Point of View, Ragged Point, St Phillip, Barbados

Bajan food and entertainment with spectacular cliffside views.

Point of View is an open-air bar and restaurant on a grassy cliff-top on the most easterly point of Barbados. It serves traditional Bajan food and drink and provides evening entertainment in the form of karaoke on Saturdays and live music on Sundays.

 After you have negotiated the bumps and twists of the journey up Highway 5, and taken a right at Marley Vale towards the lighthouse, Point of View is immediately on your left in the grounds of a large cream house with an orange tiled roof.

The clue is in the name. The first thing that strikes you is the view. The restaurant faces out over the Atlantic and the wild and rugged northeast coast of Barbados. Everyone who arrives for the first time is compelled to walk over to the cliff edge and just take in the view. On a clear day, you can see almost to the top of the island.

The dining area is entirely open-air on a raised, covered platform. In inclement weather there are weather-proof sides that can be lowered to protect the diners. The building behind the dining area hosts the bar and kitchen.

The menu is mostly traditional Bajan fare such as coconut shrimp, fish cakes and chicken wings, served with a variety of sides including rice and peas, macaroni pie and breadfruit fries. It’s all delicious and reasonably priced. Occasionally, they offer special treats such as Conkies or Souse. The Catch of the Day is particularly good value, consisting of a generous serving of fish with sides and salad at around BDS$30, just under the £10 mark depending on the exchange rate. They have a well-stocked bar and a great cocktail menu. It was here that I was first introduced to the devilishly divine Bajan version of the Mudslide. A gloriously calorific, frozen concoction of rum, Baileys, Kahlua, cream and chocolate sauce for just BDS$18, or £6.

The staff are attentive and friendly, and the service is excellent. The tireless and lovely, Da Reisha, and the rest of the team, go all out to make you feel welcome and looked after, even predicting your drinks order on arrival, when you have been there more than couple of times (as we have).

Da Reisha, Point of View

Point of View is largely aimed at the local market. Few visitors venture out this far. But, if you do, it will definitely be worth it, and they will make you feel at home. All sorts of people go there to eat and drink, from mature couples to young families, and everyone in between. They cater for large groups, but you’ll need to book in advance. Otherwise, at the moment, you are fairly sure to get a table if you turn up on spec.

During The Time of Covid, Point of View has reduced opening hours. They open around 5pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and from 11am on Saturdays, but this is changing all the time. You will have your temperature taken on arrival and be asked to sanitise your hands. As with all shops, bars and restaurants in Barbados, you will not be admitted without a facemask. Once you are seated you are permitted to remove your mask but must put it on again to move around the venue.

Entertainment

For us, one of the highlights of Point of View is the entertainment. On Karaoke nights the audience is treated to a succession of musical favourites from the many regulars. Wizard’s, almost Country and Western, vibrato renditions of Shirley and Whenever You come Around, will melt your heart and ring in your head for days. Rasta-Man (aka Dreadie) will charm you with his Bob Marley, Johnny Nash and other reggae classics, and Andy, the singing chef, pops out between orders to deliver delightful falsetto performances of, among others, Ella Fitzgerald’s A Tisket a Tasket or Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years.

However, the real star of the show is the talented and beautiful Imira (real name Shondell Jahbari) who compares the Karaoke, occasionally treating us to her own spine-tingling deliveries of the likes of Gladys Knight’s Midnight Train to Georgia or Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts. On Sundays she sings with two of the regular live bands, Therapy and The Project Band. Both are essentially cover bands but do include a few of their own original songs. Inevitably, whichever band is on, the night will end with everyone up and dancing to the rhythms of soca and calypso.

Sometimes, extra special guest artists have been known to make an appearance. The last time we were there we were treated to an incredible performance by the living legend, The Mighty Grynner. The utterly charming, charismatic, hip-swiveling, 74 year old Calypsonian, who has won the coveted “Tune of the Crop” award 7 times, and has a highway named after him, totally stole the show. Grynner Leggo

 On Sunday the 29th of November, to coincide with Barbados Independence Day celebrations, Imira launched her own single, Love and Music, performing it live with the Project Band, as it was simultaneously live-streamed on social media. We wish her every success!

Food 4/5
Service 5/5
Ambience 5/5
Overall Value 5/5
OVERALL 4.8/5

Road Trip to Malmo – Part 2. Hook of Holland to Bremen.

The Netherlands

We disembarked at 08.00 local time and were on the road by 08.30. On the way out to Malmo, we’d decided to split the journey to into two four-hour trips on Day 1 and Day 2, and a shorter, hour and a half trip, on Day 3. On the way back, we planned to do the whole journey over two days. Our destination on Day 1 was Bremen, in northern Germany.

