Akoko is one of a handful of London restaurants that had a bit of an unlucky start, managing to get their doors open last autumn in between lockdowns one and two. For the brief few weeks it was open, however, it was already getting high praise for its modern West African cuisine, with Masterchef: The Professionals finalist William Chilila in charge of the menu.
Fast forward to summer 2021 and the restaurant is in full swing again, and although Chilila has departed, Theo Clench (ex-Portland) has been bought on by founder Aji Akokomi to head up the kitchen. It’s already had a glowing review from Jimi Famurewa in the Evening Standard and it could well be on track for a Michelin star – the tasting menu, service, and expensive decor certainly tells you that’s what the team are after anyway.
Akoko is a tasting menu-only affair, coming in at £95 for the food and an extra £75 for the wine pairing, which is pretty standard for this kind of central London destination dining. The menu takes influence from across West Africa but also makes the most of British ingredients, so you’ll find things like Cornish turbot and hogget among the dishes.
The first proper course is a ‘Gambian Oyster’, an oyster cooked over coals with a Gambian-style oyster stew, and it sets the tone for the wonderful, imaginative menu that follows. A dark, malty Guinness bread with yassa butter comes next and is up there with the all time great bread courses. Other highlights include the beautiful carrot terrine served with jollof rice and Ivorian aubergine sauce; the octopus with peanut and cacao sauce; and our absolute favourite of the night, skewers of rich fatty lamb belly coated in suya spice – an absolute knockout 10/10 dish.
Akoko is a brilliant restaurant but we did feel pretty wiped out at the end, as it is quite a full-on menu, full of rich, intense dishes. A couple of lighter dishes wouldn’t go amiss, or equally we can imagine that it would be perfect for a colder winter day rather than the muggy sweat of August when we visited. It’s a fantastic experience all in all, and if you want to try something new, Akoko is a very clever, innovative restaurant showcasing brilliant West African flavours.
21 Berners Street, London W1T 3LP