Location It’s easier to call Afrobeat Kitchen an “inn” than a restaurant. Tucked into its old west London factory was an airy open kitchen that looked over four patchy acres of hilly, multicultural turf. A blue tarpaulin was draped over the worktops but there was still an air of discipline and excitement about it. Afrobeat Kitchen came into being last September when the West African food stall was suspended by the building’s owner for failing to live up to his timetable. Its owners, who did, in fact, live up to their contractual obligation, shuffled off into a new place but the menu hasn’t changed: exotic fusions of Nigerian, West African and Portuguese dishes. Since then, Amy Mattiffe, who owns the stall, has given it a plush new home on the lively east London end of Old Street and even a website – afrobeatkitchen.com – made its debut this week.
Food If we asked you to pick a favourite Nigerian food among Lagos, Aba and Port Harcourt, you’d probably say ririomo – the lean, fat rice. It’s a textural, palate-pleasing bomb filled with legs of gougougoued pork, tubers, leaves and clams. Chumepumme is a deep-fried banana-and-cooking-oil-fried fish stuffed with carrots and soya beans. Crantala (mushrooms), tungrehe (orange), akara (a stewed cow’s head) and assorted salads round out the menu. But if you’re going for the sole African plate, there’s elagada: a yeast-raised omelette with a palm-wine syrup base. It’s also the main ingredient of the West African street snack ikan (little croquettes of maize dough filled with pounded yam, peanut or ogbono – a vegetable stew with flour), which a biochemist helping Mattiffe with her online project pointed out may lend its sultry tones to Afrobeat Kitchen’s post-work drinks.
Taste The lumps of masa served as fritters, popcorn or millet cakes, or stuffed into crunchy flour dough with green plantain or okra, new potatoes or apples. It’s served with traditional fried plantain and sausage, soups, tea and occasional cocktails.
Best for The people The larger a dish is, the better it can be enjoyed. When Mattiffe first moved into the airy door-and-window-less kitchen, the fat portions outgrew the space. Today, the kitchen spreads out in a large room to the side, so there’s room for more people.
Overall The broad menu is the perfect introduction to the diversity of African cuisine. The cashew nut pretzel – a high-carbonated chip wrapped in crispy cashew flour with a golden achila pepper essence – is the stuff of dreams. But it doesn’t take long to realise that afrobeat ririomo is a dish of culinary fire, funk and tradition; it’s always working up a storm of spice, vinegar and spice and that’s how it should be.