As a team, we get very excited at any restaurant offering ‘West African cuisine’, and we have tried a fair few of the higher-end options (both good and bad). Ikoyi’s West African influences warmed our hearts, but we were yet to find a restaurant that fully celebrated all of the amazing ingredients, spices and simple joy that West African cuisine brings. With strong ties to Ghana, we have high expectations, and although we understand that these are hard to meet off the continent, the search never truly stopped. Enter, Akoko.
Akoko offers West African cuisine, reimagined. Located on Berners Street in Fitzrovia, the open kitchen welcomes you in with a buzzing kitchen staff and the delicious smells transport you straight to the bustling streets of Accra/ Lagos. Opened by British Nigerian Aji Akokomi last year (a year later than planned, thanks to Covid), Akoko has gone from strength to strength. Opening initially with Masterchef’s William Chilila, world renowned chef Theo Clench joined the Akoko family permanently as head chef this summer.
Akokomi’s aim was to merge art and food, and the restaurant is an exemplary example of how the two mediums can work so well together. With artists from all over the continent, including Niyi Olagunju and Rahman Akar, the earthy wooden tones, yet contemporary setting, creates the perfect backdrop for the delicious bite-size food flying around the restaurant.
We were lucky enough to try the 9-course Mesan tasting menu, each course of which highlighted the African star ingredient of the dish, from Jollof Rice to Suya – this menu had our taste buds tingling. The wait staff were friendly and incredibly well informed on all the dishes we were trying, as we were taught about the three pillars of the Akoko kitchen – fire, umami and spice. With live-fire cooking being an integral part of all the dishes, the depth and vibrancy of the smells that greeted us boded well.
For a 9-course menu, we were amazed at the variety of the dishes we were brought. Every course was an experience in presentation and taste, and remained very organic while at the same time elevated a cuisine we knew all too well. The presentation transported us to an entirely different world, with Gambian Oysters served on shells, veal cheek with Bofrot spice served in hand carved wooden bowls and the smoked Jollof rice opened theatrically at the table. Down to the yassa butter that came with the bread or the Suya powder next to the barbecued hogget, every detail of these dishes were so carefully crafted, we were entirely blown away. The star of the show was difficult to show, but we would come back a hundred times over for the trio of welcome Maafe Galician octopus, and the hogget belly with suya.
With relatively extensive previous knowledge of what West African cuisine should consist of, this absolutely did not disappoint, and unsurprisingly so – Akokomi works closely with his chefs to teach them the art of West African cooking. This showcase of the best food that the African continent has to offer was an absolute delight, palatable to a beginner’s taste buds but familiar to those seeking the comforts of this exceptional cuisine. Do not hesitate to try the 9-course menu to celebrate and savour this great addition to the London dining scene.