Leaving one’s house to go out to eat should be an experience, in whatever form, going out to eat should be an experience different from what you can have at home. For months now, I have wondered if there are any culinary experiences or restaurants that I have yet to experience in Lagos, and it turns out that the answer was yes. I had heard of Tarragon from several friends and it is one of the restaurants that I really wanted to check out before the end of the year.
I had the opportunity to go to Tarragon a few weeks ago, for a belated birthday dinner celebration with a friend. I must say I was really excited because I had only heard good things about the place. Firstly, Tarragon Culinary Academy is a consultancy, lifestyle, recreational and academic organization that offers first-class culinary and pastry arts training, hospitality service training, hospitality service consultancy operations and management. They embrace global and ethnic techniques while encouraging their students to express their artistic personalities through culinary art. Tarragon is founded and led by Chef Patron – Tiyan Alile and is the creative Dining Space and Culinary Academy. The restaurant insists on not being called a restaurant but a dining experience and I now understand why. Tarragon offers an exquisite a la Carte Menu and a Chef’s Tasting Menu designed by Chef Tiyan’s team as well as a live demonstration cooking. The menu exemplifies fundamental French and Nigerian techniques which have been redefined to suit modern palates and epitomizes the creativity which Chef Tiyan encourages her students to assume. The Tarragon brand is replicated in the restaurants which is operated and managed as a means to raise the dining standards in Nigeria. What I find cool is that the food in the restaurant is cooked by the culinary students led by head chef Paul Dylan Pieterse which gives a whole new meaning to putting work into practice. Essentially the restaurant serves as a hands-on training facility for aspiring chefs, waiters and service staff.
Tarragon offers an unmatched fine dining experience. As opposed to casual eateries, cafes or family-style restaurants, fine dining caters to an upscale clientele and provides the highest quality of food. A fine dining restaurant has a formal atmosphere, is almost always a sit-down restaurant, and has a fancier menu than most restaurants. Located in Ikoyi, Lagos Tarragon is known amongst Lagosians and Nigerians at large, as one of the top restaurants in Nigeria.
As we drove onto Awolowo road into 50 Raymond Njoku Street I kept hoping that the experience would surpass my expectations, because in my mind I had already put Tarragon on a pedestal due to all the good reviews I had gotten from friends. As we pulled into the parking space, we were warmly greeted by the security guard who said: “Welcome to Tarragon”. I found this endearing because I believe that hospitality should start as soon as you arrive on the premises. One word to describe the decor at Tarragon would be stunning. The décor is intentional and classy. The lights were dimly lit and the atmosphere, very inviting. We were seated and a waiter came over with a menu. There’s genuine warmth to this opulent-looking restaurant, and the Haute cuisine-style menus are even more impressive to taste than they are to look at. I was really hungry, so I was worried about actually getting full because often the assumption is that fine dining equals small portions.
As I pondered over the menu I decided to have the smoked potato and cheddar soup, croutons. This soup was really delicious, just creamy enough yet had accents of flavour that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, nevertheless the combination was simply divine. As my main meal, I had the chef composition: chicken confit potato, sauteed sweet corn, with sauce supreme. It is a breaded chicken that is carefully cooked and plated to perfection. For dessert, I opted with the apricot pudding which is an apricot based pudding with apple salsa. The apricot was the icing on top of the meal, it was rich yet not too sweet and each bite was heavenly. My guest had the Esacbeche of red snapper, celery, and apple to start and the pumpkin risotto, crispy sage as their main and the dark chocolate for dessert which is dark chocolate, hazelnut cream, salted caramel, and chocolate nest.
I had the opportunity to meet the new head chef whose name is Paul Dylan Pieterse. A chef who says he found his love and talent for food and cuisine at the age of 26. One day he decided to make food for his family who really enjoyed it and later decided to get experience at a country lodge which led him to get qualified at Warwick chef school in Cape Town. His love for travel and food has enabled him to cook in different parts of the world from Mauritius, South Africa, and as of two months ago, he moved to Nigeria to be the head chef. He specializes in French cuisine and slow-cooked food and is also the instructor at the Culinary Academy. I asked him what people can expect at Tarragon in the coming months and he said: “Tarragon aims to be the best restaurant in Nigeria, we want people to expect change and experience an unmatched fine dining experience, we want people to forget everything and come have a good time”.
