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 restaurant. 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) and his cooking delivers elegant small plates that draw on the heat and boldness of West African cuisine – witness a snack of crunchy plantain dusted in Scotch bonnet powder. Standouts on the short menu include a chargrilled octopus leg with spicy ndolé (a bitterleaf and spinach mix); pink slabs of Wagyu beef atop an unami-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 picked to withstand the spice (our robust, ever-so-slightly sour Riesling was a case in point). Prices aren’t cheap, so a good-value lunch menu (£35 for three courses) is definitely worth a punt for a restaurant that adds a real differential to the London scene.