The new indoor market hall in Preston seems to have divided opinion.
I think it’s a great improvement on the decrepit old building, even if it does get a bit chilly on a cold day. It may be smaller than the old hall but it looks smarter and the addition of a bar and more upmarket cafes is welcome.
Some of the stalls had yet to open when the market had its grand unveiling in February, including the new World Foods Caribbean food stall near the front entrance.
Its later arrival doesn’t seem to have done the stall any harm: it was really busy on the weekday afternoon I visited, and I found myself waiting behind a hungry customer ordering seven different meals.
The chap manning the stall was very friendly and apologetic about my wait as he juggled it all alone. I really didn’t mind as the food smelt so good (and I was being entertained by some unusual Chinese music percolating in from the outdoor market.)
The menu here is simple, chalked on a small fish-shaped blackboard above the brightly-painted stall, and it all sounds delicious.
There are curries, jerk recipes, salads, and burritos for those grabbing lunch on the go.
I ordered jerk chicken and coconut fish but unfortunately there was no fish left, so I switched to jerk beef.
Stallholder Withmore chatted his way through whipping up my dinner from a series of huge metal pots.
I chose to have the jerk dishes with rice and peas on one, and paprika rice on the other, and was impressed to find the rice was including in the price.
I was also given a choice of a wide range of sauces and decided to get the hot sauce in a separate cup as I was warned it was really spicy.
Obviously being a market stall, there’s no option to get your food delivered but both dishes reheated well at home that evening.
I halved both with my partner and decided I preferred the chicken, which was moist and a lovely base for the warming jerk spices. The beef was really tasty too but a little drier, though both meats worked well with the seasoning. It came with tons of rice and made a great, filling tea.
A word of caution on the hot sauce though - it’s eye-meltingly hot and I only survived one tiny dab! I’m glad I got it separately to save my tongue a scalding.
This is simple food, done well and with heart, and it’s a tasty alternative if you are bored with your usual takeaway. It’s also excellent value at £4 per dish including rice. I’ll be back for lunch before long.