Ikoyi Is Serving Curiosity In Abundance
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Never judge a book by its cover. Except when it comes to Ikoyi. London diners exasperated by the plethora of style-over-substance restaurants will be pleased to know that Ikoyi is breaking the mould, serving a generous portion of both style and substance.
Situated in the surprisingly quiet St. James Street, next to Piccadilly Circus, the glass frontage of the West African restaurant invites passersby into an open yet intimate dining space. Plywood walls and clay-pot lamps are juxtaposed with soft, ambient lighting and plush banquettes; proof that contemporary is not always the antithesis to comfort.
On first glance, the lunch menu seems simple: a choice of four dishes, one side and one dessert. On closer inspection, however, each dish reads as a complex combination of exotic flavours. The cow foot, dark beer and penja pepper earns an excited ‘ooh’, while the buttermilk plantain and smoked scotch bonnet is greeted with an enthusiastic nod of the head. We order both.
Making its grand entrance, the cow foot is welcomed with a second round of applause. A large bone is suspended across a ceramic bowl, like a sturdy bridge, with two cubes of meat perched on top. Though less dramatic, albeit visually, the teardrop shaped plantain are also met with enthusiasm. And both dishes deliver on taste.
The cow foot is flavoursome and tender, with a pleasant kick of heat from the penja pepper. Unsurprisingly, the plantain and scotch bonnet delivers a more solid punch of heat. Fortunately, the waitress is on standby with water.
For the next course, we order the garri fried chicken and garden egg (that’s an aubergine, if you're wondering). Sitting lifelessly on a bed of caramelised celeriac and greens, the garri chicken looks surprisingly insipid for a restaurant that has hitherto served curiosity in abundance. Fortunately, where aesthetics lack, flavours compensate. The crispy fried skin envelops a bundle of soft, succulent meat. But the garri chicken is overshadowed by the altogether prettier garden egg and wild spinach Efo (Efo Riro is a rich West Nigerian soup). The mound of lush green spinach is bursting with flavour, but is a little too pulpy when combined with the cooked aubergine. The side of smoked Jollof rice is an acquired taste; too salty and dry for us.
Pudding is the vegan-friendly cashew ice cream with salted caramel sauce. The dessert is simple: a scoop of ice-cream drizzled in caramel. But the interest lies in the texture and taste: it has the velvety consistency of soft-scoop ice cream and the delicate flavour of cashew nuts, complimented beautifully by the sweet caramel. It is a winner for us.
Ikoyi, 1 St James's Market, St. James's, SW1Y 4AH . £19 per person for set menu.
Last Updated 26 February 2019