We hadn’t anticipated how difficult the first morning was going to be. Be warned, the area around the Hook of Holland and Rotterdam is incredibly busy, especially during rush hour. Negotiating congested, fast-flowing, four-lane motorways with multiple consecutive complex interchanges and exits on both sides, while adjusting to driving on the right, proved to be too big a challenge for us. We ended up missing a turning and were forced to abandon our planned scenic route and just follow the satnav.

However, once we got out of the Rotterdam area, things improved considerably, and we made good progress. We followed the A12 that skirts south of Utrecht and joined the E30 just after Apeldoorn. We crossed The Netherlands in about three hours stopping only once for lunch at a service station.

Driving in The Netherlands was straightforward. Good roads, courteous fellow drivers and plenty of good quality stopping places. This was the first time we noticed some driving practices that, we later realised, seemed to be commonplace across northern Europe. In particular, was the strict adherence to the principal of only moving into a faster lane to overtake. Very rarely did we come across middle lane “hogging” and it contributed to the overall enjoyment of the driving experience.

Services were generally good, but we would definitely recommend La Place, if you see one. Good quality fresh food, spotlessly clean, comfy furniture, log fires, magazines … honestly, well worth seeking out. A complete contrast to the typical motorway service station.

Bremen

We crossed the border into Germany just after lunch. The 150 miles or so between the border and Bremen is quite remote and rural with very few places that warranted a stop, so we headed straight for our destination, arriving in the early afternoon. We’d booked into Motel One in the centre of the town within walking distance of all the main attractions. We parked up the street in a public car park at a cost of about £20 for 24 hours. The hotel is modern, clean and comfortable with small but very stylish rooms and does a great breakfast. At £76 we felt this represented great value for money.

 

IMG_4112[8766]

We made the most the weather and of our limited time in Bremen by heading straight out to find a biergarten on the riverside. Paulaner’s an der Schlachte was a good choice. Nice beer in a lovely location. Suitably refreshed, we took a stroll down the river to the old town where we explored Schnoorvietel, the historic district that dates back to the 15th century. Narrow, cobbled streets are crammed with restaurants, cafes and craft and souvenir shops. We were drawn to Hegarty’s Irish Pub, not by the lure of the Guinness, but by the availability of an outdoor seat in the sunshine in a pretty little square.

 

From there we wandered up to the main square, or Marketplatz. A wide square, typical of many European cities, overlooked by the town hall, the cathedral, the parliament building and a series of tall gabled houses. At the centre of the square is a statue of Roland, a nephew of Charlemagne, who was a key influencer in the political autonomy that Bremen enjoyed in the 15th century.

 

IMG_4124[8764]

It was here in Marketplatz that we first encountered the Bremen town Musicians. The musicians were a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cockerel, all characters from a fairy-tale by the Brothers Grimm, in which they trekked to Bremen together to escape a lifetime of drudgery and neglect. They are represented in a sculpture in Marketplatz, standing on atop of one another in a pyramid formation.

We enjoyed a small carafe of wine in one of the many large outside cafes in the square, before looking for somewhere to eat. Having been distinctly uninspired by any of the German restaurants we found (sorry Bremen!), we decided to have a curry in Restaurant Shalimar, right next door to our hotel. We’d spotted it when we arrived and joked about having a German curry, never imaging that’s where we’d actually end up.

It was good though. Poppadoms and pakora to start, followed by Lamb Saag for me and Lamb Biryani for Mike. I’m a sucker for anything Indian with spinach in it, and Mike gauges the quality of an Indian restaurant by the quality of the biryani. It passed! Our only mistake was chatting to the owner about where we were from. Turns out his brother owns a restaurant on the Foleshill Road in Coventry, close to where Mike grew up, and everybody knows that Birmingham, where we live now, is world famous for the Balti. European curries, in our experience, are often quite mild, to allow for the chilli intolerant European palate, and we did ask him to make sure it was spicy. However, we felt he had overcompensated a tad when our food was served eye-wateringly hot. Nevertheless, true Brummies that we are, we thoroughly enjoyed it! So, if you’re ever in Bremen and fancy a curry (unlikely I know) definitely seek out Restaurant Shalimar, but don’t ask them to spice up your food!

We fell into bed around ten, tired, tipsy, totally stuffed and ready for a good night’s sleep before Day 2, Bremen to Odense, the home of Hans Christian Andersen.

Café Kisimul, Castlebay, Barra, Hebrides

Unexpectedly good Indian food in an unusual setting.

