May 7
Tribe Tribe, Cardiff
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on May 7th, 2011 | |

I don't know when I first came across Tribe Tribe. I know it was sometime last year, but whether it was pointed out to me or I discovered it's website by chance I cannot recall. What I do know is that immediately I saw the web site I thought it could be interesting and I wanted to try it. So I added it to my list of places to eat in the near future.

Recently, one of the other local food bloggers posted a good review which refreshed my curiosity. So, as my student niece was in need of sustenance paid for by aunty and uncle, I booked a table for the three of us for 7pm on a Friday night.

We arrived about five minutes seven and were shown to a table by a gentleman who asked if we had been there before. When we said no we hadn't, he told us we were in for a fantastic time. Now I spoke about expectation in my last review of The Hardwick and again this time I was looking forward to and expecting some really interesting, different and good food. I was prepared to take him at his word.

If after a short period of time, the waitress came to take our drink order. I didn't take much notice of the fact that she had to keep going back to look at the fridge in order to tell us what they sold, but maybe I should have. She returned very quickly with our drinks and proceeded to ask for our food order; but we were in no way ready, as most of the menu was completely unfamiliar especially to the niece and I. MrsA has traveled quite a bit in Africa, but couldn't remember the names for things, so we were all struggling.

MrsA asked for some explanations of the dishes. Unfortunately, it appeared that the waitress was only slightly better informed we were. A typical exchange was along these lines;
"What's Akara?" we asked.
"Okra," she said.
"No! Akara," we said.
"Okra," again she said.
"Akara is Okra?" we asked.
"Yes!" she said.
"Well if Akara is Okra why do you have Okra Stew on the menu as well? Why isn't it Akara Stew?"
She looked confused.

After five minutes of this kind of thing, all I really knew was that it was possible to substitute Yam for Plantain in any dish. We asked her to give us a few minutes to decide and then when she had left MrsA and I resorted to Google'ing the menu items, on our smartphones.

Having finally managed to decipher the dishes and having decided what we wanted; we waited patiently for her to come back, but to no avail. Eventually she returned from the kitchen and we were able to attract her attention and place our order. The first thing she told us was that they were out of yams. This was, I thought, a bit of a problem. There are 26 dishes and eight sides on the menu and at least eight of them are based around Yam, so with a minimum of 25% of the menu being "off", the choice was now severely reduced and I did feel that this might have been better brought to our attention before we had chosen and not after. Anyways, after some hasty rearranging, we managed to place our order.

MrsA opted to start with the Akara. Magically the waitress had now realised that Akara wasn't Okra after all and told us so. "We know", we said. "We looked it up on the Internet." If this ingenious use of technology impressed her in any way she didn't show it. (For anyone interested Akara is a kind of fritter made from black eyed peas.) I chose the Moi Moi, a steamed bean pudding. The niece didn't want a starter, but went straight to main course with an order of Shola fish. MrsA ordered Efo Ri Ro stew, a creamy palm oil stew and vegetables made with traditional herbs and spices, I opted for the grill route with African Mixed Meat, described as grilled beef, goat and chicken in cayenne pepper served with plantain and salad. Order taken we sat back…..

And then we waited and we waited and we waited. While we waited a couple of people came in, stood by the door, then they sat at the table, then they read the menu, then they asked us if it was self-service, then they waited along with us and eventually, they ran out of patience got up and left. All without been approached, or maybe even noticed, by any staff.

By this time there were three other parties in the restaurant. A group of three who had arrived before us, another party of four who had come in just after us and a group of guys sitting on one of the couches who appeared to just want to drink beer, chat and go outside every few minutes to smoke. All had drinks but no one had any food I noticed.

Then suddenly, just as I was beginning to wonder what was going on our starters arrived. Well that's what we thought was happening but no, it wasn't the starters!  It was just a bowl containing about a dozen or so peanuts and an empty plate for the shells. Well we thought that must mean the starters are imminent but, apart from the wait, that was all we had.

Eventually, after doing yet more waiting, MrsA managed to gain the attention of the waitress by shaking her empty beer bottle in the universal 'bring me some more' gesture. Now that we had the waitress at our table we were able to enquire as to the whereabouts of our food. Bearing in mind we had now been in the restaurant for an hour, I was not pleased when she told us that she thought it would be another twenty minutes. "Another 20 minutes" I exclaimed. "Are you sure it's going to take that long? It can't possibly!" She said that she would go and make sure. Well she certainly went, but she never came back with an answer, in fact she give us the distinct impression that she was staying around the kitchen to avoid us.

I had had enough. I got up from the table and walked to the kitchen door and asked her politely a) why she had not come back with an answer and b) where our food was. She didn't answer directly but looked pleadingly into the kitchen until the chef, who was the person who had shown us to our table originally, came to the doorway and told me, "we have a few problems". I explained that we had now been there for over an hour and I really wanted to know if we were ever going to get fed. He told me it would be "a few minutes" more. I told him that the waitress had just told me it would be 20 minutes, so would it be "a few minutes" or "20 minutes".
"Please tell me the truth," I said. "It will be better that way."
"It will be at least 20 minutes" he said.
"At least?" I said.
"Yes" he said.
"So let me get this straight. I have been here over an hour, my starters are going to be at least another 20 minutes maybe more and you didn't think that you needed to come and explain that to me?" "
"We have some problems in the kitchen," he said.
"I think you have problems in more areas than just the kitchen," I replied. "We are hungry and we need to eat. I have no intention of sitting here for some undetermined period of time in the hope that you may be able to produce food at some point this evening. I am very disappointed and very unimpressed. So I think I'll call it quits and go somewhere else. Let me have the bill for the drinks and we will be off."

At this point Tribe Tribe might just have been able to save the day with a profuse apology and an insistence that my drinks were free or an offer of a discount/free starter next time. Instead they put the nail in the coffin by presenting me with a bill for £6.50. I paid and vowed never to set foot in there, out of choice, again.

I opened door, turned left and walked the hundred yards to The Bangkok Cafe.
"Table for three?" I asked.
"Have you booked?"
"Sorry, no!"
"No problem, show these people to table 10."

Thank God somebody knows what service is about!

The meal, at Bangkok Cafe, was superb as usual. The staff pleasant and helpful, the food wonderful and tasty, the bill more than reasonable. As far as Cardiff is concerned then give me Asia over Africa any day.

Tribe Tribe
169 Cowbridge Rd East
Canton, Cardiff, CF11 9AH
Tel: 029 2066 6111

The Bangkok Cafe
207 Cowbridge Rd East
Canton, Cardiff, CF11 9AJ
Tel: 029 2034 0455
You can read my full review of The Bangkok Cafe here.

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