Hidden in the newish St James Market development, steps away from Picadilly Circus, is a new Michelin starred restaurant. Unless you are from Lagos, you wouldn’t know that Ikoyi is actually one of the ritzy neighbourhoods there. If you did, you would also guess that they serve Nigerian food.
Ikoyi is a collaboration between Ire Hassan-Odukale (from Ikoyi) and Canadian Chinese, Jeremy Chan. The two friends chose hospitality after careers in finance. Jeremy has worked with Noma, Claude Bosi’s Hibiscus and Dinner, and it shows.
The designed interiors is modern, contemporary and unobtrusive. With big picture windows looking out onto the street.
There are no menus. Even if you ask effusively for one, they don’t have one to give you. Since they won the star, they now only serve set menus (3 courses) or tasting menus (7 courses). All they ask you when you order is if you have any allergies.
I ordered a Chapman mocktail- here it’s made with some fruit juices, heavy on the guava. The original Chapman was invented at the Ikoyi Golf Club and was made with orange Fanta, sprite, grenadine, Angostura bitters and some lemon. Quite a different animal.
Then the food arrives. Delivered like pieces of art on their bespoke crockery. I wait with anticipation for a dose of West African flavours.
Our lovely French waitress delivered the dishes with a smile and whispered explanation of what was on the dishes. Since we had no menus, we mainly had to guess. This dish, a vivid slash of red, a blob of yellow was meant to be plantain sprayed with a scotch bonnet powder concoction served with a sauce made of I can’t remember what. Can’t say that I have ever seen a better-dressed piece of plantain. It was quite fiery, tempered down by the sauce and I could have a few more pieces.
Next was a very lovely charred cabbage with some mushrooms and other unidentified accompaniments. I love the charred flavours and the earthy mushroom flavours. Being a food nerd, I would have loved it more had I understood what all the elements were. Not all meals are just about the taste. It’s a bit like contemporary art, understanding the concept is part of appreciating the art. Knowing the intricate processes that brought the dish to life is part of the enjoyment.
The main course was a piece of beef, medium rare, a charred leaf and egusi sauce. When we found out after the meal that there was egusi in the sauce, my Nigerian dining companion was baffled. It was not like any egusi he had ever had before. I guess this is where the Heston and Rene’s training kicks in. Using some traditional ingredients in non traditional ways. I wish there was more evidence of the West Indian identity in the dishes.
Accompanying the beef was a dish of smoked jollof rice with crab was a very flavourful and spicy rice dish. It was quite delicious, even though it was not what we expected. The lidded dish was infused with smoke before serving to evoke the origins and capture the flavour of this dish as it used to be cooked over coals.
Buttermilk Plantain and Smoked Scotch Bonnet
Malted Barley, Chanterelle and Groundnut
Beef Onglet & Egusi, a kind of seed but there is no sign of this unless it has been pulverised into the sauce. Not identifiable or recognisable.
Smoked crab Jollof Rice.
For pudding, there was just one choice, an ice cream on a crumble. They serve a rather aromatic coffee from Cameroon but no petit fours.
Ikoyi was unexpected. A quite delicious meal, competent service but really did not have much of a Nigerian DNA in evidence. If you are looking for an unusual modern European dining experience with a tinge of Nigerian flavours, this is the place.
Lunch menus from £35 and tasting menus from £75.
1 St James’s Market,
London SW1Y 4AH
Tel: 020 3583 4660