On a recent trip to the Outer Hebrides, I read about Café Kisimul in my guidebook. The author devoted several paragraphs to the story of this utterly delightful little restaurant. He told the story of Rohail and Pauline Bari, who moved to Barra from Glasgow in 2002. After hosting hugely popular curry nights for the locals, they were persuaded to open the café. When the guidebook was written in 2017, Kisimul was described as Scotland’s best curry house, winning the Scottish division of the 2010 Tiffin Cup, and achieving runner-up in the UK finals.

I’ll admit I was sceptical. We’re from Birmingham and have access to some of the most authentic, tastiest Asian food in the UK. A tiny café, in a tiny town, on a tiny, remote Hebridean island, the best curry house in Scotland? Really? Besides, sadly Rohail died in 2015, leaving his son, Harris, to pick up the mantle. Would it still be there? Would it still be as good?

We ended our own recent Hebridean adventure in Barra, arriving at Castlebay on Saturday to catch the ferry to Oban on the Monday morning after a visit to Vatersay on the Sunday. We were booked into the Castlebay Hotel for two nights. As soon as we arrived, late in the afternoon after driving down from Harris, we went for a wander to see if we could find the café.

It didn’t take long. Castlebay is tiny. Literally, a couple of small hotels with bars and restaurants, and a couple of cafes, Kisimul being one of these. It was about a minutes’ walk from our hotel and it was quickly apparent that it was the only place to eat, other than one of the hotels. We decided to go for it.

www_cafekisimul_co

They have two sittings every night except Sunday, at 6pm and 8pm. On Sundays, they are 5.30pm and 7.30pm. We opted for 6, as we would have had to share a table if we ate at 8. However, after discovering we could watch Wasps v Saracens in our hotel bar, we moved our booking to 8pm, accepting that we would have to share.

Kisimul Café is on the main street in Castlebay overlooking the bay and its namesake, Kisimul Castle. Yes, I thought Kisimul was an Asian sounding name too. The castle gets its name from the Gaelic ciosamul meaning “castle island”.

Inside, it is cosy and bright with seating for around 30 diners. The staff are welcoming and friendly. As well as the Indian dishes, it offers a few seafood and pasta options for those who don’t fancy a curry. Prices are average for the Hebrides, which tends to be little more expensive than the mainland for obvious reasons. The Indian menu offers everything you would expect from a decent curry house but with a unique Hebridean twist. There is a distinctively fishy theme and most of the meat is locally bred.

about-us

We particularly enjoyed the hand-dived scallop pakoras and the slow cooked Hebridean lamb Saag, washed down with a pint of Skye Gold. The fish was freshly caught, the meat succulent and tender, and the spicing perfect. The table sharing experience worked surprisingly well. After a slightly awkward start, we were enjoying the company of our fellow diners so much that we were the last to leave. The restaurant was empty and the staff politely clearing up around us, when we realised, we ought to be on our way!

Sadly, the Castlebay Hotel did not live up to expectations. Despite it being one of the most expensive places we stayed on our trip, the rooms were very average and the whole place in need of a lick of paint and a good clean! The lack of accommodation in the area had clearly resulted in a degree of complacency. It was saved only by the receptionist who, even though she seemed to be on duty 24/1, was constantly smiling and always happy to help.

Fortunately, despite an even greater paucity of decent places to eat, Kisimul Café has not succumbed to a similar temptation to let standards drop. We decided to forego eating at our hotel on the Sunday night and booked into Kisimul again. When we apologetically explained this to the Castlebay receptionist she was understanding, verging on encouraging, even recommending things to try from the menu!

It’s unlikely that you will ever be just “passing through” Barra and Castlebay, but it is often a starting or finishing destination on a tour of the Hebrides. Please don’t visit Castlebay without eating at Kisimul Café. You really will be missing a treat! We were lucky to get tables on two consecutive nights as it was early in the tourist season. We would definitely recommend booking in advance.

Food 5/5
Service 5/5
Ambience 5/5
Overall Value 5/5
OVERALL 5/5

Bodega Cantina, Bennetts Hill, Birmingham

South American flamboyance and flavours.

Bodega is a Midlands based, South American inspired, small chain of restaurants, with branches in Birmingham, Leicester, Sutton Coldfield and Worcester. We became big fans of South and Central American cuisine after a visit to Costa Rica, so after reading some great reviews, decided to give it a try.

Bodega is near the bottom of Bennetts Hill in the city centre. We didn’t book as we dropped in early on a Wednesday evening and didn’t expect it to be busy. I’ll be honest, we were both pleasantly surprised to find the place was absolutely heaving, and disappointed that it looked as though we weren’t going to get a table.

