I’ve put on Eric Benet’s Love Don’t Love Me to take me back a few hours to when I was sat in Mellow’s Eatery after navigating my way through an office block labyrinth, drenched through from the rain. I’m trying to think of a way to describe how I felt whilst I was there, sat with a chill on my skin, watching the top of a small woman’s head barely bobbing above a kitchen, making the lunch I’d already pre-ordered whilst looking at their Instagram before I’d arrived. I read the ‘About’ section of their website, for a little gentle research: “The name Mellow originates from a childhood nickname given to me by my family and friends as it was a fair reflection of my personality. This carried on into adulthood and is now also a representation of my company which is a part of me and of which I am extremely proud.” As reluctant as I am to cave into cliches, that’s exactly how I’d like to describe the character of Mellow’s Eatery in Digbeth, central Birmingham. It’s “mellow”.
I’d already anticipated that Chef Beezy would far cooler than me, again from stalking his Instagram and seeing him posing with all the musicians he’d cooked for, such as Jay Kae, J Hus and Giggs – who personally asked for Mellow’s to cater for him and his team. Following a spattering of A4 print outs directing me to the second floor of an office block in need of a refurb, I hear the music before I even get to the door. Chef Beezy is there, the female chef too, and two other customers who’ve already placed their orders. The calm in the eatery is a welcome contrast to the weather I’ve just battered through to get here, but my slippy Chelsea boots aren’t agreeing with the flooring, and I find myself having to delicately ice skate over to the counter, careful not to fall on my hole in front of Beezy. I shake off the excess water dripping from my giant faux fur coat on the way, regrettably slickening the floor, ready for my exit.
There’s no card machine at Mellow’s, so I have to skate out again to find the cash point below. I place my order first. The jerk salmon XL special with salad, plantain, prawns and rice and peas. £10.95 is normally a lot more than I’d spend on lunch, and Chef Beezy checks, “you sure you want the XL?”, reminding me of the price before I commit, but it’s too late. I’d already decided what I would order, given the chance to visit Mellow’s, when I first started following them about two months ago and before I’d read a price list.
The small woman emerges from the kitchen, about 10 minutes later, the top of her head still only slightly visible above the largeness of my XL of my plate. “Enjoy”, she says. Placing the beast in front of me.
I’m the first to admit that I’m absolutely not qualified to comment on Caribbean cooking and it’s authenticity, being a white non-chef from Dudley, but Chef Beezy, who worked as a qualified chef for over 15 years, managing and working in some of the top restaurants and hotels in the west midlands before deciding pursue his dreams of having his own catering company, certainly is. I know enough to acknowledge that everything is beautifully cooked. The salmon, the prawns, the rice, the plantain, and each has its own hit of flavour and spice, each different but complimentary. The barbecue sauce holds all of these elements together, creating a sticky and comforting plate – sticky being the highest of compliments.
Mellow’s isn’t necessarily going to appear at the top of a Google search on where to eat in Birmingham, given its scale and off-beat location, but it’s certainly worth the detour if you’re hungry for good food, good vibes and the chance to support a hard working local business.