After the closure of Irie’s, one might question the wisdom of another Caribbean restaurant opening in Aberystwyth.
But Mama Fay’s looks to be set for the long game, with a well-priced and interesting menu, enthusiastic staff and a good location on Portland Street (site of the late and unlamented Nick’s).
The menu even looks (whisper it!) quite healthy!
The layout is very similar to Nick’s, and they might even be the same chairs and tables.
The big difference is in the warmth of the welcome.
Whilst Nick can undoubtedly cook, the quality of greeting and service depended on how well they knew you.
At Mama Fay’s, Phil couldn’t have been more pleased to see us if we’d been Santa & his singing elves.
His Mama, Fay (RIP), instilled a love of food into the young Phil that even nine years as a British Army chef couldn’t knock out of him.
Their main menu is full of tasty-sounding food made with natural ingredients.
And there’s a good deal at lunchtime – Main plus a Side for £8.95 (or two sides for £9.95).
This is cracking value, as the Crispy Bolt Chicken is £9.58 (geddit?) on its own.
Also included are jerk Chicken, curried goat, jerk pork and curried chicken, plus two interesting vegetarian dishes – Ital Stew and rung dung.
I liked the sound of Jerk Chicken & Avocado Salad with a side of rice & peas.
Although a little healthier than my usual lunches, this was very satisfying.
There was plenty of chicken, and although it wasn’t “Jerk” hot, it was very smoky, which pleased me.
The chicken was moist, and the spicing came through towards the end.
The avocado, mango strips and mango purée gave a sweet contrast to the meat, and the crisp salad was fine.
This was a classic given a healthy, smoky tweak.
Bethan’s mind was made up as soon as she saw the specials blackboard.
Roasted and stuffed sea bream, with salad and a side, for £12.50? Silly money.
And when it came, I realised I should have gone for the £15 sirloin steak.
We were pleased to see it served with the head on (this is no plaice for squeamishness!) and stuffed with red onion and peppers.
The skin had been lightly rubbed with spices and was perfectly crispy, with the meat buttersoft and tasty.
Bethan’s side was delicious sweet potato fries, which were roasted not fried, and the whole thing was filling without being heavy.
We didn’t have dessert, but having seen their delightful, £3.50 mango cheesecake, maybe we should have.
I had a new-look retro bottle of Red Stripe, despite it being a rainy day in Aber.
Bethan’s spicy ginger beer was a wiser choice.
Their wine list is basic but mark ups are fair – there’s a NZ Sauvingnon Blanc for £12.10 & prosecco for £18 (both usefully available by the glass).
They’re open 10am till late every day so I can imagine their breakfast menu being popular too.
As I hope you can tell, we greatly enjoyed Mama Fay’s, and will definitely be back to try the rest of their menu.
£27 for two seemed very fair.
Our only reservation is that they’ve opened before the inside is quite smart enough.
The restaurant reflects their unpretentious style, and Caribbean cuisine isn’t all about starched tablecloths, but a little more love is needed.
And although the music (modern Jamaican reggae) suits the place, it’s perhaps a bit loud. Although are we 40 years older than their target market.
They’ve mounted a smart sign, yet the front still looks rather unfinished.
A big expanse of green, and sellotaped menus and flyers, needs updating soon.
We’d also like to see some healthy fruit juices on that menu, and some rum cocktails too. (My current favourite winter drink is strong black coffee, shot Tia Maria, shot rum.)
The team have ideas and ambition – I’m sure they’ll develop their brand and boost their kerb appeal.
It’s already popular in the evening – I think people need to get in and make the most of that generous £9.95 lunch whilst it’s still there.
Mama Fay’s (Facebook, no website yet)
2A Portland Rd, Aberystwyth SY23 2NL