Are you planning to visit London in 2019 and open to trying alternative food experiences during your stay? London is a global melting pot of cultures so you are likely to find cuisine from the far corners of the planet in this great city. In this article, we showcase West African food in London and highlight five innovators you might want to check out.

 

Trending: West African food in London

Foodies will have noticed a significant interest from the British media in West African food in the past three years. Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s how mainstream food and marketing industry trend watchers have enthused about it:

“Moroccan? Boring. The capital’s restaurants are now looking south of the Sahara”. – GQ

“…dishes from countries like Senegal and Nigeria could be the next big food trend and the “last great untapped cuisine”.” – BBC/The Food People

 

Will the African food trend fizzle and die?

The short answer? We think not.

Here’s the long answer…

The media’s labelling of African food in London as the latest trend is a suggestion that we’ll be bored with it eventually. What this label fails to capture, however, is that like African fashion and music, ingredients and cuisines from the continent are quietly winning hearts and minds from Brixton to High Barnet. 

An African Food experience

Another sign of longevity is that longstanding food traditions, which close-knit diasporan communities have preserved over decades, are being taken up by a younger generation eager to reclaim their heritage. 

Perhaps a sign of the future, visionaries such as chef Zoe Adjonyoh and the founders behind upscale Ikoyi London are introducing African flavours to new audiences with modern twists on traditional recipes.

The term ‘African food’ itself is an often challenged misnomer as it conflates cuisines from different parts of the continent (54 countries) into one generic blob.

Sharing an African food experience

Cuisine from North Africa and the horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea) might be more recognisable to many Londoners (couscous, tagine and injera we’re looking at you). However, cuisine from West, South and East Africa has historically received less attention. This is due to factors such as lack of funding, inconsistent product/service quality, poor marketing and inaccessible locations.

The five West African food innovators we highlight in this article are determined to change this narrative.

 

West African food in London: Innovators to watch in 2019

In a bit to be objective, we came up with a list of criteria (scroll to the end to see them) when selecting these entrepreneurs for our ‘2019 watch list’.

Here are our five innovators to watch in 2019 (in no particular order…).

Chuku’s – Nigerian Tapas

Exploring West African Food in London at Chuku's

Who are they? Yes, there is such a thing as ‘Nigerian tapas! We have the innovative brother and sister duo, Emeka and Ifeyinwa (Ifey) Frederick to thank for this.

Where and when? Currently looking for a permanent site after many successful pop-ups across London.

Featured: Time Out, Vice, London Live.

West African Food in London: Five Innovators to Watch in 2019

Why go? To ‘chop (eat), chat and chill’ of course! Their fun and relaxed pop-ups showcase African art and design, Nigerian street photography, and the sounds of traditional and modern afrobeat.

Emeka Frederick and Ifey Frederick on Nigerian Tapas

What to try? The plantain waffles. Try this topped with fresh berries, dairy-free ice cream and maple syrup. Their popular Nigerian pepper soup (get ready to turn your ‘spice meter’ up!) is making a come back in 2019!

Dietary information: Options available for vegan and gluten-free diets.

Plantain waffles from Chuku's | West African Food in London

What’s next on their journey? Chuku’s has worked hard to prove their tapas concept and have received some well-deserved recognition along the way. They now feel ready to take the bold step towards opening their own permanent space. We’re rooting for these two!

 

Little Baobab – Senegalese

Little Baobab Chef Khadim Mbamba

Who are they? Monthly pop-up Senegalese restaurant by chef/musician Khadim Mbamba. Host Suzie leads the front of house team.

Where and when? Mostly East London venues. See social media for current listings.

Featured: Forbes and The Telegraph

Why we chose Little Baobab as one of Five Innovators to Watch in 2019

Why go? The vibe. The seating arrangement is designed to promote a warm community feel. The decor is vibrant and colourful. Staff are friendly and responsive. Socially conscious, some events also promote various community support initiatives.

What to try? Order the Thiebou Dienne, a delicious Senegalese combination of fresh fish and the famous jollof rice.

Dietary information: Vegan and vegetarian options available.

West African Food in London from Little Baobab

What’s next for them? Before their supper club format, Little Baobab was originally a permanent restaurant. There are ambitions to return to that format in 2019. Meanwhile, look out for a new range of chilli sauces from this brand.

Special offer for HDYTI readers: Little Baobab is offering a 10% discount on bookings for any future pop-up events. Simply quote ‘HDYTI’ when booking.

 

Tokunbo’s Kitchen – Nigerian/regional West African

Tokunbo Koiki showing West African Food in London

Who is she? Tokunbo Koiki (popularly known as ‘Toks) – chef and entrepreneur.

Where and when? (Various London locations) Pop-up and supper club events, street food markets and food festivals. Tokunbo also offers cooking classes for private and corporate groups. See social media for current listings.

Featured: BBC One

Why go? Apart from the food? Go for networking. Tokunbo changes up her event format to provide great opportunities to meet new people. Even shy people can make meaningful personal and business connections at her events. Her ‘Conversations with Tokunbo’ format is a chance to explore a range of cultural topics.

Tokunbo Koiki showing West African Food in London

What to try? ‘Efo Riro’ – a rich and flavourful spinach and kale vegetable stew is a top choice.  Expect to see her introduce some fusions of regional favourites in 2019.

Dietary information: Contact Toks directly to discuss dietary requirements.

