming building in the middle of Oldham Street is the new kid in town. With its bright yellow exterior standing out against the grey Northern Quarter buildings, you can’t really miss it and it’s already proving to be a popular addition to the Manchester food scene.
Chakalaka is a bar and kitchen serving up South African inspired food and was the brainchild of two friends, Stuart Dean and Chris Plotts. They had both previously worked for large hospitality chains but decided to invest their own money in creating a new independent restaurant.
The name Chakalaka comes from a spicy tomato, chilli and bean relish, usually served alongside Pap Balls (balls of deep fried maize filled with cheese which of course, we had to try out).
The menu is modest but this is where the whole ‘Quality Over Quantity’ thing is absolutely relevant. Personally, I’d rather dine somewhere that does a few dishes perfectly than be overwhelmed by a big selection of options that are at best, pretty average.
Chakalaka serves tapas-style dishes so you can try a little of everything on offer, giving a casual dining experience. The decor is bright and industrial with a cosy feel and the clientele during our visit ranged from families with children to couples and groups of friends.
We began our afternoon with a couple of drinks – cream soda for me and a coffee for Adam. In hindsight, I really wish I’d have made the most of the SA- inspired cocktail menu but that’s something for me to try out next time I suppose!
We opted for:
A spicy chickpea and potato dish served in a ‘bowl’ of fresh bread.
Traditional SA cured meat
South African sausage. Spiced with Chakalaka.
Made from beans, chillis, tomatoes, peppers and some special spices.
Balls of maize deep fried and filled with cheese
Doughy balls fried and dipped in cinnamon sugar with a citrus syrup.
Apart from Biltong, neither Adam and I had tried South African food before, however, we’re always looking to expand our culinary horizons and this menu was more than enough to convert us.
Being a sweet tooth, the Keok balls are something I could eat every single day and, being a firm carnivore, Adam rated the Wors and Biltong. The kids have always been good at trying new foods and I know that Lucie would be in her element at Chakalaka so we’ve made plans to go back again for lunch in December.
They’re keen to be good neighbours, offering money off for students and local workers, even though the dishes are already great value at £3-£5 each. The bar also donates 5p to the Mayor’s Homelessness Fund for every pint of their own brand lager, ‘Chakalager’ sold.
When we had finished eating, I went to say goodbye and had a little chat with Stuart, who was elbow deep in the kitchen. For me, that kind of sums up everything our experience at about Chakalaka. Wonderful service, great food and a brilliant company culture.