We review this exciting and award-winning restaurant.
After a dry, and let’s face it, rather desolate start to January (on the food and drink front, at least), the prospect of a forthcoming dinner date is exciting. Since Ikoyi opened last summer, Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale’s menu of modern west African-inspired fusion dishes has received glowing reviews from the critics, and won them a Best Newcomer award at the London Restaurant Festival. It is fine dining, but a quick look at the menu reveals that it is certainly not as we know it.
While the location might not be the most inspiring (it is set within the St. James’s Market development, which, to me, regardless of the day or time, always feels like being in Canary Wharf on a Saturday), the space feels cosy and intimate, and the welcome is genuine. Studio Ashby, who were commissioned to design the space, chose an earthy palette: amber velvet banquettes, elm wood surfaces and ceramic textures, with bespoke, low-hung earthenware pendants creating a natural warmness.
Chef Jeremy has worked in the kitchens of Dinner and Noma, but his offering here is altogether different. So different that we don’t feel confident negotiating the menu without a little guidance: Jeremy himself comes out from the kitchen to talk us through the options.
Ikoyi – The Menu
We start with a selection of snacks: dambu nama (a type of Nigerian dried beef) and whipped bone marrow tarts, designed to be eaten in one delicious mouthful, and buttermilk plantain and smoked Scotch bonnet. We fall for the bold, sweet yet spicy flavour and contrasting textures of the latter, which come accompanied by a creamy, spiced mayo for dipping. I’m disappointed that the scallop starter is not available, but the Mangalitsa (a breed of Hungarian pig) more than makes up for that – it is spicy pork mince served with razor clams and crispy shredded lettuce. For mains, the Ibérico suya is perfectly cooked and presented like a work of art. We eat it with the Jollof rice, a house special, which is topped with crab meat and is gorgeously smoky and full of flavour. It is a deeply satisfying meal: thought provoking, imaginative and colourful. The perfect sunshiny antidote to a dreary winter evening.
1 St. James’s Market, SW1Y (020 3583 4660;ikoyilondon.com)