To my surprise, while the portions are smaller fine dining portions the food is very filling. I was very full after leaving the restaurant which is an indication that the ingredients. I almost did not want to take out my phone to take pictures because I just wanted to live in the moment and enjoy the experience. The dining area is visionary and it is obvious that they were trying to achieve a certain look and feel with the décor and ambience of the restaurant. The restaurant seats exactly 22 people on the table and chairs and also has space for about 6 at the bar. Recommendations are a necessity in order to avoid any disappointment. I recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants to experience out of this world service and hospitality, those that see value in fine dining experiences and want a very intimate and exclusive place to dine. The food and drinks are of very high quality and the service is the best service I have experienced in a Lagos restaurant. They have monthly themed events like Jazz night. Just call to make an inquiry.
The restaurant even sent us a thank you email after we left. I found that to be a great finishing touch. I will definitely be back and encourage you all to experience this fine dining experience.
0817 762 6031
(This review was done by Lehle Balde on behalf of BusinessDay Media)
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday in Lagos, after a long work week most people look forward to Saturdays. There is a saying that goes ‘Saturdays are for weddings’ and that might be true for some, but for me, Saturdays are usually for relaxation and if time permits, catching up friends usually over lunch or dinner.Read More : Maison Kayser a taste of Paris, in LagosThis edition of Culinary Delights’ is the 17th one and I would like to thank all our avid readers, who read the column every Friday and provide constructive feedback. At this point, I feel as though I have been to or at least heard about the majority of restaurants in Lagos, so discovering this weeks’ restaurant, Vanilla Moon restaurant came with an inexplicable kind of excitement. The pictures of the restaurant alone oozes an atmosphere of grandeur.I scrolled through Instagram and as I usually do and stopped by the My Crawl App page, a digital platform that shares events places and things to do in Lagos. The platform was created by Bukky Karibi Whyte, CEO of Robert Taylor Media. As I was scrolling through my Crawl app’s Instagram page, I came across Vanilla Moon, a brand new European restaurant in Victoria Island. What attracted me to the place was how bright and fresh the pictures looked online. I believe that it is fundamental for restaurants to have an online presence. Let’s face it, the world has become a digital place and increasingly people look online for vital decision making. The majority of places I go to are either recommendations from friends or online. Restaurants that are not maximizing their digital audience are missing out on huge chunks of the economy.
On this beautiful Saturday, I had lunch plans with my very good friend Basheer Tosin Ashafa. BTA is the MD/CEO of Cantagali Limited, a full-service, a niche-oriented and growing business group comprising companies such as Cantagali Limited (real estate marketing, property development, and facility management); and Triequity Capital (Investment & Finance). Basheer is very intelligent and our conversations are always very mentally stimulating.
As I entered the restaurant I had a big smile on my face because the outdoor decor was stunning.
The building reminds me of a modern french maisonette, reminiscent of a building you could easily find in Bordeau France. Let’s just say Vanilla Moon made a great first impression. It’s the kind of space that gives you a feeling of happiness and joy just by being surrounded by the design and aesthetic. I have noticed a trend that a lot of new restaurants are incorporating green grass carpets and flowers for their outdoor dining areas. It was clear from the moment I walked in that this wasn’t your average restaurant. The ambiance was soothing, the décor was spectacular, and the staff was unpretentiously courteous.
As I made my way inside I was greeted by a hostess who showed me to my table that Basheer was already seated on. As soon as I sat down they came to take my drink order and shortly after they took my food order. I wasn’t sure what to order so as usual, I asked the waitress to come and make a recommendation. As the restaurant is new she called the chef who is a gentleman from India, and while speaking with him I found out he had recently relocated to Lagos for the job. He recommended that I have the petit de Pollo, which is chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes with creamy mushroom sauce. I had it with mashed potatoes and spinach. It was really filling and tasty. I finished the whole plate and was extremely satisfied.
Basheer had rib eye steak medium rare with mashed potatoes and spinach as well. It looked like 250g of deliciousness, I almost wished I ordered the same thing as him.
