1 St James’ Market, SW1Y
WHAT? Contemporary West African food served with finesse and bowls of charm. If you’ve only ever had hearty jollof rice before, this is a whole new world of fine dining.
WHERE? Ikoyi, a low-lit, softly furnished basket of warmth, brightens up the otherwise cold and featureless landscape that is the new St James’ Market complex off Piccadilly, joining Michelin-starred Scandi eaterie Aquavit.
WHO? Co-founder and director Ire Hassan-Odukale wanted to showcase the cosmopolitan tastes of Ikoyi, the upmarket part of Lagos he comes from. This is the result, thanks to a little help from old school friend and head chef Jeremy Chan, formerly of Noma and Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU? Five sections – three courses, plus snacks and desserts – confidently profferring three options each on one tidy page. There isn’t a concept to explain here, thank god, just a cluster of familiar faces – plaintain, bread sauce, coconut fried rice – artfully tangled around unfamiliar cuts like cow foot, monkfish cheek and turkey oysters (the round, dark balls of meat near the thigh). Desserts play around with sweetened vegetables like yams and avocados to varying effect.
DON’T MISS... For a proper mouthful of earthy Nigerian spice, head for the Iberico pork suya chop, as heady as any Indian lamb equivalent. Forfeit a starter for a double helping of snacks, namely lurid red strips of buttermilk plantain, dusted with smokey scotch bonnet chillis. If you really want to push the boat out, try the cola wagyu tri tip to share, as its richness is perfectly offset with pickled sorrel.
NEED TO BOOK? It packs in 48 covers, but is essentially a medium-sized room, so make a reservation at ikoyilondon.com
THE VERDICT... A truly unique addition to the London restaurant scene, with dishes that are sure to dominate conversation.
ONE MORE THING... The new menu for 2018 is fish-focused, with dishes like smoked crab jollof rice, although the Iberico pork and chilli plantain are remaining as firm favourites.