At the start of this year, I made it my mission to try more independent places that are right on my doorstep. I even drew up a ‘hit list’ packed with restaurants, bars and other food-focused experiences.
On that list was Selminas, a Hawaiian and Mexican restaurant tucked on historic Spon Street in the heart of Coventry. I’d heard good things from people who rave about quirky little place, which is the brainchild of Selma and Emina, both for the food and the service.
Add to this a quick glance at the menu and fellow food blogger Lou of Foodie Lou Travels and I were convinced to get ourselves down there on a pre-lockdown Thursday night.
The building is historic, the decorations full of fiesta fun, and the welcome warm. Tucked in a corner, we got started with a few (slightly strong) cocktails as we dived into an extensive menu that offers everything from tapas, sizzling fajitas, ‘mix and match mains’ and specials.
While some of the specials, including ‘Senorita Coconut’, proved tempting, we decided on tapas and spent the next three hours (only kidding, though it did take us a while) choosing which ones to have.
The dishes themselves are what you’d expect from this kind of cuisine – quesadillas, tacos, tortillas, nachos. They’re the crowd-pleasers you’ve seen on menus before, though a lot of them have a bit of a twist. Hummus is ‘Mexo’ hummus. Chicken skewers are rum cajun chicken skewers. Squid is served in tacos complete with avocado as well as lettuce and tomato.
First up is a bowl of the Mexo Hummus served with warm tortilla bread. It’s what you’d expect, tastes pleasant and is good for the initial snaffling session you need when you’ve downed a cocktail and urgently need food.
From there things just get better and better. The rum cajun chicken skewers have been marinated properly, with the spice infused through the chicken. They’re simple but tasty and I could have eaten at least ten.
Next up was roasted veg quesadilla. If anything was due to be ordinary in this meal, it should have been this. I mean, how tasty can a load of fajita-spiced veg layered with cheese and sandwiched between a crispy tortilla actually be?
The answer is…very! I don’t really know how they did it, but it was really very good. The onions, peppers, mushrooms and sweetcorn were spiced to just the right level that still allowed each of their individual flavours to shine while there was a hint of tang from jalapeno.
Texture-wise it was great – a slight crunch to the veg with the alluringly stringiness of the cheese binding it together, and all encased in crispy tortilla. This is the kind of thing you think about and want to recreate at home then worry that you might ruin the memory.
It would have been sacrilege to visit Selminas without trying some tacos so we opted for the lime zest prawn tacos. Again, the secret to these were in the acidic marinade before a simple saute with onions and peppers that left them with that delightful charred taste that flirts with crossing over the boundary into burnt but stays well within the limits of great taste.
This food isn’t complicated. I’m sure some puritans may say it isn’t entirely ‘authentic’. I don’t know, I’ve been to neither Hawaii or Mexico. Selminas isn’t about that. It’s about a story. Two people who came together with a shared passion and want to share that with the rest of us.
The place oozes it, from its lovingly made decor to the welcome you get and the attention put into producing food packed with flavour. It’s not fancy, it’s not innovative, but I get the impression Selminas isn’t about that.
It’s about flavour and fun, and the only accolade it’s aiming for is sending people away full and happy and coming back. For me that’s what counts, and it’s the reason I’ll be heading back as soon as I can.
[We paid in full at Selminas. They didn’t know we were bloggers]