Here is what he had to say
“It was clear from the moment I walked in that this wasn’t your average restaurant. The ambience was soothing, the décor was spectacular, and the staff was unpretentiously courteous. Need I say that the drink had a taste of elegance and I could bet that it came from the best mixologist in town, who took his time to recommend the various drinks. I particularly enjoyed the chef and his team taking out time to engage us and get direct feedback on the quality of the meal. The only downside for me was the few staff that around the restaurant, which seemed a bit awkward. Overall, I had a great evening and I recommend Vanilla Moon to anyone who has great taste”.
Vanilla Moon is located in a leafy by-lane of Victoria Island, Lagos. The menu is curated with an array of European dishes raging from a tapas menu that can take you to any outdoor Spanish market, fresh-house made pasta, steak room, sharing boards with Charcuterie, Sliders & Fondue. There is also the ruffle Mac & Cheese, Vanilla Moon Lobster Thermidor, and Twinkle Twinkle Tiramisu.
The ambiance is perfect for a night out with friends, a date night or even a weekend brunch with loved ones. Equally works for outdoor/indoor dining.
Contact: Instagram: @VanillaMoonLagos
Petit de Pollo N6000
Rib Eye N 14 000
2 Mocktails N 7000
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
The Grill By Delis is located on Karimu Kotun off Akin Adesola in Victoria Island. The restaurant has been around for a while and as of last year, was taken over by a new management team. As I drove into the restaurant, I immediately noticed the outdoor section, which is a pleasant seating area filled with green plants, luscious blooming flowers, and a large crystal clear blue pool. A botanical garden is what describes the outside section. There are plenty of beautiful picture worthy backdrops that I took full advantage of. There is also a well-designed indoor space that is quite classy and has exquisite African art hung on the walls. I appreciated the décor, it is tasteful and not too loud. The room was well lit and the ambiance was calm yet chic. It was a Tuesday evening so the place was just starting to fill up.
I was met by a friendly waitress who asked me if I wanted to sit outdoors or indoors. I am usually an outdoor person but because of the luscious plants, the garden in the evening is prone to insects so I chose to sit indoors. I had made a reservation the night before but did not particularly like the table given to me because it was too close to the kitchen, so after I identified where I wanted to sit, I asked to be moved and the manager was happy to seat me at my requested table which overlooked the garden indoors. I think its really important to request for your preferred seat if it is available because going out to eat should be an experience beyond the food.
I took a look at the menu and the first thing that caught my eye was the oysters, so I decided to order some while I waited for my guest. The oysters were surprisingly fresh and tasty. I have never had oysters in Lagos before and they most definitely didn’t disappoint. Oysters are definitely an acquired taste, being from Senegal which is known for its fresh seafood, oysters are a part of many people’s culinary pallets. Up there with caviar and foie gras as one of the world’s ultimate luxury foods, oysters don’t look much from the outside, but the flesh of these bivalved molluscs is tastefully succulent and delicately flavored, varying in colour from pale grey to beige, surrounded by a clear juice.
My guest on this occasion was Vimbai Mutinhiri, who is a seasoned journalist, talk show host, media personality, former big brother Africa contestant and founder of the Vimbai.com which is a pan African community of dreamers, thinkers and game changers. Vimbai is someone whose work I admire greatly so it was a pleasure to have her as a dinner guest. She is originally from Zimbabwe and has a very pan African presence so we definitely had lots of things to talk about.
After deciphering through the menu, I opted for the Veal chop with mashed potatoes and Vimbai had the grilled Salmon with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Veal has been an important ingredient in Italian, French and other Mediterranean cuisines from ancient times. The veal is often in the form of cutlets, such as the Italian cotoletta or the famous Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel. Veal is lower in fat than many types of meats, so care must be taken in preparation to ensure that it does not become tough. I will say that veal is much different than regular beef or steak, still tasty but quite different in texture. The serving was large, so in the attempt to not waste food I asked them to pack my leftovers.
Here is what Vimbai had to say about her experience;
“Beyond the friendly staff, and ocean-fresh oysters, I thoroughly loved the understated elegant decor at the Grill by Deli’s. The interior is intimate and modern, with a touch of Africa. I was a little disappointed that when I ordered my salmon I wasn’t given an option as to how I would like it done, but the yummy Bee-Hive cocktail went a long way in keeping me in good spirits”.
