Ikoyi’s West African cuisine stole the column inches when the restaurant opened in summer 2017. But let’s be clear: you don’t need to know your banga from your igbin to have a great meal at this smart Michelin-starred destination. Instead, simply marvel at the “unique flavour combinations” that define the cooking here.
A glass-fronted, minimalist cube set in the St James’s Market development, Ikoyi’s interior is clad in blond-wood panels for a Scandi-cum-sushi vibe. Hanging clay lamps add a touch of African artisanship, low-ceilings create a real buzz and a bijou open-plan kitchen kicks out perfumed, smoky aromas.
Chef-patron Jeremy Chan has done his time in some A-list kitchens (Noma, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal) and his cooking delivers elegant small plates that derive their oomph from the heat and boldness of West African cuisine – witness a snack of crunchy plantain dusted in smoked Scotch bonnet (chilli) and raspberry powder.
Standouts on the short menu include a chargrilled octopus tentacle with spicy ndolé (a bitter-leaf and spinach mix); pink slabs of Wagyu beef atop an umami-laden paste of mushroom, fermented chilli, walnut and olives, all sitting in a silky smoked eel sauce; and an absolutely stunning dessert of mouth-coating groundnut foam with zobo jam and meringue. To drink, we loved the roasted plantain Old Fashioned, while wines are chosen to withstand the spice (our robust, ever-so-slightly sour Riesling was a case in point).
Prices aren’t cheap, so offering a good-value lunch/pre-theatre menu (£35 for three courses) is definitely a wise move. On the other hand, if you want to blow the budget, it's well worth settling in for the nine-course blind tasting menu with paired wines. The seven-course tasting menu represents a happy medium and both can be requested as vegetarian or vegan. In other words, this “totally beautiful” restaurant is adding a new dimension to London’s dining scene.