Shrouded behind sprawling greenery and a slim glass door on Berners Street, Akoko’s entrance is easily missed, but this smart Fitzrovia restaurant is fast becoming a key player in London’s West African fine dining movement. Like many restaurants born during the pandemic, lockdowns somewhat hampered Akoko in its early days but the restaurant we visited is one that is picking up pace fast, weaving West African flavours with elegance across an exciting tasting menu and drinks pairings.
We visited Akoko in its relative infancy and though the food was excellent, we wondered if it could be a little more challenging and unique. By comparison, Akoko 2.0 - now led by exec chef Ayo Adeyemi alongside founder Aji Akokomi - is just that. Akokomi has curated an experience where everything has purpose and meaning, from art on the walls (with pride of place given to a woven installation of ekpiri seed husks, fashioned by contemporary Nigerian artist Niyi Olagunju) to the monochromatic terracotta interiors and hand-whittled wooden cutlery that accompanies certain courses. Every aspect feels carefully considered, right down to the custom, Akoko-monogrammed skewers that hold together Adeyemi’s ox tongue suya.
That suya - served with a gentle lick of mustard and a pool of aerated bone marrow sauce - is utterly extraordinary. Like many courses at Akoko, it burns fast and bright, and is devoured too quickly. Other high points include a beautiful ballotine of monkfish and white asparagus, and a bowl of delicately-stuffed mussels and ripe tomatoes in a deftly-spiced broth. Plump for the Akoko pairing and sommelier Oscar Clark will libate you with a mixture of wines, cocktails and even a glass of Nigerian stout.
In the closing stages of the menu, an old favourite arrives - Akoko’s jollof rice, which emerges in a cloud of smoke, ready to be mixed through a bowl of lamb, aubergine and chives. If we could wish for one thing from Akoko, it would be more courses, and more chances to explore the limits of Adeyemi’s thrilling, dynamic cooking.