OPENS SEPTEMBER 2019
Akoko is the debut restaurant from chef William JM Chilila, who reached the final of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2018. The restaurant nods to its African identity through the contemporary art by Niyi Olagunju that lines the walls, as well as bespoke ceramics which have been inspired by Ladi Kwali, a well-respected African pottery expert who came to prominence in the 1960s.
The menu features modern interpretations of classic West African dishes, pairing spices and flavours from the region with British ingredients. Fish and seafood plays a big part in the food offering, with dishes including lobster with egusi ijebu velouté and pounded yam, as well as smoked jollof rice with fish balls, glazed carrots and pickled swede.
Meat dishes, meanwhile, might include charcoal-grilled chicken with ruby red rice, onion and yassa sauce, and grilled 28-day aged beef suya with caramelised onion and confit tomato, while vegetarian diners can tuck into the likes of grilled aubergine with aubergine ‘caviar’ and maafe sauce.
Chilila heads up the kitchen and has previous experience working at established London restaurants such as Orrery and Galvin at Windows. If you’re wondering about the name, Akoko translates from Yoruba as ‘the first’.
Although West African cuisine is still largely underrepresented in central London, Akoko is not the first restaurant of its kind to open in a premium location and serve contemporary takes on West African dishes.
In 2017, Ikoyi opened in the St James’s Market complex, which also houses Scully and Duck & Waffle Local. Despite some initial confusion about whether Ikoyi set out to be an authentic West African restaurant or a modern version of one (it’s the latter), it has been well received by critics and diners, gaining a Michelin star in its first year – so there’s certainly an appetite for what Chilila is trying to achieve with Akoko.