I have sat across a table from my friend many times over 18 years. I know that she is about to order a cocktail with a tropical juice component and may drink two glasses, but never three. When she laughs her salty laugh, it will be with her chin to her chest. Each mouthful of something delicious will widen her eyes in mild astonishment.
Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale have also shared a friendship for 18 years. Meeting as teenagers, when Lagos-born Hassan-Odukale moved to the UK to study, they decided to open Ikoyi together when they became flatmates. Their Mayfair restaurant gracefully circumvents categorisation by blending spices commonly found in west Africa with the umami flavours of Asia, but this descriptive complexity never overshadows the simplicity of the experience – the food is comforting and joyous.
Plantain caramelised in ginger and kombu is sticky and aromatic, the grilled spot prawns are deceptively sweet, and fried chicken with hot sauce has crispy skin that I still yearn for now. Chan creates all of this by conjuring theories of delicious things in his head and pushing those thoughts until a dish is a little more extreme than it first began.
As we make our way through a cookie spiked with miso, I wait for the surge of adrenaline that can accompany the dreaded last morsel on a sharing plate, but there is nothing. Sinking into the yellow velvet chair and watching the delight sweep my friend’s face, I realise that I am utterly content with what I have.
The Kudos Project by Charlene Prempeh celebrates the work of emerging black innovators (see @vibecalledtech for more).
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