However, the door host was charming. She told us two bookings that had been due at 18.15 had not turned up, and she would give them fifteen minutes grace before she would give their tables away. After fetching us a couple of Classic Margaritas, which were two for £9 as it was Happy Hour from 4 till 7, true to her word she showed us to our table at 6.30.

The interior is a bright and colourful long narrow space. The tables are crammed in, so don’t expect a lot of privacy. To be honest, it’s so busy and noisy anyway that this was not a problem. Anyway, everyone is so intent on their food and drink that conversations were pretty perfunctory anyway!

The menu consists of street food, small plates, large plates, sides and dessert. In our view the best approach is a bit of pick and mix sharing. The vast drinks menu includes all the South American specialities such as Cervezas, Tequilas, Mezcals, Rums Piscos and Cachacas as well as a Gins, Wines, Ciders and Soft Drinks.

We had Chipotle Beef Brisket Nachos to start, followed by Peruvian Ceviche, Fish Tacos, Jalapos, the Brazilian Moqueca and Sweet Potato Fries. After our delicious margaritas, we washed it all down with a couple of Estrellas. We didn’t have room for dessert and, on reflection, would have skipped the moqueca (tasty as it was) and stuck to a selection of sharing plates, leaving space for some churros, which looked amazing.

The nachos were divine, light crispy nachos and melt in the mouth beef, topped with just the right amount of mixed melted cheese, slightly acidic soured cream and soft, cool avocado. The ceviche, while it couldn’t match the best we’ve ever had at a roadside café in Costa Rica, was a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and the fish “cooked” but still firm. These, and the fish tacos were the highlights for me, but it was all delicious.

The service was excellent. The staff were patient, chatty and cheerful, despite being so busy. The menu was so extensive and interesting that I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes, but I have a funny feeling that I’ll be unable to resist the ceviche and fish tacos again though!

Food 4/5
Service 4/5
Ambience 4/5
Overall Value 4/5
OVERALL 4/5

Pho, Grand Central, Birmingham

pho-263127_1920 (1)

Fresh, clean, authentic and good value.

Stephen and Juliette Wall fell in love with pho after a trip to Vietnam and came home and built a brand around it. Their first restaurant opened in London in 2005 and they now have branches all over the country. Pho reached Birmingham in 2015 when the successful Vietnamese street food chain opened a branch in Grand Central.

Like the Walls, we became pho-lovers following a trip to Vietnam. We knew about Pho but were put off by our snobbish assumptions about the likely poor quality of chain restaurant food. How wrong we were!

Situated on the upper mezzanine, overlooking the concourse, the restaurant is always busy. Expect to queue, but turnover is fast so it won’t be for long. As we waited, our fears about the food were instantly dispelled as we watched a couple of young chefs deftly rolling a batch of handmade spring rolls. The menu is simple. A few appetisers and sides, broken rice, a couple of additional rice and noodle dishes, salads and pho, lots of pho!

I started with summer rolls. Fresh, cool, crunchy vegetables wrapped in a soft, wafer-thin rice paper with nuoc cham dipping sauce, a mixture of fish sauce and lime. My partner had light, crispy chicken wings with sriracha, a fierce garlic and chilli paste. We both had pho to follow. He had spicy chicken and I tofu and mushroom, big bowls of steaming sweet, sour and salty broth, and soft slippery noodles. You can choose between flat pho or round bun noodles. Personally, I think the flat noodles are easier to negotiate with chopsticks reducing the splash factor.

The selection of condiments on the table is essential to the experience. A key principle of Vietnamese cooking is to make your food taste the way you want it to by adding sauces, garnishes and seasoning. Options include fish sauce, sriracha and homemade garlic and chilli paste or vinegar. Every bowl of pho is served with a side of fresh chillies, herbs and beans sprouts.

To drink, my partner had Saigon Beer and I had mint tea. Handfuls of fresh mint packed into a mug and covered with boiling water to create an explosion of palate-cleansing flavour. My real guilty pleasure in Vietnam was the coffee. Rich, strong coffee served with condensed milk in a battered metal mini drip-filter over a glass. Not how I would usually have my coffee, but utterly delicious and indulgent. Even here, Pho did not fail. Apart from the pristine, shiny drip-filter, I could have been back in Vietnam.
The service is good and the staff friendly and helpful, especially for diners who are new to Vietnamese cuisine. Pho is a fast food concept and there is a certain expectation that you won’t want to hang around. Our bill was presented to us before we had a chance to order our coffees.
If I was to choose one word to sum up Pho it would be authentic. Everything smelled and tasted just as I remembered it in Vietnam. The two Vietnamese girls at the table next to us, live-streaming footage of their food back home, were a testament to that.

Food 4/5
Service 4/5
Ambience 4/5
Overall Value 4/5
OVERALL 4/5