Chuku’s, one of 2019’s most popular restaurant residencies,
is close to opening has opened its first permanent restaurant in Tottenham. The sibling duo Emeka and Ifeyinwa Frederick will launch the restaurant, serving Nigerian food in a tapas spirit and not in cultural crosshatching. One of the biggest London restaurant openings to watch in 2020, “the scope of the duo’s ambition and playful respect for the spectrum of Nigerian food in London makes this one of the most compelling [openings] out there”. It opened on 13 February, with a 50 percent off soft launch until 19 February.
Chuku’s previously hosted a five-week residency at the Nest in Hackney, and some dishes will be familiar to diners from that time — jollof quinoa; moi moi, a savoury tart made from black-eyed beans, suya meatballs, and stewed and then barbecued chicken gizzard. Ifeyinwa, in a previous interview, explained why they’re calling it “tapas”: “we currently just do sharing plates but it’s also because the culture we create in the restaurant is more akin to a tapas bar than a regular restaurant with a strong emphasis on the social elements of dining and the chilled atmosphere of the bars.”
In the Hackney pop up, guests were asked invited to share a “taste of Lagos in the heart of London...against a backdrop of Nigerian afrobeats.” Chuku’s success in finding a restaurant space — which was possible in part thanks to their Kickstarter campaign — follows the success of other recent West African cuisine-focused restaurants — namely Ikoyi, the Michelin-starred, Eater award-winning West African-inspired fine-dining restaurant in St James’s and Zoe Adjonyoh’s Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, which opened at The Institute of Light in London Fields following a longtime stint in Brixton, and has led Adjonyoh to launch her supper club, Sankofa.
The Fredericks, like those restaurateurs, are resistant to the pernicious idea that West African food is a “trend” whose contours and parameters are defined by “tastemakers” — instead focussing on the cuisine’s “penetration beyond the diaspora” as a recent phenomenon. Emeka told Eater that, “I think it’s a growing confidence, an assuredness in my culture, having been here so long and grown up here … We understood that my friend, Mark, you know, would be interested, because that’s my buddy. Knowing one, I’m so comfortable in my own culture and also that if I put it out there, people will be interested in it. I’m not sure if for other establishments when they were setting up before, that they actively would want it to go beyond my diaspora community, there was no need for that: Our raison d’etre is kind of different.”
Expect a full interview with the Frederick siblings about the process of opening the restaurant soon.