On a Thursday night, I laid down in my hotel room bed. A quarter of my brain focused on a phone conversation while the rest of my brain was attempting to survive a food coma. I was speaking to a friend that I hadn’t spoken to for a few months; we were doing the usual “tell me about your life” catch up. This led to an agreement to meet up for dinner the next day. He suggested that we go to a place called Ikoyi London and I readily agreed.
Here’s where the food coma did me wrong. Normally I would jump on my laptop and start checking out the menu. I attempted to do this, but the menu wasn’t making sense to me so I gave up. I decided that since the name of the place is Ikoyi London, it must be a Nigerian restaurant. "I can just order amala," I thought to myself. That train of thought was my first mistake. Ikoyi London is not a Nigerian restaurant. In my humble opinion, it is a restaurant that uses the ingredients that you would find in a Nigerian’s kitchen and it does something not Nigerian with it. To be crystal clear, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think any positive expression of Nigeria in western culture is always a good thing.
The issue was, I was excited about a night out with Nigerian cuisine. As a child and to this day, I fantasise about a Michelin star Nigerian restaurant where people from all cultures enjoy and celebrate authentic Nigerian cuisine. I thought that Ikoyi London was going to be the realisation of my fantasies. It was not.
To be fair, there were a lot of things that went haywire that night. Let’s start with the fact that my friend had me standing in the cold for 40 minutes (he is always and without fail, frustrating late) and by the time we got in there we couldn’t get a table and had to be seated at the bar. This was followed my phone battery’s decision to just drop down to 2% even though all it had been doing all day was sitting in my bag. Then after five minutes of us sitting at the bar, we got into an argument and I became the crazy lady at the bar who was trying to cancel my drink order because I was threatening to leave. Obviously, I can’t fault Ikoyi London for any of this, but this did mean that by the time it came to order I was frustrated and all I wanted was my amala.
About the food
I quickly realised that I would have to let go of my plans to eat amala. Instead, I ordered the buttermilk plantain & smoked scotch bonnet, pictured above, (£5.50). I didn’t even realise it was the plantain until I was halfway through it. The natural flavour and sweetness of the plantain was completely lost in the harshness of the chilli powder. When I order plantain, I want to taste plantain, so that gets a thumbs down from me. This was followed by the Iberico Pork Suya, Hibiscus & Rose Yaji (£35) which was a succulent, flavourful and outstanding dish. However, I found the jollof rice (£15) to be underwhelming. It was edible and interesting, but it wasn't “party rice”. Last not but least was the stone bass (£13) which was enjoyable, but again when I order yam I don't expect 2 bits of crisps. To make matters worse, I didn't even get to order dessert because we were kicked out halfway through our meal because they needed our table due to a reservation mix up.
About the staff
The waiters and bartenders were lovely up until the point where they kicked us out. On arrival, they went out of their way to be helpful whether that was by charging my phone or getting me hot water and lemon for my cold.
What’s my Verdict?
For a place where a party of 2 could easily spend over £100 without even trying I was disappointed. I don’t get the buzz. I truly hate to say this, but I barely liked it. I’m attempting to be fair (because I really want to like Ikoyi London!) and I'm trying to accept that a huge part of my disappointment was because I expected a Nigerian dinner experience.
I will be going back to Ikoyi London at some point, with a better understanding of what to expect and because I can admit that it was an interestingly eclectic menu. I would also still advise you to also visit the restaurant if you have the cash to spare but be warned - this is not a typical Nigerian restaurant.