Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review - Cous Cous Cafe

Cous Cous Cafe was a regular lunch place of first year. I lived in a building over the bridge from college with eighty other stupid, vulnerable freshers. As such, I ran around screaming and being stupid but thought I was being really grown up. If I had to do it over, I don't know if I'd choose to be put in the children pen. I feel like I wasted lots of my first year in that building instead of bothering to investigate what lay over the bridge. My aversion to bridge crossing and tasteless canteen food became so extreme that I started cooking. Good in the long run but not good for exploring. I didn't even find the little sandwich shop next door to college, Olives, until the end of the last term. Cooking also meant I discovered the glory of pork. And cooked breakfast. All day every day. That led to my favourite jeans not fitting anymore which in turn led to the chain of events which meant that I had less than optimum enjoyment of the following eighteen months. Sigh. Anyway, Cous Cous. I was initially unimpressed because they were mean with their tuna and also worse value than Olives over the bridge. But then I cottoned onto the fact that Cous Cous did its Moroccan fillings the best. And so I discovered their merguez sausage. Mmm. When I moved to the other side of the bridge, I stopped visiting Cous Cous. Not because I hated the bridge. But because I ate out more and if I wanted tried and trusted baguettes, I'd go to the significantly closer Olives. Still, I've had reason to visit it a few times this year. Once with a friend for a second lunch. Remembering my experience of their Moroccan food, I had the lentil soup. Mistake. It was bitter and watery and not all the pepper and lemon in the world could save it. So next time I lunched with that friend, I followed his advice and had the saffron chicken and harissa. Their puddings came in handy too; finals got to us but the mint tea and. baklava offered temporary relief. All these tips didn't go forgotten. When my mother made her final (sob) trip to Oxford to get my stuff, we went there for lunch. We had the mixed tapas with bread and a saffron chicken wrap and baklava and briwaat for dessert.
Thankfully, it wasn't like the lentil soup disaster. The shakshuka and zaalouk were both moist and soft and had that lovely sweetness that comes from the caramelisation on roasted vegetables l. The cous cous had (appropriately) just the right texture- not too slippery. The stuffed cabbage leaves were the real treat. They might have appeared pallid and slightly like battered prawns but were actually slightly acidic but with a velvety, moreish filling. The falafel was equally as addictive, not too salty or crumbly, almost matte in flavour. I enjoyed it all thoroughly. The real treat was the saffron chicken though. This time heated and properly dressed, the spiced chicken was accompanied with a fiery juicy harissa. The simple salad accompanying it was the perfect anecdote to the heat. Dessert was very enjoyable too. I don't think there's anymore to say apart from that I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.

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