Restaurant review: Timber Garden, London Road

By - Tuesday 21st July, 2015

Paul Dennis fills up at a former petrol station

Timber Garden, 161 London Road, CR0 2RJ
Time from East Croydon:  12 minutes / 5 minutes 64 or 198

Photo author’s own.

I enjoy a visit to the Croydon Restaurant Quarter as much as the next person. But as a London Road resident, I’m always keen to give my local eateries some support too. So it was that I visited Timber Garden, a Caribbean restaurant and bar that has taken over a huge ground floor space (and former petrol station) adjacent to Zodiac Court on London Road. It’s a very short walk from home, which was an immediate tick in the plus box. As you’d expect from a new enterprise, the restaurant was chic and fresh. It was fairly quiet too, but again, it’s new and needs to build its clientele.

It was a warm, muggy night, so we decided to start with a beer to slake our thirsts. My partner Liz chose a bottle of Star; I opted for Budweiser. Both hit the spot. As is often the case I’d forgotten to take my reading glasses, so Liz had to translate the menu for me. Our waitress was also very helpful and explained the main courses. It was at this point I asked the waitress what my choice would be like and she answered: “it’s brown”.

It’s brown.
Photo author’s own.

We decided on starters of skewered mutton for Liz and golden shrimps for me, followed by mains of red red and beans stew (sic) and chicken for Liz and Ghanaian rice and beans with curried goat (they’d run out of my first choice of jerk chicken) for me.

The starters arrived quickly but without any cutlery – not a problem with the shrimp, but the kebab-style skewers of mutton could have done with some. Both dishes were piping hot. The mutton had been dry marinaded with a spicy rub which overpowered the flavour of the meat, which was as tough as you’d expect mutton to be – it didn’t melt in the mouth, but then again, it wasn’t lamb. Mutton is obviously cheaper, but for me this drive for the budget end of basic ingredients had been over-enthusiastically embraced: the cuts were cheap and unsympathetically butchered, with more bits of gristle and bone than either of us was comfortable with – especially on a kebab skewer.

It’s hard to imagine a dish more brown

The shrimps saved the day: a generous portion with enough to share, but the bottom line is that these were generic panko-style prawns in batter or crumbs, the sort you can buy in the frozen food area of any supermarket. Both dishes came with a perfunctory side salad, the shrimps also having a spoonful of sweet chilli sauce as a dip.

Nicely presented, but nothing special.

Our mains were also piping hot and amounted to what you had to say were generous helpings. We did get cutlery this time, which was just as well. My choice was exactly as the waitress had promised – brown. It would be hard to imagine a dish more brown, apart from a sprinkle of salad, and a strange mix as it included a small helping of spaghetti – but at least that was identifiable.

The curried goat appeared to be all neck portions, on the bone, which rattled unpleasantly on the plate as I moved them around in search of some meat that didn’t require the skills of a surgeon to negotiate. I’m not great with food ‘on the bone,’ especially in the poor lighting that most restaurants favour. You can’t see what you’re doing. As the bones shook, rattled and rolled, I didn’t know whether to try to eat it or to attempt to foretell the future.

It was a bit of a car crash

Nevertheless there was plenty of rice and peas to go at, brown as promised, but lacking in any flavour whatsoever. I managed to scrape some of the curry sauce into it which added a bit of a kick, as did another sauce garnish, again presented on a spoon. Unfortunately, digging further into the rice and peas, more bone fragments became apparent. As a meal, it was a bit of a car crash.

Liz was similarly unimpressed with her offering. It appeared to be nicely cooked but the flavours weren’t to her liking – a risk you take when ordering unfamiliar food, as she commented. It in no way reflects on Timber Garden’s friendly, welcoming front-of-house staff.

It’s nice to try new things – but sometimes they just don’t work for you.

Paul Dennis

Paul Dennis

An award-winning journalist, Paul has worked on angling titles for much of his career, including 16 years as deputy editor of Angler's Mail and 4 years as editor of Total Sea Fishing magazine. He is a regular freelance contributor for a wide array of non-angling-related titles, author of two books on angling and a widely-followed authority on the subject.

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  • Ian Marvin

    To be fair ‘brown’ is a type of stew in Caribbean cuisine and curry goat is best on the bone. Mutton should be cooked long and slow till it’s tender(ish) though. That said I’m not likely to be rushing to Timber Garden . . .

    • alice zita

      I have had the opportunity of being to the place my self,the food he ate ‘brown’ as he puts it was not rice and peas neither was the sauce curry goat!it is called WAAKYE a ghanaian delicacy and it is served with brown sauce and fried beef.this is totally different from the Jamaican style. The food at timber gardens is excellent bursting with flavour although some weekends are very busy and it means your food could be long.the ambience is unforgettable and lovely.i will go there again…

      • Rene Lee

        Rene Lee
        Timber Gardens is an African Restaurant, I’ve being on several occasions as my boyfriend is half Ghanaian and to be fair, this is one of the best African Restuarant in London and as a “Croydina” I’m proud its in my backyard. The atmosphere and environment is impeccable, nicely decorated spacious restaurant with ample parking space. And now the food, I have always enjoyed their soups and Tilapia meals. My favourite starter is their Kebab and it’s actually chalco grilled goat not skewer mutton as discribed by Paul. In all fairness there are some African food you can’t enjoy with a Western taste. You have to be an African or open minded to fully enjoy those meals. Why don’t you try their Jollof rice or Fried rice. May be if you had tried those meals, your review would have be different.