Ikoyi, London, United Kingdom

I must admit that I am not familiar with West African flavours nor cuisine, and so I had very little expectations on Ikoyi. London restaurants were still very much affected by Covid and some of the restrictions when I booked the place, but that turned out to be probably a good thing anyway, as this 1 Michelin-starred restaurant at the time earned its 2nd star a few months after I visited the place.

I started off with the Plantain Old-Fashioned, a cocktail made with Plantation 5-year-old Rum, bitters and miso! Very interesting mixture of flavours that worked pretty well. But boy, the alcohol did pack a punch there.

The first piece of cutlery that came was a fork like this….

First course was the Ike Jime Trout and Gola Peppercorn. Ikejime is a method of preparing the fish by paralysing the fish and then draining the blood out. In theory, as the fish doesn’t suffer in the process of being killed and therefore it doesn’t get stressed and produces lactic acid, the flesh is supposed to be more tasty. Well, I didn’t know much about this method whilst I was enjoying this piece of fish, but it’s certainly very tasty and had a beautiful sweetness to it – thoroughly enjoyable.

The next course was octopus fried in wild rice and yeasted bearnaise. I loved the contrast of texture of the softness vs the crunchiness.

Next amuse-bouche was the lobster and strawberry croustade – an interesting combination of using strawberry with lobster, but that’s a delicious one to try also. It somehow reminded me of a bite-size kuih pie tee in Ngonya cuisine.

The next course was the jigged raw squid with smoked scotch bonnet and fermented rice blini, with a shiso leaf on top. Whilst the flavour was bold, they all worked together – I was somewhat worried that the smoked scotch bonnet might kill off my palate with the chilli heat, but I should have known better than a restaurant of this calibre would have put a lot of thoughts into balancing the flavours.

After the small snacks, then it’s the start of the main courses. The first one was a sun-gold tomato gazpacho with line-caught mackerel. It was refreshing and the mackerel worked well with the gazpacho – almost got a Mediterrean feel to it.

The next course was maitake with a saffron and tomato veloute. Maitake is also known as hen-of-the-wood mushroom. I have seen a stray one or two in my garden before but I never dared to pick them and cook them. I enjoyed this one but for mushroom haters, this could be a real struggle as it’s got the texture that some people would really struggle.

A “vegetable” course followed – it’s plantain caramelised in ginger, kelp and uziza jam. Another interesting mixture of flavours that I have not come across (I had to look up what uziza was!), but somehow I found the plantain a bit too hard for my liking – undercooked or was it meant to be served like this, I don’t know?!

The next course was a fish course: dry-aged turbot with razor clams poached in their stock, penja pepper and vanilla. This was served with a honey-glazed brioche. The fish was cooked by poaching in smoked oil and then a few turns on the grill, giving a texture that was firmer than fresh turbot but it was nevertheless quite pleasant. The bread was sweet and the texture reminded me cornbread.  

The next course was visually stunning when it was brought to the table – it’s steamed yams with caramelised benne seed cream, smoked uda & N25 reserve Kaluga caviar. The saltiness of the caviar was balanced with the yam and the benne milk.

Then it’s another vegetable course: caraflex cabbage with iru vadouvan and malted barley. The vadouvan spice blend with the malted barley gave a really deep umami flavour that brought the cabbage to life. If there’s one sauce I remember from this meal, it would have to be this one!

The next course was the Hereford beef rib with a peppercorn blend. There’s quite a bit of fat on the beef which was fine for me, but no doubt many people would struggle with it. It wasn’t bad but nothing spectacular after all the preceding courses.

To finish off the savoury courses, the last dish was the smoked jollof rice. This one had a beautiful smokey aroma, and the rice with the sauce gave it a really rich and comforting feel to the dish.

The dessert came in the form of grilled apples with cinnamon berries and caramelised white chocolate. After all the bold flavours in the main courses, this was a welcoming and refreshing dessert – there’s still good flavours in there but it’s not a huge explosion like the other dishes.

The meal was not cheap at all – currently with its 2 Michelin stars, you will be paying £200 for the tasting menu; and you can always argue that you can get West African cuisine elsewhere for a fraction of the price. However, for the uninitiated who wanted to try something very different, this was a nice experience, and I would definitely take some curious foodie friends there in the near future.

Address: 1 St James’s Market, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4AH, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 3583 4660
Website: https://www.ikoyilondon.com

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 11am-2pm Lunch / 5pm-10pm Dinner ; Saturday: 4pm – 10pm ; Sunday: 11am – 3pm Lunch / 5pm – 9pm Dinner

Food: 8/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in September 2021 ]

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