A post by Kerry.
Marinades is a Caribbean restaurant down the lower end of Cheltenham High Street (not that lower end but the other one near The Strand, The Swan and The Vine). Describing itself as stylish and authentic on it’s Google listing and Cheltenham’s only family run Caribbean eatery, it conjured up a level of excitement within us similar to the anticipation we felt for C&W’s African Experience in Gloucester. That’s probably quite a niche reference but some of you will know what I mean!
From the very beginning we had delightful service, from making our reservation over the phone, to the welcome we received at the restaurant. Although our initial opinion upon entering I wouldn’t have said included the word stylish, but happy to report a tick for a relaxed atmosphere.
A drink that caught my eye on the surprisingly comprehensive drinks menu was the Guinness punch, a combo of said Irish stout, condensed milk, nutmeg and a scoop of ice cream. It was sweet enough to be a dessert and darn yummy. This drink is traditionally drunk in Jamaica. Helen tried Marinades’ Dark and Stormy cocktail which went down well (Lambs and ginger beer).
I skipped a starter this time but Mike, Helen and Adam all had one. Mike and Adam started with the Jerk Chicken Roti and Helen went for the Grilled Sardines. The Roti was fiery and received a thumbs up from the guys, although it was gone in only two bites and the salad was very average. The sardines didn’t hit the mark for Helen and she felt they may not have been as fresh as they could have been.
Mains followed to the tune of Curry Goat, Peri-Peri Chicken, Jambalya and Hake Coconut Curry Rundown.
So now I understand where the use of the word “stylish” comes in – the food was elegantly presented. Our mains were accompanied by a sharing platter of Caribbean style bubble and squeak.
Here’s our individual comments on each of our mains:
(P.S. who thinks each subtitle would make a hilarious name for a Caribbean music band?)
Adam and the Jambalaya: My Jambalaya was OK. The mixture of seafood and vegetables was great, however, the mussels were slightly gritty and this really put a downer on my main. It’s not generally a huge issue but it just meant that every other mouthful meant crunching bits of sand. Other than that however, it was very nice, with great depth of flavour and amazing aromas.
Mike and the Peri-Peri Chicken:
My dish was flavourful, but I felt a little underwhelmed.
Kerry (me) and the Hake Rundown:
I had a well cooked, tasty piece of hake, blanketed in a coconut Rundown sauce, accompanied with four chunks of breadfruit (a Caribbean staple, touted as a superfood as it’s rich in antioxidants and a plethora of vitamins and minerals), which tasted like a regular boiled potato with a slight sweetness. It’s hard to be excited over a sweet, boiled potato, but it was perfectly fine and I can tick off a vegetable I haven’t eaten before. Hake has a subtle flavour, so the taste of the sauce really did the talking on this dish and the sauce itself had depth and was really delicious and comforting. As I began to eat the hake I crunched right into four tiny, needle sharp bones. I knew to expect a large bone in the middle of the cut, but these little ones shouldn’t have been left in. After this I felt little bit sad for the rest of the meal and I lost interest in what I was eating and only focused on shredding all of my food, rather than enjoying each mouthful. The sauce on my dish was really tasty though and we had enough rice and bubble and squeak to go round the four of us.
We all agreed feeling a little flat after our meal here, due to unnecessary mistakes and questions over the freshness and preparation of some of our dishes. The Caribbean rhythm just wasn’t pulsing through us, although please try it and make up your own mind.
It’s hard to say what you’re really buying into with Marinades. The decor is almost café-like, budget and informal, yet some of the food is trying to look elegant and formal, but then brought down a peg or two when positioned next to a bowl of rice, cabbage and beans. Take Turtle Bay for instance. The bright, funky decor, the colourful cocktails, the presentation of the food and the music, all point in the same direction and shouts out how we perceive a Caribbean vibe, whether it be authentic or not. Marinades was a little unremarkable in comparison and the only consistent element of our meals was the sauces that accompanied them. On a major plus point though, they serve many gluten free meals on the menu as standard and a couple of vegan and vegetarian.