Introducing customers to Caribbean cuisine is a challenge, says Orlando Satchell, executive chef of the newly opened Lime restaurant and bar in Epsom, Surrey.
"Customers - and other chefs - are not familiar with Caribbean cooking," he says. "Many who have a view regard it negatively. If they have travelled to the Caribbean, they will have eaten one of two versions of it: the international style prepared in five-star hotels which may use local ingredients, but not necessarily local flavours; or the home-style cooking of local restaurants, which has lots of flavour but no presentation."
"What we are doing at Lime is marrying the two, offering true Caribbean flavour with good presentation. I call it ‘island fusion'."
Although born and trained as a chef in Birmingham, Satchell looked to his roots for culinary inspiration - his mother is from Jamaica and his father was born in Barbados. He used to run a culinary consultancy, Nouvelle Caribbean, and has been executive chef at Ledera, a five-star resort in St Lucia.
Now at Lime - owned by consortium CSJ & Partners - Satchell and his three chefs offer an la carte selection of 25 dishes for dinner, or a shorter lunch menu of about 12 lighter dishes and sandwiches. A typical lunch dish may be a spicy shrimp cake (£6.75), made from shrimps that have been sauted with pepper and blended with green banana mash and served with fries and ginger dips.
"The secret of Caribbean cooking is in the blending of seasonings, which we use to marinate meat and fish prior to cooking, but were originally used to preserve foods in the hot climate," says Satchell.
A shrimp starter on the dinner menu, for instance, involves the seafood being coated in a blend of pimento (allspice), Scotch bonnet chilli, garlic and celery, before being pan-fried. Served cold, the shrimps are accompanied by a salsa made from finely diced mango, papaya, peppers and onions, and a sherry rmoulade (£4.95).
The main courses feature fillet of beef (£12.95) with a Caribbean hit of flavour from a similar mix of seasonings as the shrimp dish, this time with the addition of thyme, nutmeg and cinnamon. The pan-seared meat is served with a sweet potato mash and a red wine reduction spiked with nutmeg.
Other main-course dishes include shrimps, marinated in coconut milk, lime, garlic and ginger, then roasted and served on a bed of lemon grass rice with a plantain salsa (£10.90), and chicken escoveitch (£11.95), a chicken breast in Caribbean spices, pan-fried and served with pickled vegetables and lime juice.
Vegetarians are well catered for with three main courses, including a capsicum and pumpkin quiche (6.95). With the top cut off a bell pepper, the rest of the pepper is used as the base of the quiche. Filled with a mix of grated pumpkin, Parmesan cheese, eggs and cream, the pepper-quiche is roasted in the oven with its lid on.
Also on offer is a vegetable cake (£3.95) made from mashed green bananas combined with diced onions, carrots, peppers and courgettes. The cake is then coated with plantain crumbs - made by frying thin slices of plantain until crisp and then blended - before being fried and served with a julienne of pumpkin, pepper and carrots and a Creole sauce.
Desserts have less of a Caribbean focus, with a chocolate and strawberry terrine laced with rum (£5.50) being the best seller. Roasted bananas (£2.50), though, which are pricked with a cocktail stick and drizzled with rum before being baked in the oven, have more of a flavour of the West Indies. They are split open and served with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream, and sprinkled with caramelised plantain chips.
Average spend at the 35-seat restaurant is 30-35 per head, including wine.
"People ask me why open a Caribbean restaurant in Epsom, saying it's a long way out," says Satchell. "I say it depends where you are to start with. I think Epsom has a lot of potential - there are a lot of foodies here. My aim is to turn around their negative attitude towards Caribbean food."
What's on the menu
- Warm Caesar salad with chicken or salmon marinated with a mild jerk seasoning, £5.50
- Goats' cheese and tomato salad with candied beetroot and balsamic syrup, £4.95
- Rack of lamb seasoned with mint and Creole spices, served on cabbage confit with a guava jus, £11.95
- Roasted cod in lime, cilantro and curry spices with a saffron risotto and shrimp sauce, £7.95
- Banana rum fritters with a vanilla cream, £3.50
- Lime island fruit salad with mango and papaya in lime and ginger syrup, £3.95