Well this week it’s from one franchise to another. With a similar feel, “Giraffe, in Wisbech. “Giraffe”, tags itself with “World Kitchen” and I certainly can’t dispute that. Over the many months of frequenting it, since I’ve found myself increasingly in this corner of the fens, I’ve tried food from just about every corner of the planet – Thai to Texas to Turkey. That really is what i love about this place is the eclectic mix and the fact that no matter what you’re hungry for you can generally find something to suit your tastes. That is why I have been aching to write a review for a long time and going down with a big group for a friends birthday party felt just the right time, and of course it gave me an excuse to sample parts of the menu I’ve never delved into before.
My part of the gang arrived early Myself, my girlfriend Annie and her parents had to get there before the others as we were given the responsibility of bringing the birthday cake that had been made especially for the occasion. I say we, the responsibility was largely shifted onto me after my girlfriend’s father had been caught “dicking about” while carrying the cake and had managed to smudge the icing ever so slightly, ironically while pretending to drop the cake. So precariously I entered and immediately shifted the burden onto the manager who whisked it away to the back ready for its later, grander entrance.
Having been before I made myself comfortable at the bar while the table was being arranged and attempted to look at the décor as if for the first time and found I did enjoy it. The open kitchen gives a nice touch that allows you to pre-empt the arrival of your food if you know what you’re looking for. While the colourful breezeblock shelves give a cabana feel to the place while the music and general decoration do give the idea of inspiration from all corners of the globe.
When we were seated, starters were a tricky one. Myself and Annie almost always share the same thing but tonight was different and as I wanted to try as much of the menu as possible I chose the selection of three tapas dishes to much sniggering and “you’ll never eat that!” to which I replied, “watch me”. With everyone else’s starter chosen I tried some of Annie’s, unfortunately non-alcoholic cocktail and found it to be a pleasant blend but not a patch on the ‘cocktails’ we’d had the week before at Turtle Bay. The waitress came back round this time insisting on mains. Now me and Annie have been eating at Giraffe probably twice a month on average due to its convenience and I’ve pretty much always stuck to a staple of two mains, either the Texas BBQ Brisket Burger or The Thai Duck Stir-Fry but tonight was different. We’d both always been intrigued by another item on the menu, “Vada Pav – A marriage of two classic Mumbai snacks. Spiced potato fritter (Vada) in a soft roll (pav). With baby spinach, yoghurt and crispy onions.” I have nearly gone with it so many times but always shirked away from it as it’s a vegetarian option and as a confirmed carnivore, if it doesn’t have meat then it doesn’t really feel like a main meal. And have always had a strange thing about vegetarian options trying to emulate meat based dishes (“If you don’t want meat, you can’t have the shapes!”) So, my solution to this was to ask for the Vada Pav and to stick a meat patty inside, comprehensively beating the vegetarians at their own game. That’ll show ‘em!
Starters arrived and I immediately thought I must look like a pig surrounded by little dishes like satellites around a planet about to absorb them. Did I care? No. I was like a pig in clover as a dug in, first trying the Yaki Gyozas a small, Japanese, fried dumpling that with the mixture of filling and garnish on the plate was simply heaven in a little parcel. Next was the Karaage chicken which I had never tried before. Again, a Japanese starter but one that was a world away from its dumpling cousins as this was spicy in all the right places. Finally, was my old favourite, salt & pepper squid with chilli jam. Now I love squid and maintain that franchises simply can’t come close to how good it is at certain independent restaurants that can more easily get it fresh. But Giraffe’s are about as close as I’ve found and the chilli jam is simply sublime. With these cleared I attempted to help Annie finish off her nachos and found they were as good as ever with copious amounts of Guac, cheese and chorizo (if you go to giraffe it’s a secret option that’s not on the menu but it works so well with the nachos). I proudly smiled as I realised not only had I proved the naysayers wrong by finishing my starters I’d even help clean off the remains of Annie’s. Although I did now need some air.
Therefore, before our mains I took a step outside for a cigarette and saw an advertisement of the front door of the restaurant for a new chef. Upon closer inspection it said “no experience necessary” worried what this might mean for our meal especially as the week before myself and Annie had an out of character experience getting a takeaway from here that was less than satisfactory. However the assurance that the head chef was in tonight filled me hope as I’d never had a bad meal while he was in the kitchen. When I re-entered, my food was waiting for me and I may have regretted my earlier greediness as looking at the pristine dish in front of me I struggled to see how I would finish it. However, not one to shy from a challenge I dove in and was greeted with a satisfying melding of tastes. The potato fritter was seasoned perfectly and the garnishes made it explode with flavour. In fact, while I wouldn’t have said this at the time, it probably could’ve done without the meat patty. As I struggled through I began to weaken and soon the bun was cast to one side and I attempted to finish the meal without the carbs hitting my stomach. I didn’t have to say anything to Annie, she knew that I’d taken on more than I could handle. I hung my head in shame as the waitress collected my half-full plate from me. I had been beaten.
I had little time to rest though as while I plates were cleared the unicorn birthday cake was brought out and there was no way I was going to get out having some, even if I had wanted to. But my god I’m thankful I didn’t it was a wonderful cake made by “Knott Just Cakes” of Wisbech and was as good to eat as it was to look at and the surprise of smarties tumbling out of the centre as we cut into provided a taste of the theatrical. As if this wasn’t enough my girlfriend’s aunt revealed she had also made cupcakes and these were passed round and were as moist and delicious as the last. But finally, with belly full we waddled from the restaurant home again.
I always try and be as fair as I can with my scores and therefore must mark giraffe on all the experiences I’ve had there over the last year or so and while the meal described has the biggest impact on this I may bring in evidence from other places. Therefore, for food I would give Giraffe a 4 out of 5. Head office obviously agrees with me as a few years ago this kitchen was the number one rated kitchen of all of Giraffe’s franchises, however I have noticed recently many frequent changes to the menu which I must assume comes from up above as often I find I start to like something and it is ripped off the menu before I have a chance to enjoy it to its full. For service I can give it nothing but a four as we have always been dealt with kindness and expediency in service and over the last few months as regulars a relationship has developed which is always great to see from staff at a restaurant and is sadly missing from so many these days. Finally, for atmosphere I would give Giraffe a 4 again as I’ve always loved the vibe here with its imaginative décor and booth seating. In closing, would really recommend this place if you’re ever in the area such a nice mix of good quality and most importantly good-value food and makes an excellent pre-movie dinner as it’s situated right next to a cinema and even provides discounts for movie-goers.
That’s everything for this week, check out the rest of my site for other reviews. Have a comment put one down in the box below would love to hear from you. If you’ve enjoyed my writing please follow for regular updates on my posts