From Manchester to: Yakumama

In an unlikely Calder Valley setting, sits a town not-so-sleepy as you might believe, where we discover a cutting-edge cantina turning Latin American food veggie.

Eyes light up as lips smack round a bite of crisply fried yuca, “It takes me back to five years old, in my grandmother’s kitchen,” the desired response no doubt, to this expertly recreated Caribbean comfort food. My fellow diner’s Venezuelan roots ensure an excited flash of food deja vu, but I guarantee wherever these small plates take you, it’ll be your happy place.

Pitching devotedly crafted meat-free food, and grown up cocktails blended knowingly, with all the right booze, Yakumama goes a long way towards recreating the vibrancy of drinking and dining from Mexico down to Brazil. For the small team led by Hannah and Marcelo, Todmorden’s beautifully restored Co-operative building has been a permanent home just shy of six months, but this is grub that needs talking about- and word is travelling fast.

Colour is clearly important, on this regularly rotating menu, where snowy blobs of charcoal-infused aioli and specks of feta stand out in brilliant white against the kitchen’s kaleidoscopic creations. Warm, salsa-soaked tortillas provide the backdrop to hot pink pickled onion and chunky guacamole. Chilaquiles is classic, cobbled together Mexican brunch dish of leftovers that sums up nicely a continent’s breezy attitude to food, which nonetheless yields dazzling results.

Nothing makes brunch business like cocktails, especially if they’ve got tequila in them. Smoky, oaked mezcal and sharply fresh tequila vie for attention in our Mezcal Margarita and Bloody Maria. A lightly chocolate tinged mole sauce brings luscious sweet earthiness to the Bloody Maria and our margarita is, as ever, trouble mixed with lime in a salt-rimmed glass. Later we indulge in a classic Pisco Sour, where creamy foamed egg white belies the potency of the distinctive Peruvian brandy.

The feasting space is bright, airy and inviting, especially on a brisk Yorkshire day that requires seeking some home comforts. Charismatic artwork is provided by Mary Naylor, who is at the time of writing also exhibiting here in Manchester at The Pilcrow Pub, her colouful palette seems to match that of the chefs’.

Certainly the prettiest of our plates, Elotes, are piled high plaited ears of corn. The street food staple of grilled sweetcorn is daubed with aioli, dipped in a pecorino cheese crumb and splashed with sweetly smoky chipotle. Squeeze some lime, sprinkle some coriander and you’ll wonder why anyone ever ate corn another way.

Starchy, green plantain is a totally different ingredient to the sweeter, ripe fruit it becomes, and makes a beautiful basis for the Brazilian Plantain Coconut Curry. The lightly spiced, creamy broth could be a touch more punchy for more liking though, with more salt and seasoning needed. I’ll admit those without a serious chilli-sauce addiction may see things differently, however.

A textural lentil and almond salad, freshly dressed in ginger provides the basis for sweet, slow roasted and skinned cherry tomatoes and baked butternut squash marinated in a chilli and agave syrup. Finally that Crispy Coated Yuca anointed with piquant mango aji amarillo, a fruity take on the yellow chilli sauce indigenous to Peru, and cool, garlicky aioli. Frankly whether you’ve grown up eating these or not, once the plate is empty you’ll be wondering when you can get mitts on some more fat-finger sized fries.

It’s a cliche to say with good vegetarian places that “you won’t notice there’s no meat,” but I imagine what impresses meat-eaters and otherwise is a meal that combines such seemingly carnivorous cuisines and creates food that feels so natural. Did I mention you can get from Victoria to Todmorden in under half an hour? I’ll see you on Platform 6.

Yakumama
29 Rochdale Rd
Todmorden OL14 7LA
07809 646062

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