Akoko on Berners Street promises to put West African cuisine firmly on the London food map, writes Rasika Sittamparam
Akoko has all the makings of a culinary establishment: Masterchef finalist William JM Chilila at its helm, chef Trystan-Ross Williams of Michelin-starred Murano fame, rare wines sommelier Honey Spencer, décor by René Dekker and a West End venue on Berners Street. Once launched in early 2020, this will be London’s first upmarket West African restaurant. It could even rival Ikoyi, which gained a Michelin star for its African-inspired flavours.
A ‘bofrot’ doughnut with smoked goat and locust seed powder
Spear’s gets an exclusive tasting preview at the home of Nigerianborn founder Aji Oluwole. ‘It’s scary,’ he says of his deep dive into the restaurant scene, while handing over a delicately grilled prawn dish with a smattering of Senegalese paste.
The recipe for creating West African flavours in London, says Oluwole, are prime British ingredients such as beef and seafood, ‘a lot of’ bell peppers for sauce bases, and a range of imported produce such as African herbs, fermented locust bean seeds called ‘dawadawa’ and the moreish ‘egusi’ melon seeds.
‘There’s fufu too,’ he adds, describing the soft yet springy texture of a dough that is meant to be dipped into ‘absolutely delicious stewed meat’. Chef Williams knows a more mechanised way to make it, while also enriching its taste. ‘That’s kitchen magic,’ he whispers.
MasterChef: The Professionals finalist and head chef at Akoko, William JM Chilila
In the culinary pipeline is a signature platter made up of lobster with an earthy velouté, ‘jollof’ rice smoked with African herbs, and barbecued 28-day aged beef with a moreish sauce called ‘suya’ (it’s the hiss you produce when you sense hot chilli on your tongue, Williams explains).
After this tasting, Spear’s sees a promising future ahead.