Modern West African Restaurant in St. James's
Category : Restaurant
Address : 1 St James's Market, St. James's, London , SW1Y 4AH, UNITED KINGDOM - Directions
Web : www.ikoyilondon.com
Opening Times : Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
Closest Tube : Piccadilly Circus
Ikoyi is like a good wine. It coats the palate and, weeks and months afterwards, you find your mind drifting in its direction. It‘s exceptionally unique. Shedding any preconceptions of what west African cuisine can be, it has recast the street food of Lagos, Nigeria in the mould of fine dining, yet there‘s nothing remotely stuffy about it. Founded by Iré Hassan-Odukale and head chef Jeremy Chan, there‘s a lot of heart and soul in this St James restaurant, not to mention mind-bending and uncompromising flavour.
The 48-cover space was designed by Studio Ashby and filled up rapidly throughout the evening, with an eclectic range of music played over the PA (we were really into the selection of Clipse). The room offers a small bar that‘s well-suited to awaiting your table, and also for scoring a glimpse into the kitchens where a young array of chefs ply their talent. Otherwise, it‘s a contemporary, almost Scandinavian setting with an abundance of blonde wood, minimalist seating and African objets d‘art adorning the walls.
Whilst sitting at the bar we had a chance to get the lowdown from Jeremy Chan on the concept. Having rattled the pans at noma and Dinner By Heston, he‘s brought a cerebral take to the west coast of Africa, noticing some major overlaps between their technique and the Japanese. This is evident in the adoption of fermenting beans, the use of miso, and the creation of dashi - as well as one of our favourite dishes of the evening, octopus pepper soup and coastal herbs, which saw a butter-soft tendril of the cephalopod nestled within a stock remarkably akin to dashi.
Other dishes popped with less subtle flavours. Buttermilk-fried plantain dusted with cerise-hued scotch bonnet pepper dust detonated between the teeth. A steaming plate of spiced Jollof rice smouldered with rich bone marrow. Manx Loughton rib (a rare breed of long-horned sheep from the Isle of Man) crackled with a piquant Asun Relish. And monstrously apportioned wild Nigerian tiger prawns basked amongst a wildly flavourful banga bisque. Try them all, and everything else on the menu: we were hard-pressed to find a bum note. It‘s rare that a restaurants as sui generis as Ikoyi launches in London, or anywhere else for that matter. Go.