Ikoyi is an unusual restaurant in a very usual place. Adventurous diners should head here if they are bored of the tacos, vegan burgers and baos that currently dominate the London restaurant scene. The small, smart eatery is found tucked away in the shiny St James complex, decorated with modern furniture, trendy lighting and colourful artwork.
The service was slick and subtle throughout our lunch. The waiter offered advice when needed but didn’t bother us with unnecessary niceties, which I was grateful for. In such a busy business district it is important to be able to enjoy a speedy lunch and Ikoyi seem well rehearsed in this… there is a reasonably priced lunch menu which features three courses of speciality dishes.
The restaurant name pays tribute to a wealthy district in the Nigerian town of Lagos, and the menu shows influence from West African cuisine. But this is not a casual affair, Ikoyi should definitely be considered fine dining, and the prices reflect this with main courses costing around £30 each.
We chose based on our waiter’s recommendations, and the initial snacks turned out to be two of our favourite dishes. Buttermilk Plantain & Smoked Scotch Bonnet is as delicious as it is appealing; bright maroon shards of sweet plantain are coated in a smoky salt and served with a creamy spicy dip. Seriously tasty and not too painfully spicy! Cow skin Sandwich was also wonderful, a light crispy bite filled with edible flowers.
There are intriguing cocktails and wines to choose from, but we opted for the two non-alcoholic drinks. A refreshing Grape Zobo with Tannins, strawberry and long pepper and the more tropical Ikoyi Chapman, made with Hibiscus, guava and sour passionfruit.
Of the starters Mushroom Suya with malted barley and pine was an interesting dish, aromatic with an intense depth of earthy flavour – I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. Chicken Gizzards with plantain and toast was less challenging than you might expect, the perfectly cooked offal was soft and tasty accompanied by the sweet plantain.
The main courses were absolutely beautiful, presented on vibrant plates that showed off Chef Jeremy Chan’s flair and creativity. Chicken Efo & Asparagus was nice but not memorable, immaculately cooked poultry with an assortment of spicy sauces, and one lone asparagus stem. Although I usually don’t eat fish, I couldn’t resist trying the Fish Pepper Soup with squash and shiso as it just smelt so wonderful. It was perhaps the least daring dish of the meal, but for me it ticked every box; light and warming with a magical broth. If you like crab, do try the Smoked Crab Jollof Rice, which a few friends had recommended to me before my visit.
The striking black and magenta dessert was perhaps the winning dish of the day. Served in a decadently dark bowl, this unusual recipe featured flavours of black benne (a type of sesame) and blackcurrant. The deep nutty sesame taste paired beautifully with the creamy sweet fruitiness of the blackcurrant… it was moreish and satifying, sweet and savoury with a touch of sourness. I can’t remember the last time I liked a dessert this much.
Those living and working in the St James’ area must be overjoyed at the recent rush of new exciting eateries. But while many are following obvious culinary trends, Ikoyi is offering something completely new, a chance to try flavours and ingredients not often represented in our foodie capital.
More information and book a table at Ikoyi here.