We get a lot of junk mail; a hell of a lot. Thankfully most of it is food related; sadly most of it is cheap & nasty pizza takeaway menus, or vouchers for McDonalds. However a couple of days ago one leaflet really caught my eye…
Jineen promised mezze, Palestinian specialities & Shisha at very reasonable prices, all within a location (The Wicker) just five minutes walk from my office. I was meeting a friend for lunch the next day, and although I was initially thinking of taking him to La Perle, I knew that I had to give this place a go as soon as I saw the menu. With popular mezze dishes such as humous, falafel and stuffed vine leaves, sandwiches of chicken liver and a few things I’d never heard of (Maqluba for instance) this was a menu for me; especially as no main course is over £6.50.
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Anyone who knows Sheffield will know that The Wicker is far from the most salubrious part of town, and it’s a bit dodgy at night, but there’s a decent array of curry houses, kebab shops and Caribbean food stores making it well worth a trip for any foodie. Jineen was pretty easy to find, being quite close to Kebabish and La Perle.
As we entered we found the cafe relatively welcoming. I say relatively because we had clearly disturbed some bloke who was taking advantage of the free wi-fi (yes there is free wi-fi). He huffed and puffed about us yapping away and when I confronted him and told him that, yes, my friend and I would be enjoying a conversation, he upped and left declaring that us ‘stupid people’ had ‘come in and ruined it’ for him. It’s a good job he left as we were soon joined by a couple more groups who also intended on chatting over lunch.
Hmmm, an awkward start to any meal I’m sure you’ll agree! The chap at the counter (the owner?) was clearly embarrassed and apologised on behalf of his rude customer. Awkwardness over, we perused the menu. I say peruse, but to be fair, it was more of a glance for me, and for my friend it was a series of questions as he didn’t know what a lot of it was, and although I am more than happy picking something from a menu purely on the basis that I don’t know what it is, I can understand why some people wouldn’t! Being the ‘foodie’ it was my job to enquire at the counter as to what certain things were and a few minutes later we put our orders in; a chicken liver sandwich and Turkish coffee for me, a chicken shawarma sandwich and freshly squeezed orange juice for him.
I had fancied the maqluba, a traditional Palestinian dish, which is on special on Wednesdays. The internet tells me it’s a dish made up of layers of aubergine, tomatoes, meat and rice cooked in a casserole dish and tipped out onto a plate; served upside down (which is what maqluba means). Anyhoo, I decided that I didn’t really need a full main dish and that a sandwich would more than suffice.
I ought to tell you a little about the cafe’s interior… well there’s a few solid wooden tables and chairs; maybe enough for four small groups. A couple of refrigerated counters with the salad and mezze goods in one and some rather pretty cakes in the other sit in the corner and behind these lies the kitchen. Towards the front of the cafe is a small room with a few sofas in it and this is the shisha lounge. The dining area is a small and compact space but I didn’t feel cramped, even as a few more customers popped in for their lunches. Jineen opens 7 days a week 10-4 and then runs as a takeaway from 5-midnight. You’ll find them on Just Eat and they provide a free delivery service on all orders over £12 (within a three miles radius).
When my sandwich arrived I was glad to have gone for it rather than a main as it was actually a decent sized plate of chicken offal (there were hearts/kidneys, or both, as well as livers), a large flatbread and a selection of dips. The offal was delicious. Cooked in a range of spices it was really tasty and the meat was cooked through but good and tender. There were also some pickles on the plate and I wasn’t overly bothered by these, although the sweet and mild banana chillies went down pretty well. The dips were fine; I’m not overly sure what one of them was, maybe a garlic and yoghurt mix. The chilli dip was good, but the third tasted a bit like ketchup (which isn’t a bad thing, just not my kind of thing!).
I really enjoyed my selection and my friend seemed happy with his too. The chicken sandwich came as a pretty decent sized wrap, served burrito style. His OJ was served in a big ol’ pint pot and it was indeed freshly squeezed (so fresh it had the odd pip floating on top). My coffee, however was the highlight of the show. Served as a traditional Turkish coffee, it was thick with ground coffee (which remain in the pot throughout the whole cooking process and is not filtered off) and although I initially thought there was little chance of my drinking it without any milk, it had a spicy taste to it which took away some of the bitterness of the coffee (I later learnt that this was probably cardamom), and it was delicious.
The bill was £10.30 and on having the options of taking £10 in hard cash or £10.30 by card the owner (?) decided to take the cash. This left me feeling pretty embarrassed as I don’t think I’ve ever (knowingly) left a restaurant after underpaying and I generally like to tip. However the owner (?) was still apologetic about our ‘welcome’ and assured me that £10 was sufficient.
I will return.