West African cuisine is having a moment in London. Here are three buzzworthy restaurants introducing the flavorful food of Nigeria and other nations to a new audience.
The interior of Nigerian-born entrepreneur Aji Akokomi’s Fitzrovia restaurant is a softly lit symphony of earth tones inspired by the beauty of rural West Africa. A wood-fired grill dominates the open kitchen, and the refined menu emphasizes heat—both f lame and spice. Among the highlight dishes are yam croquettes with black truffle, a grilled oyster topped with a creamy tomato-based Gambian stew, and a red pepper-infused jollof rice (a staple dish in many West African countries) that appears with a puff of smoke, accompanied by spicy eggplant sauce and a delicate carrot terrine. “Sharing West African flavors in London has been a delight,” Akokomi says.
Adejoké Bakare, also a native of Nigeria, was balancing working a day job with hosting supper clubs at her home when she won the Brixton Kitchen Cooking Competition, earning six months of free rent on a storefront in South London’s Brixton Village. This spring, less than two years after Chishuru opened, Time Out named it the best restaurant in the city. Bakare gained this acclaim with dishes such as cassava fritters with a soothing lime-coconut mayonnaise; black-eyed peas jazzed up with sweet and sour cabbage; and crunchy fried cakes made from beans and ekuru (a fermented melon seed) and paired with pumpkin-seed pesto and Scotch bonnet sauce. ”It’s been lovely seeing the customer reactions to everything from yaji spice to ayamase stew—dishes and ingredients that I would consider classic, but which are unfamiliar to many Londoners,” Bakare says.
“Chop, chat, and chill”: That’s the motto for the brother-sister duo of Emeka and Ifeyinwa Frederick, who own this one-year-old Tottenham spot, which started as a pop-up in 2017. (Chop is Nigerian slang for “eat.”) Inspired by a stint Emeka did working as a teaching assistant in Spain, the British-born siblings serve Nigerian tapas. Here, jollof rice is reimagined as a nutty quinoa, while a trio of stews—made from red pepper and tomato; spinach, coriander and fennel; and egusi melon seeds—is served with pillowy yam dumplings. “When I see guests who are trying Nigerian food for the first time fall in love with both the food and culture, or I see the joy other Nigerians take in visiting the restaurant, there is an immense feeling of pride,” Ifeyinwa says.