Through the help of the internet, years before I ever imagined I would be working in Lagos, I read an article about a luxury concept store called Alara. There was something captivating about the bright orange and creative exterior designed by renowned architect David Adjaye.
Alara, meaning “the wondrous performer” created by Reni Folawiyo is dedicated to design, fashion, art, food, and culture. From a global perception perspective, it would surprise me if there is any restaurant as highly regarded as Nok by Alara in Nigeria. The concept store and restaurant has gained international acclaim from notable publications such as the New York Times, Vogue and The Wall Street Journal.
In simple terms, NOK by Alara is a contemporary African restaurant, the culinary extension of Reni Folawiyo’s concept to celebrate and elevate all aspects of African lifestyle. When I think of Lagos one of the things that immediately come to mind besides the yellow danfos, traffic and the Nerve Centre statues at Maryland bus stop, when it comes to restaurants, Nok by Alara represents the budding culinary scene of Lagos to me.
Located on 12A Akin Olugbade Street in Victoria Island, LAGOS, Nok by Alara is nestled within a lush bamboo-framed garden, NOK is an intimate dining space displaying contemporary art and design from all over the continent. Nok by Alara is known for its exciting fusion of flavor of African dishes with a twist of innovative presentation and a flare of luxury.
NOK has been able to perfect the art of reinventing classics of African cooking. Nok has the unmatched technique of bringing out the luxury and delicious flavors in so many of the wonderful foods on our continent. The menu at Alara is simply exciting. You can find options such as Grilled Calamari Suya, Oxtail Hotpot, Poisson Braisé, Lamb Mafe with Peanut Sauce, Jerk Chicken with Ghanaian Rice & Beans, Waaky and much more.
On this occasion, I went for Sunday brunch with my friends Bada Akintunde Johnson, Country manager Viacom Nigeria and Tomi Wale Creative Director Get up Inc. The only menu available at our time of arrival was the brunch menu, and even just the brunch menu is the type of menu that has you wanting to order absolutely everything. After much deliberation, Bada and I opted for the Whole Tilapia with Akassa (Eko). The meal was just delicious and filling. The mix of rich flavors and seasoning was just right and the pepper hit the right spot. I also had eko for the first time which reminded me of South African pap. The combination of the two was exactly what I needed. Apart from the delicious food I highly appreciated the presentation of the food and the accents of the table settings and cutlery holders. Every detail of the restaurant is tastefully pulled together to contribute to the fine dining experience. This is what Bada has to say about his food;
“It was a sophisticated but richly deep African food experience. The authentic sweetness of traditional Nigerian dishes elevated to high street restaurant levels”.
Here is what Tomi had to say about his experience;
“Nok by Alara exudes an artistic look and feel. As we walked in a waiter walks up to our table with a pleasant introduction of himself. He hands over the menu and I noticed Amala. The Ibadan boy in me immediately saw that as sarcasm so flipped on. How can Amala be in this beautiful interior with simple yet elegant chandeliers dropped off a black room with desaturated images diagonally placed on the wall in symmetry? I mean, the chairs and tables here are well spaced and I see no smoke in sight! Yeah right, Amala. Bada and Lehlé went with their choices of fish and for some reason, I went back to the Amala page and told the waiter to bring it. I sipped on my water waiting for something like an out-of-the-box attempt to show up. My thoughts upon finishing my meal were ” Who turned the Amala so good? Who made the soup???” I enjoyed it. As a boy that grew up in Bodija, I was proud to know there is a new TRUE place in Lagos to eat that meal! When I was done, I started noticing new things at NOK like the colorful and beautiful crafted chairs outside, triangular orientation everywhere, the brilliant architecture to make sunlight be the major source of lighting during the day, an inspirational beauty when you present African art with a sense of excellence. It was a beautiful experience”.
Here is fun fact, Nok By Alara is the only restaurant in Lagos that serves Thiéboudienne which is the national dish of my home country of Senegal. The Thiéboudienne is so authentic, one would think it was made on the streets of Dakar. It is boldly flavored combination of fish, rice, and vegetables simmered in tomato sauce is a hearty one-pot meal. You can make it with any fish or vegetables you have on hand, including potatoes, cassava, squash or pumpkin. The rice used in Thiéboudienne is jollof rice.
Without attempting to contribute to the ongoing Jollof wars, contrary to popular belief Jollof is believed to have originated in the Senegambia region of West Africa among the Wolof people. The mouth-watering meal has traveled throughout the sub-region because of the frequent cultural exchange that goes on and is also made in Nigeria and Ghana. If you would like to taste authentic Senegalese Jollof rice then head over to Alara.
Nok by Alara represents Lagos fine dining, it is perfect for a fun weekend brunch, a dinner, drinks with It is perfect for art lovers that enjoy authentic African dishes and fine dining. I cannot recommend Nok by Alara enough!
Rating – 5 stars
Total– N23, 000
2 Tilapia with Akassa (Eko)- N13,000
Mango Chilli Mule- N3,000
Hibiscus Lemonade -N3,000