Akoko, a new restaurant serving West African cuisine, will open on Fitzrovia’s Berners Street in central London on Thursday 8 October.
The first project from a British West African group with Head Chef William JM Chilila, information released today said the the restaurant will “offer a unique window on the still relatively unknown West African Cuisine in a polished and relaxed setting.” It added that “the team are driven by the desire to bring West African Cuisine to London with bold yet refined dishes.”
Akoko means “time” and “the first” in Yoruba; thus, they say, the restaurant “will show Londoners that it is truly time to experience West African cuisine in a new and elevated way.”
It’s worth noting here that, though Ikoyi in St James’s Market has been careful with its own positioning — it is not a West African restaurant — it has placed West African cuisine, its preparations, and its ingredients at the very heart of fine dining in London, winning not just a Michelin star, but becoming one of city’s most innovative and exciting restaurants.
What’s more, in April, Stork opened in Mayfair. At the time, it said: “There is nowhere in London to experience the true flavours of West Africa, little is known about West African or Eastern European cuisine and Stork brings these global flavours to London.”
But even before the arrival of Ikoyi and Stork, West African cuisine, though short on coverage, has existed in London for some time. At Kate’s Cafe in Barking and at a host of suya restaurants and stalls across, principally the south of, the city. What’s changed is its move into the realm of what Londoners and its commentariat know to be fine dining.
There is, though, no denying a new popularity — rather, mainstream appreciation — of the cuisine and its culture. Zoe Adjonyoh has been at the forefront of its reimagining, with her popular brand Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen; while siblings Ifeyinwa and Emeka Frederick will move their sell-out Nigerian tapas pop-up Chuku’s to a permanent space later this year.
Chef JM Chilila has said he will combine British ingredients and African spices. He brings with him, to his first venture, a wealth of experience working with fine dining restaurants in London, including Galvin at Windows, The Montagu at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, The Langham Hotel and the Orrery; he was a semi finalist on last year’s Masterchef: The Professionals and was the youngest chef ever to be included in the 30 under 30 Zagat list at the age of 19.
Dishes at Akoko will include smoked jollof rice, grilled aged beef suya with caramelised onion and confit tomato, and the likes of barbecued baby aubergine maafe and smoked goat consommé. The wine list has been curated by ex-Noma and Nuala sommelier Honey Spencer and her new consultancy Spencer & Smelskaya.