Tell people you write a restaurant review blog, and their immediate assumption is that you’ve got the inside track on secret local knowledge. That dirt-cheap, Michelin-starred back-street burger shack they’ve heard rumours about, where the chef sings operatic arias while cooking like a choir of angels? The one that’s incredibly hard to find, hardly ever open and frequented only by persons who are willing to swap their grannie for a lead on tracking it down? They want the low-down on that. So you can imagine how they react when I suggest Coventry Indoor Market.
But why not? Cov Market is a shining star of the city centre firmament. In food terms, a walk around its vast array of fruit and veg stalls is a wondrous culinary world tour, with mounds of dew-drop fresh produce that caters for every regional cuisine and beats supermarket prices hands down. For omnivores meanwhile, it’s virtually the only remaining place where you can still buy meat and fish direct from a proper butcher or fishmonger. And now there’s something new to shout about: street food stall, Urban.
Specialising in high-quality Caribbean fusion food, Urban is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Carlton and Clare. Signature dishes including jerk chicken and vegetarian option trini aloo draw on qualified chef Carlton’s own cultural heritage and are freshly prepared every day on the premises. For those craving something sweeter, sugar dumplings are also available, and February will see the launch of a ‘Lovers’ Month’ special deal of two eat-in main meals plus drinks for £10.
The aim, explained Clare, is to provide an alternative to the well-known-but-not-always-well-loved chain restaurants that dominate the city centre. She described the Urban ethos as ‘fresh food not fast food’ and ‘a taste of sunshine that brings the outdoors in’. And showing their support for other independent businesses, all ingredients used in their food, including halal chicken, are exclusively sourced from other market traders.
Clare said she and Carlton chose the market for their new venture because it’s known for its friendliness and customer service and because its multicultural stalls already attract a wide variety of shoppers including international students. A colourful wall above above the bench seating area acts as a community hub, with artwork and posters promoting upcoming local events.
More broadly, Clare said she would like to see better use made of the many vacant and under-utilised spaces in the city centre, particularly the old British Home Stores. “I’m asking what’s happening to BHS” she said “because there are so many entrepreneurs who are thinking creatively about things like vintage clothing and arts and crafts generally, and somewhere like BHS would make an ideal place for pop-up stalls and cultural events”.
And what did your friendly local food critic make of the trini aloo? It’s terrific, that’s what! Served in a one-pot bowl over smoky brown rice, it manages to be simultaneously warm and comforting, but also sparkling with fresh ginger and satisfying from depth of spicing. Big chunks of fluffy potato give it real body and a tantalising flashback to Sunday lunch with mum’s roasties.
With its eye-popping displays of fabulous fresh produce, Cov Market is perhaps the single destination inside the ring road that deserves the ‘foodie paradise’ accolade; the genius of Urban is to build on this to create something new – nourishing, healthy, flavour-packed food at a great price. Let’s hope it’s the start of something.
Because if you’re looking for food-on-the-go in the city centre, forget idle whispers of mythical operatic burger shacks. If they existed, trust me, I’d be writing about them. What I am writing about is Urban. It’s a real place, serving real food that’s really good. And that’s no secret.
Urban, Unit 24, Coventry Indoor Market, Queen Victoria Road, Coventry CV1 3HT. Trini Aloo £4 (events catering also available).