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Norwich restaurant accused of ‘casual racism’ over sauce name

PUBLISHED: 07:59 01 November 2018 | UPDATED: 07:11 02 November 2018

Mambo Jambo restaurant.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mambo Jambo restaurant. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

A popular Norwich restaurant says it will remove a sauce name from its menu after being accused of “casual racism”.

Mambo Jambo's online menu shows that one of their steak sides is named Mambo Jambo's online menu shows that one of their steak sides is named "cotton pickin'". Photo: Mambo Jambo online menu

Tex-Mex restaurant Mambo Jambo will no longer use “cotton pickin’” to describe its black pepper sauce, following complaints from friends who had booked a table for 12 for a joint birthday event in November.

Osa Odeh and his friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they were shocked to see what they called “racist language” on the advance menu, pointing out the phrase’s association with the slave trade.

Julie Bremner, one of the organisers of Norwich Stand Up To Racism, said: “The fact a Norwich restaurant is describing black pepper sauce for steak using a reference to Africans used as slave labour is abhorrent and racist.

“There is no place for racism in our multicultural and diverse society and I hope the restaurant addresses this issue promptly. It does not fit with our overall aim that Norwich is a City of Diversity.”

Mambo Jambo restaurant is at the centre of a debate about the use of language. Picture: ANTONY KELLYMambo Jambo restaurant is at the centre of a debate about the use of language. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Natalie Pye, manager of Mambo Jambo, said: “I was really shocked to discover that the menu item had caused offense to anyone. It’s been on the menu for 25 years and nobody in all that time has ever mentioned it.”

She said the name will be removed.

Mr Odeh said he called the restaurant on Saturday (October 27), spoke to a manager and asked for an explanation.

He said: “I explained the racist associations of the phrase and how it references slavery but she said the business is a family-run restaurant and that there was no deeper meaning behind the name.

“I just feel like there’s some thought gone into the name putting it next to the word black, but there hasn’t been enough thought on the implications.”

Ms Pye added: “The inspiration for the restaurant comes from the owner’s time spent in Tennessee and there is absolutely no racist intention behind anything on the menu, it’s supposed to be like a ‘finger lickin’ good sort of thing.

“We employ a diverse staff and operate diverse recruiting and the idea that we are racist in any way is hurtful to us, we don’t support racism in any way.”

Mr Odeh’s friend said he did not believe the menu was written to include a deliberate racial slur, but added: “It’s what I would call casual racism, there’s some ignorance there.”

The party of friends cancelled their booking and will be dining elsewhere.

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