Callum Wainstein

Black Rice paella is located in market square, its exact position is always a bit of a mystery, jumping around the central hub– however it is instantly recognisable for its large vats of bubbling, brilliant paella.

 Paella is a classic example of how a dish which was originally invented as a frugal way of making use of the ‘off cuts’ has been transformed. Similar trends have happened with American BBQ (the slow cook originally intended to tenderize tough cuts) and even more fundamentally burgers – where a dish originally intended as a cheap way of using the entire animal has mutated into something people unblinkingly pay over ten quid for.

Seafood paella is the most traditional rendition of paella, and Black Rice’s rendition hits all expectations. Of all the paella that I tried it had the most distinct flavour, the saline fishiness being apparent in every bite (even those which did not include an actual piece of seafood). The most prevalent seafood found in the paella are the calamari, which have an excellent texture – avoiding the rubberiness which so often befalls undercooked calamari. It is certainly an acquired taste, and for those who don’t particularly like seafood I would not recommend as it is very strong in its flavours, as a result I don’t think it has the same ‘craveable’ factor that the other dishes demonstrate.

In producing this review, I tried (for the first time ever) their vegan paella. I have to say I was shocked by how excellent it was. With the vegan option you can really appreciate just how fantastic the base of their paellas are. Starting with the rice: flavourful and with an excellent consistency, it both maintains the integrity of each individual grain (as you bit down one can appreciate a delicate almost al-dente crunch) whilst still binding together to easily conform to the shape of your spoon. The vegetables stop the paella from becoming overly rich, with the green beans in particular standing out for providing a satisfying texture and crunch in what could otherwise be a relatively ‘baby-food’ esc mouthful. I can’t believe I’m writing this – but I honestly think that the vegan paella may be the best of all their offerings.

I honestly do not believe you can find anything more value for in the entirety of Cambridge, its incredibly filling and flavourful and costs only 50p more than a Big Mac Meal from Mcdonalds.

 If the vegan paella is the balanced dish, then for those who are looking for something more rich and flavourful, I would recommend their spicy chicken and chorizo special (over a bed of the vegan paella). The spiciness of this dish permeates throughout, meaning that even mouthfuls of just the base rice are imbued with a spicy flavour. The heat is subtle, not bombarding you from first mouthful but instead slowly growing to a crescendo – luckily one can find our trusty green beans dotted around to provide relief. The chicken’s flavour impressively stands up to this barrage of favours, and acts as a good balance to the more salty chorizo. At five quid (for a medium) I honestly do not believe you can find anything more value for in the entirety of Cambridge, its incredibly filling and flavourful and costs only 50p more than a Big Mac Meal from Mcdonalds.

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One of the best features of the paella stand is that you are never a 100% sure what you’re going to get when you head over – the menu is constantly rotating and depending on which day you go. Earlier in the term I had visited on a Tuesday when they were serving a ‘traditional Valencian paella’ which consisted of chicken with peppers and vegetables – it was an excellent middle ground between the richness of the spicy chicken and chorizo and the vegan paella. Other visits have shown that they are sometimes offering a king prawn special, a drunken chicken special, or a chicken and chorizo paella – all fantastic. Sadly the paella stand is taking a short break from February  3rd, so I strongly recommend you visit it this weekend or eagerly anticipate its return in a few weeks. It is, in my opinion, not only the best value in all of Cambridge but the single nicest and consistently satisfying food that I have had in my entire time here.

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