Chris conjures up a first taste of the Caribbean: A gap in Sheffield’s restaurant market prompted a move from front of house into the kitchen, as Julia Armstrong discovered...

Pictured at Dunns River caribbean restaurant. Chesterfield Road 'Chris Dallas
Pictured at Dunns River caribbean restaurant. Chesterfield Road 'Chris Dallas

IT’S always a shame to see a restaurant that you like close and The Bohemian in Meersbrook had good food at reasonable prices, so it was great news when my friend Kate saw the premises were open again.

Dunn’s River Caribbean Restaurant is a first venture into cooking for Chris Dallas who has worked in the industry for many years in front of house and management at places including the Beauchief, the Novotel, the Rising Sun at Bamford and the Maynard Arms at Grindleford.

When he had the Crush Bar on Division Street five years ago, Chris had plans to open a restaurant upstairs but they never came to fruition.

He said: “There’s a niche in the market for a Caribbean restaurant because there isn’t one in Sheffield. You still need to provide that quality of service that people can come out and enjoy.

“I’m proud of my heritage and Caribbean food is delicious. There is a whole spectrum of flavours for people to enjoy in a nice setting.

“You can come, relax and listen to some nice music.”

He says he has been pleasantly surprised at the keen response in the first few weeks of opening.

The cafe is open for light lunches and serves afternoon tea, and they do takeaways and party catering.

The place has had a basic makeover with the wood-panelled walls painted white and the removal of blackboard menus on a brick wall.

The main change to the atmosphere is a soundtrack of great reggae music.

Chris’s partner Angela was taking the food orders when we visited and she is very welcoming with an endearing motherly edge to her service; not surprising as the couple have twin toddlers and two teenagers.

At present the place is unlicensed, charging £1 corkage to bring your own wine, but Chris plans to get a drinks licence.

I’m hoping he puts Guinness punch on the menu as well.

The menu is reasonably short but varied enough to include most of the favourites in Caribbean cuisine.

Starters are £2.50 to £3.50 and main course prices are all under £10.

Before we ordered, Angela checked whether we had tried Caribbean food before and said that the more spicy dishes could be toned down if we liked.

I tried a classic starter, saltfish and ackee (£3.50), Phil had beef Jamaican patties (£2.50; there was a choice of lamb or vegetable as well) and Kate tried the seafood platter (£3.50).

Alternatives included jerk prawns or ribs, fried plantain and soup of the day.

Ackee is a fruit, Angela told me, that looks like scrambled egg and has a similar texture. Its delicate flavour and texture contrasted well with the flakes of strong-tasting salted fish and stir-fried peppers and onions.

On the side were three well-cooked fried dumplings, crunchy on the outside and sponge-like inside. The flavour was slightly sweet.

The dish was tasty with good, lively spices. My only tiny complaint is that the saltfish was a little bit chewy.

Kate enjoyed her platter, an interesting, mix of stir-fried seafood in distinctive Caribbean spices, and my friend Phil’s patties, like little Cornish pasties in their turmeric yellow pastry with a good spiced-up beef filling, were pronounced up to the mark.

For the main course, Phil chose jerk chicken (£8.50), Kate had red snapper (£8.50) and I went for mutton curry (£9.95) plus a side order of fried plantain to share (£1.80).

Other options are peppered pork, stuffed peppers, Caribbean rice, ackee stir fry, pumpkin or butternut gratin and Jamaican-style sizzling dishes. Most come with rice and peas or plain rice or stir-fried vegetables.

Jerk chicken is a famous dish that gets Caribbeans hot under the collar about their favoured blend of spices, herbs and chillis making up the jerk seasoning that flavours the meat and Chris’s version tasted very good.

The purists would probably prefer their chicken on the bone, though.

My mutton curry was also very good, a generous helping served with the classic side dish, rice and peas, which are kidney beans. This also accompanied the jerk chicken.

The plantain slices were lovely, tender and sweet.

Kate’s snapper was pan-fried and served whole on a bed of stir-fried vegetables. I sneaked a taste and it was very enjoyable.

After that little lot I thought we’d struggle to get to the puddings but then Angela mentioned her mum’s home-made rum cake (£2.95). It was lovely and moist with plenty of fruit and lashings of rum.

With a couple of good coffees and a tea, our total bill for three people was £53.90.

lVerdict: a very enjoyable meal in a place with a friendly, laidback atmosphere.

lOpening times: Monday to Saturday 11am to 11pm, Sunday 4pm to 10pm.

lDunn’s River Caribbean Cafe and Bistro, 53 Chesterfield Road, Sheffield S8 ORL. Tel 0114 255 7797.