Quote from Tokunbo Koiki of Tokunbo's Kitchen

What’s she up to in 2019? Toks is currently hosting a fortnightly series of intimate (home-based) West African brunch experiences. Look out for her ‘Conversation with Tokunbo’ series at Google for International Women’s Day in March and a possible London African Food Week in Q2, 2019.

Special offer for HDYTI readers: Tokunbo has kindly offered our readers a 10% discount code to attend any future events. Simpl quote ‘HDYTI’ when booking.

 

Lerato Foods & Naturals – Nigerian and African fusion

West African Food in London by Lerato Umah Shaylor of Lerato Foods & Naturals

Who is she? Lerato Umah-Shaylor – chef, writer and teacher

Where and when? London Cooking Project, Battersea. See social media for current listings.

Featured: BBC Sussex, Waitrose, London Evening Standard, Lorraine Pascale

Plant based West African food in London

Why go? Lerato channels her skills as a teacher towards educating people about cuisine from across the continent. Her fun and engaging events offer an insight into African culture including literature, dance and history. Her African Afternoon Tea is a boundary-pushing twist on the classic Britsh Afternoon High Tea.

What to try? Ask to try her home-made spiced peanut butter. Unafraid of some spice? Try the Senegalese Yassa, strawberry and tomato salad with scotch bonnet. We especially loved her kale stew and spiced chocolate deserts!

Dietary information: Vegan and vegetarian options available.

West African Food in London by Lerato Foods

Where’s her innovation taking her? Lerato is constantly changing up her cooking class recipes. Look out for a new fish and seafood cooking class as well as North African (Moroccan and Tunisian cuisine) classes in 2019. Her ‘top secret’ for 2019? Chocolate-based treats for you Easter bunnies!

Special offer for HDYTI readers: Enjoy a 10% discount (minimum purchase of £75) when you use discount code ‘HDYTI’ to book a place at one of Lerato’s upcoming events.

 

Rad’s Kitchen – Nigerian gastronomy

Akudo Agokei private chef at Rad's Kitchen

Who is he? Chef Akudo Agokei, supper club host and private chef.

Where and when? See his Instagram for current listings.

Featured: You saw him here first! Of the pop-ups and supper clubs we’ve mentioned, Akudo’s is the only one we haven’t visited (as at the time of writing). However, we hope to change that in 2019!

West African Food Recipes by Akudo Agokei private chef at Rad's Kitchen

What to try? Hard to say as we haven’t been. Akudo recommends his plantain and cod croquettes with mango slices and mango curd. However, because he creates a new menu for every client so he’s a bit hard to predict. We like that.

Dietary information: Get in touch with Akudo to discuss.

West African Food in London by Akudo Agokei private chef at Rad's Kitchen

What’s he up to in 2019? When we asked him this question, he laughed. After learning that he’s created over 50 recipes and has more in the pipeline, we understood why. He’s currently teaching online cooking classes and working on a menu for a new restaurant client. Look out for him at the 2019 Nigerian Fusion Food Tour (NFFT) event in March. We’re sure he’s got some surprises up his sleeve!

 

Honourary mentions

Choosing these five was a tough call. There’s a lot of talent in London’s West African food community right now. Look out for Chalé! (Ghana) and Nim’s Din (Liberia/Sierra Leone) at a food market near you.

 

Why did we select these entrepreneurs?

Five chefs from West Africa showcasing West African food in London

In a crowded market, differentiation is always key to success.

Leslie Leigh, a food marketing consultant at West Africa Cooks, points out that “Today’s dining experience is no longer just about having great food and drink. It’s all about creating unique experiences, it’s all about differentiation.”

There are several reasons why we think the entrepreneurs in this list are different.

The first reason is their staying power in an industry where only the tough survive. These folks have persevered, showing up with their pop-ups and supper club events. Learning (some hard) lessons along the way, we’ve seen them take feedback onboard and improve their product.

They nurture a sense of community. Beyond experiencing new flavours, their guests can expect a range of immersive experiences including cooking classes, live music, dance, art/design, and small business networking.

Guests enjoying a supper club with West African Food in London

They are innovative. While respecting traditions and authenticity, they are not afraid to push boundaries with flavours and recipes. Purists may scoff at some of their concepts. However, no one ever stood out in this industry by playing it safe.

Their branding and messaging are consistent, both offline and online. They have built active digital identities and use social media adeptly for marketing, customer support, feedback and engagement.

Recipe by Lerato Umah Shaylor

The final reason worth mentioning is the clarity of their vision. After a few hits and misses (typical of any new business), a few of them have recognised their strengths and are starting to consolidate their wins. Their collective vision suggests that they are looking beyond simply providing great food to shaping London’s perceptions of West African cuisine.

These qualities, in our opinion, help these entrepreneurs stand out from a growing list of enthusiasts entering this niche.

 

In summary

Guests enjoying Nigerian Tapas at Chuku's

I mean, I think bogus trends, they don’t last long. The restaurant business, in my experience, is sort of like an organic creature. It attacks with antibodies the bogus, the dangerous, the toxic, and drives it out. – Anthony Bourdain, Thrillist, 2016

We don’t think West African food in London is a bogus trend. In fact, we hope to see more innovators establishing themselves in this niche in 2019.

While cuisine from West Africa is still some way off from being regarded as mainstream in the UK, to regard it as a flash in the pan (pun intended) is to ignore chefs, entrepreneurs, marketers, and service specialists working hard to win London’s hearts and stomachs with some truly unique food experiences.

 

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Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).