Ikoyi Head Chef Jeremy Chan’s vision for 2018 sees tidal change at the celebrated restaurant with a new African seafood focus
Ikoyi, one of last year’s most critically acclaimed openings, enters 2018 more ambitious than ever announcing an entire new menu that is almost completely dedicated to seafood. Retaining the restaurant’s essence, the new dishes are born from creativity inspired by West African ingredients applied to the highest quality of seafood. All treated in a non-derivative way by Head Chef and Co-founder Jeremy Chan whose experience in the kitchens at Noma, Hibiscus and Dinner shines through.
Jeremy has decided to forge ahead in his sophisticated culinary style with a truly exciting fish focused menu; highlights include first courses of Octopus, Ndolé & Calçot; and Scallop, Ehuru, Burned Cream & Caviar. Mains include Cuttlefish Miyan Taushe, Calf’s Tongue & Sinasir and Monkfish, Banga & Citrus Asaro and ‘to share’ Turbot Roasted on the Bone, Mbongo & Okra. The shift is intended to demonstrate how Ikoyi is an ongoing project of discovering culinary applications for the incredible products of West Africa.
The evolution of Ikoyi’s menu for 2018 is potentially controversial.
Illustrating Jeremy’s vision for the menu best is a new Smoked Crab Jollof Rice. “Jollof”, a traditional West African dish, originally served at Ikoyi last year with Bone Marrow, surprised diners expecting a traditional take on West African cuisine. So it’s no surprise that a jollof with crab custard may ruffle a few feathers with those same visitors. Co-founder and Operations Director Iré Hassan-Oudukale, whose memories of growing up in Nigeria originally inspired the restaurant, is thrilled with Jeremy’s expressiveness. They envisaged a restaurant that gave a new perspective on contemporary West Africa, breaking from traditions in terms of look, feel and taste to create something inventive and fresh, and change perspectives on what West African culture is thought to be, and are excited to see what diners make of their shared 2018 gastronomic adventure for Ikoyi.
Ire explains: “Jollof rice is a dish found ubiquitously throughout the 17 countries of West Africa – making it a central concept to its food narrative. Though Jollof rice has taken myriad forms throughout every country within West Africa, each interpretation still maintains the same name. The traditions of hot chilli peppers, meat or fish stock and a tomato based broth stay relatively consistent, but there are still vast inconsistencies: a Ghanaian would insist on using Basmati rice, for instance, and a Senegalese would leave vegetables whole. At Ikoyi, we’ve now taken another step in that history, and are bringing it to the world via London from Africa.”
Jeremy Chan explains the reasons for the new menu: “Our kitchen wants to explore continuously, Ikoyi wants to challenge its concept further by applying new techniques to West African ingredients and why not? I’m finding cooking with seafood most inspiring at the moment. What I really feel we are pushing boundaries on are these rare African ingredients and the techniques we are using and inventing to create these dishes.
The new menu expands further on Ikoyi’s unique supplier relationships building an inimitable array of ingredients, such as Ogbono Seeds that upon first inspection could potentially shock with their powerful, pungent aroma. However they bring beautiful flavour profiles to the new dessert of Kent Mango, Ogbono & Buttermilk, where the salted and slightly sour fermented seed is used in a caramel. Ikoyi demonstrates how an ingredient used in traditional Nigerian cooking has broad culinary applications.
Not all dishes on the new Ikoyi menu are fish, so meat eaters and vegetarians will still be pleased by a new take on their classic Iberico Pork Suya dish, now served with Hibiscus & Condiments; and new dish, January Cabbage Egusi, as well as regularly changing specials. It’s not all change though: one item on Ikoyi’s menu remains, the signature Buttermilk Plantain & Smoked Scotch Bonnet, one of the best-sellers of last year and a true destination dish.
A guide to some key ingredients in Ikoyi’s kitchen from Ikoyi Head Chef and Co-founder Jeremy Chan:
● Grains of Selim “Uda Pods” – a long peppercorn with the scent of eucalyptus and tree bark. Intense and unpalatable until treated. Exceptional with cured fish and for hot broths.
● Agbalumo – The African Star Cherry – an exceptional fruit of a very limited season. Looks like a small persimmon, with the texture of apricot, the tang of tamarind but with a far more lingering sour taste and aroma. Ikoyi will be fermenting and pickling this product to be served with roast duck. You will not find this in any other restaurant in London, let alone the world, using the product in this way.
● Ogbono – “Bush Mango Seed” – a very pungent seed with the smell of burned cheese, used in small quantities the ingredient adds complex, savory and acidic flavours.
● Grains of Paradise – a tiny peppercorn with the fragrance of tart strawberries.
● Penja Pepper – the white volcanic peppercorn of Cameroon.
● Red Sorrel – a pervasive plant of West Africa, we love this herb as it adds a lot of acidity to balance our rich food.
● Scotch Bonnet – a sweet, fruity chili with an intense heat. We use these chillies in all forms on the menu, pickled, dried, fermented, grilled and stewed. “Ata Rodo” the Yoruba name for these chillies, are a fundamental ingredient in West African Cooking, and we love them because they deliver so much mouth-watering flavour and fragrance.
● Groundnut – essentially the peanut, also a staple base of flavour. We use this ingredient in the spice marinade for the beef, as well as for the burned groundnut milkshake for one of the desserts.
● Dried Shrimp / Crayfish – the base for seasoning meats and broths adding deep umami to a lot of the dishes.
● Fermented Locust Beans – the West African equivalent to a miso or fermented black bean, these are protein rich, pungent and fundamental to creating the base of flavour for rich stews.
● Red Cowpea – a small variety of dried pea with a nutty flavour, we slow cook them with coconut, coco, burnt onion and chillies to serve as a comforting side dish.
● Benne Seed – a sweet, nuttier variety of Sesame, this plant is ubiquitous in Nigeria, used highly in Southern cooking and in some Northern Nigerian recipes.