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International Restaurants in Ealing

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      05.07.2002 19:59
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      Where in London can you find curried goat, savoury bananas and rice served from a hollowed-out log? They're all on the menu at BB's Crabback, a Caribbean restaurant in West Ealing - and I ventured there with my sister early one evening in May. We'd chosen the restaurant on word of mouth alone, and I think most people do: BB's is on a dingy little side alley off the Uxbridge Road and probably doesn't get a lot of walk-in trade. It's certainly built up a bit of a reputation, though - so after several recommendations we eventually decided to check it out. First impressions? Bright, loud and ... empty. But then it was still only 6 o'clock, and I'm reliably informed that it gets very busy later on. As you walk into the restaurant, the first thing that hits you is the décor - it's bright and colourful, and the walls are adorned with graffitti from hundreds of customers, many of them regulars. They used to allow people to write all over them, but they recently redecorated and the original graffiti has been repainted in gold, which I thought was a nice touch. In the corner of the dining area there's a steel drum, which adds to the rather unique atmosphere. Nobody was playing it at the time, but I'm told it does get used at weekends, when the atmosphere can get very lively. Sometimes I feel a bit awkward if I'm at the only occupied table in a restaurant but the service at BB's was very attentive, if a little on the slow side when it came to getting the bill (is that a bad thing, though?). Our waiter for the evening was actually the owner's brother - that owner being BB himself, aka Brian Benjamin from Grenada, who has won several culinary awards and designs all the menus himself. And crabback? Well, that's the crab back - hollowed out and served as a starter, stuffed with crab meat and a creamy sauce. It's nicer than it sounds! I ordered parrot fish calyps
      o as a main course, and it arrived promptly (though not alarmingly quickly, thankfully - that always puts me off). The fish was lovely and fresh, and the zesty, peppery sauce was delicious. Presentation was beautiful - the dish was very colourful, and I loved the novelty of the rice (very tasty) in the aforementioned log (which I did not eat). My sister chose a lamb wrap - spicy and tender, she said, and she's not a big meat eater - and we had savoury banana and roti bread as side dishes. I recently had a banana curry at a Sri Lankan restaurant (also in Ealing) and was very impressed - but this was a little disappointing: £3 for a very small sliced banana with nothing else. And it didn't really taste of much, to be honest. The bread, however, was wonderful: light and fluffy, melt-in-the-mouth stuff. Onto the deserts, then. "Home-made ice cream" looked very tempting. Flamed rum banana looked interesting too, but we'd been a little put off by that side dish. So ice cream it was - but oh, was it really home-made? I don't think so: it was cheap supermarket stuff, powdery and over-sweet with lots of ice and no cream whatsoever. The sort of sickly, frozen margarine that occupies the "super economy" section of the freezer at Tescos. And it had cost us just under £4 - very disappointing. Last impressions? Probably not as good as we'd hoped, but the main courses were excellent and the service - although painfully slow towards the end - was very friendly. The restaurant is family-run and this certainly shines through; it's an atmospheric, individual, unusual place to eat. It's also quite expensive - I'd expect to pay at least £25 a head, and one or two of the dishes weren't very good value for money. That said, I think I would visit again - probably during a busier time to see if the atmosphere is as lively as I've been told (I suspect it would be). Not bad, then - but not the pl
      ace to go if you're trying to budget or if you're expecting big portions. And if you're tempted by the "home-made" ice cream, ask if it's *really* home-made before you order! [BB's Crabback is at 3 Chignell Place, West Ealing, London W13 0TJ. Their phone number is 020 8840 8322. Suffice to say, we did not attempt the curried goat, but please let me know if you have!]

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