Ikoyi, St James's Market, London: restaurant review
Check out our expert restaurant review of Ikoyi in St James's Market for West African cuisine in fine dining surroundings
Ikoyi in a nutshell
At Ikoyi, Iré Hassan-Odukale and Jeremy Chan are on a mission to give the flavours and ingredients of West Africa a slick, fine-dining polish.
Ikoyi restaurant review
Ikoyi (named after the neighbourhood in Lagos where Iré was born) is the latest addition to glossy new development St James’s Market, in Mayfair.
Inside the restaurant is sleekly understated, with an earthy palette of ochres and greys, amber-coloured banquettes and earthenware pendant lights. Lighting is fashionably dim, and the overall effect is sleek yet intimate.
The kitchen (run by head chef and co-founder Jeremy, whose CV includes stints at Dinner and Noma) has a bold, uncompromising approach to spice. Mellow, buttermilk-soaked fried plantain is accompanied by a ferocious scotch bonnet mayo, while chicken oysters with tamarind and penja pepper are spicy, moreish mouthfuls.
A tender, dainty rib of rare-breed Manx Loaghton lamb is paired with a vibrant asun relish (made of fermented chillies, burned onions and pepper). Octopus pepper soup comes as a whole tentacle in a deeply savoury pepper broth that’s like a cross between a dashi and a bisque.
Slow-cooked chicken with benne (a sesame-like seed) and okra is the dish to choose if you’re less accustomed to spice, the meat incredibly tender. A single wild Nigerian tiger prawn may sound like a stingy portion for a main, but it turns out to be colossal, and comes bathed in a shellfish bisque finished with raw gin and banga spices (similar in flavour to cloves and anise). Ikoyi’s jollof rice is a clever take on a classic of West African cuisine; here it’s given an extra injection of umami with the addition of smoked bone marrow.
Dessert, like the rest of the meal, impresses: compressed papaya in hibiscus juice comes with ultra-creamy buttermilk ice cream, a lightly charred marshmallow and meringue folded with toasted grains of paradise – a fragrant, pepper-like spice.
Drinks-wise, Ikoyi offers a concise wine selection plus a menu of cocktails with a West African twist, from an old fashioned made with caramelised plantain and butter to the Ikoyi Chapman: Beefeater gin, hibiscus, guava and sour passionfruit.
The Manx Loaghton rib is probably the best lamb I’ve ever eaten, with a rich, deeply savoury flavour that’s perfectly balanced by a fiery chilli and pepper relish. The jollof rice was lick-your-plate-clean delicious, the smoked bone marrow meatily perfuming the air around us.
Mid-range. Snacks range from £5-£6, starters from £9.50 to £13 and mains from £7.50 to £29.
Written by Hannah Guinness
Photographs by P.A. Jorgensen