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Restaurant review: African queen

Reader Harvey Charles likes his food and wanted to write about it. So we sent him to Quynny's Quisine where he found a welcome is as warm as a Senegal summer's day...

Published on September 21st 2010.

Restaurant review: African queen

The QE2 was in dock the other night. The entire city craned its neck to get a glimpse – after all, it's not often real royalty comes to town.

But closer to home, there is one queen who rules every night: Quynny, of Quynny’s Quisine.

These proud ladies do everything; cooking, taking orders, serving, chatting and clearing away, seven days a week, 12 hours a day

Quynny (the name means queen or special one in Nigerian) has been the hostess of this Bold Street eating institution for the past seven years. Her dominion is a basement beneath the imposing Italianate facade of what was once a branch of the Victorian Union Bank. From there, she offers a colourful spectrum of Caribbean, African and even English meals.

There are 16 steps down to QQ. After about eight you hear the lively lilt of African music, three more and you catch the kitchen aromas. At the bottom, you are seized by a warm welcome from Quynny and her long time helper, Sissie, who hails from South Africa. Apart from greeting you, these proud ladies do everything; cooking, taking orders, serving, chatting and clearing away, seven days a week, 12 hours a day, 9.30 am – 9.30 pm.

The furniture has been around a bit, and the dark green carpet, creamy scuffed walls and red skirting combine, whether intentionally or not, the colours of both the Nigerian and South African flags. All is bathed in flourescent strip lighting, so, ladies, do not expect a flattering setting.

When we arrived, there was a chatty table of students; a man in an overcoat with a Chekhovian hat, glasses and beard eating grilled snapper; a Chinese man, keeping company with himself, and a boisterous Nigerian who later introduced himself as ‘The Chief’ dining with a sexy West Indian lady half his age. The conversation was bubbling against a backing of audible but not intrusive music.

Open from morning to night, the extensive menu thus has a dish to suit any time of day. Breakfast includes “Safari”, a mix of standard English with African stewed beans and fried plantain. I’ll pass over the hot and cold sandwiches, jacket potatoes and burgers. They’re there if you want them. We came for more ethnic fare.

Although there are some Caribbean dishes, the tastes here are predominately West African, with its exotic heritage influenced by Arabia, the Portuguese, French, British and southern states of America.

When it came to order, it was apparent that Quynney was “out” of a lot. We put the menu to one side and asked what she had and would recommend. She suggested the African hot chicken soup (£3.50) and a Jamaican Patti (£2) to start. On arrival, the soup looked insipid and the chicken content consisted of three bobbing chunks. However, looks were deceiving. The taste was sparklingly spicy and stocky. My Jamaican Patti was Cornish pasty meets jerk chicken. I thought the pastry was on the stodgy side, but my partner, who guards her figure like the Green Zone in Baghdad, was complimentary.

The restaurant is not licensed but you can bring your own. Our smooth Merlot did not jar with the food. From the vegetarian section came the house speciality, Jollof rice, stewed beans and plantain (£5.20) with vegetarian greens (£3.20). Jollof rice is the West African equivalent of Pilau. It originated amongst the Wolof people of Senegal and no two West Africans will agree on how it should be cooked. Plantain is a variety of banana and provides a starchy staple food in West African homes.

The beans and Jollof were flavoursome but the plantain, having travelled more miles than the QE2 to be here, lacked taste, although, occasionally, a sweet sugary note was detected. The greens were certainly green but added nothing else beyond colour.

Quynny’s is a focal point for the West African community in Liverpool. Once in a while, friends of Quynny and Sissie are recruited to help out. This makes for a leisurely, family feel. Silver service it may not be but it is charming.

I had spicy potatoes and lamb stew (£6.50), and my friend chose the grilled quarter chicken (£4.50). The stew was rich and comforting but the potatoes, though numerous (there were nine of them) were not notably spicy. The redeeming highlight of the main course was the grilled chicken. Quynny had said it would take some time which my friend took as a good sign, indicating that it was to be grilled from fresh. It was perfectly cooked, with a touch of crisp charring.

We left it to Sissie to choose our desserts and we got rhubarb (£2.60) and pineapple crumble with ice cream (£3.40). West Africa is not known for its dessert trolleys.

When we climbed back up the steps on to Bold Street there was a three quarter moon shining in a clear autumn sky. Clubbers were heading to the hot spots. The bling and fancy frills on show heightened our perception of the total lack of pretence in Quynny’s. We left there happy, not necessarily with every bit the food, but certainly with the experience, and very happy that we’d met Quynny and Sissie.

Rating: 13.9/20
Breakdown: 6/10 Food
4.9/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Quynny’s Quisine
45a Bold Street
0151 708 7757

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