Irma’s Café & Bistro is a neat place: relaxed on the inside and distinctive on the outside. We are told that it was formerly the site of a community centre, and before that, public toilets. I like the atypical feel of the smallish space: it adds to the homely timbre that permeates the whole visit.Owned and run by Nathalie and Simon, the café is named after Nathalie’s mother, Irma Roché, who taught her daughter how to cook ‘fresh food that puts smiles on faces’. We visit in mid-June, in their second week of opening. At the time of writing, they are only serving lunch, but will be ready for evening dining from early July on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The drinks are sweet, refreshing fun.
My sister’s husband goes for a Rum Punch Special, which is dangerously smooth (£5.95). I choose the Caribbean Sunrise, which combines apple, orange, mango and a hint of mint and grenadine, resulting in a swisher Rio without the fizz (£2.20). My sister meanwhile opts for Caribbean Crush, a more sparkling number featuring grapefruit, mango and pineapple, which tastes like Lilt without the sugar (£1.70).
For the mains, my brother-in-law has Spicy Creole Cajun Chicken Fried Rice which includes onions, garlic, mixed peppers, sweetcorn, peas and more (£8.75). It’s fully loaded with veg: he loves how healthy it tastes, describing it as being on the “balanced” side of spicy.
My sister opts for Guyana Curry Beef with lean chunks ‘slow cooked in a myriad of spices until tender’, with diced potatoes and carrots in a Caribbean curry sauce (£10.95). The meat falls apart satisfyingly, and she enjoys the combination of sweet and spice: “not too overpowering, but would still be warming on a cold day”. I try the Jerk Chicken, which consists of boneless chicken thighs, ‘marinated over hours before grilling’ (£11.95). It’s time well spent, the thick gravy is well spiced, but nothing too fiery for the milder palate.
All the portions are generous, and all our options come with plantain too (lightly crisped and delicious) which can also be ordered as a side. We have the Guyana Fried Dumplings however (£2 for two large ones), which have a good spongy feel to them and are perfect to soak up the flavours.Despite having just opened, everything runs smoothly and efficiently: we are promptly told that their ‘dessert of the day’ isn’t on offer yet while they are still finding their feet. It doesn’t matter, we all feel well fed with home-cooked tasting meals in a welcoming environment.
2 South Street, irmascafebistro.co.uk