Overall our experience was fun, we were there for 3 hours and did not feel the time go by, the food came out in a timely manner and the staff pleasant. I suggest you make reservations before you go to avoid any disappointments. The space is perfect for private events, date night, an intimate dinner or lunch and is ideal for nature lovers.
They have an extensive drink menu as well as an impressive dessert menu which I will come back for, I just didn’t have any space left!
Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @bdculinarydelights. See you next week!
6 oysters- N9000
Veal – N12 800
Salmon- N12 800
There are always challenges that go along with being an ambitious hardworking professional. Chances are that you’re always faced with long days at the office, tight deadlines, meetings, and travel. Have you noticed though that there are some colleagues of yours that still seem to thrive and perform exceptionally well irrespective of any obstacle or stressors they face at work? Sometimes one key difference between you and that super productive colleague boils down to who is making better dietary choices. Nonetheless, your food choices matter and some dietary habits may be actually zapping you of energy and leading you to be less productive at work.
In order to stay pumped up and energized throughout the course of the work day, keep in mind some habits you will want to eliminate as well as those to incorporate in your life.
Never skip out on drinking water! Water has a critical role in many of the body’s physiological processes. Nonetheless, drinking insufficient amounts of water translates into a lowered energy state, whereby one may feel weak, lethargic, and experience a reduced level of cognitive functioning. Stay hydrated throughout the course of the day and don’t ignore any signs that the body gives indicating that you may be dehydrated.
Say no to Ultra Processed Foods/Junk Foods
Processed foods are those that have been industrially packaged or modified from its original natural state such as chips, frozen meals, canned meat, packaged cakes or desserts, candy, etc . It may seem obvious to avoid such items, but the reality is that for so many busy professionals the day is so fast paced that it seems more convenient to just grab a bag of chips or another accessible unhealthy snack when you get hungry. You must realize though that such options have little to no nutritional value and may be filled with trans fats, preservatives, additives, salt, and sugars that are quite unhealthy. Eating a lot of these kinds of food, not only contributes to lethargy and fatigue, but it also increases one’s risk for cardiovascular disease and even obesity.
Don’t over do it on caffeine
Far too many professionals are dependent on coffee to give them the immediate boost of energy they desire to get through the work day. Coffee in moderation does have some health benefits, however, consuming excess caffeine may lead to serious problems with anxiety, insomnia, loss of focus, irritability, and even heart palpitations. You may consider switching to green tea which contains less caffeine than coffee, but still has a sufficient amount to provide some energy. Green tea is also highly antioxidant rich and contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect and may aid in reducing anxiety throughout a stressful day.
Seek out your “brain food”
This means to indulge more in those power foods that can help nourish the brain and can keep you sharp while on the job. Some foods that have been shown to promote brain health and improve memory include berries, fish with omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, tomatoes, and leafy green veggies like kale or spinach.
Eat a nutritious breakfast to jumpstart your day
You may think that mornings are too busy to make time for breakfast, however starting the morning with a nutritious breakfast is key. In fact, some research has linked routinely skipping breakfast with an increased risk of cardiovascular related death. So carve out time for breakfast and ensure that the meal includes “good carbohydrates” that will sustain your energy levels throughout the day. Some food items to consider include whole grain oats, bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, and even greek yogurt.
Always Maintain Good Portion Control
As a hardworking professional you are likely always in a crunch for time, so perhaps you use that brief moment you have available to devour as much food as possible. Don’t fall victim to finishing an entire pack of your favorite snack in one sitting or going for multiple servings of a meal being served at the company event. Remember, the goal is to nourish your body with just the right amount of nutrients to keep you healthy, focused, and productive at work. Avoid over saturating the body with unwanted excess calories, as this can leave you feeling sluggish and tired at work.
Here is the takeaway: You must eat smart and healthy to adequately fuel your body and allow yourself to be as productive as possible on the job.
(This article was written by Lehlé Baldé for BusinessDay Media . Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe ,a Nigerian-American medical doctor and health expert, writer, and health contributor, also contributed to this article. Dr. Nesochi has been featured and interviewed about a wide range of health-related topics by popular media outlets including CNN, Vogue, BBC, Forbes, CNBC Africa, and more, learn more at supermodelmd.com)
When I came across the Atmosphere restaurant online, the images made me excited to check it out. As I made my inquiries I found out the restaurant was not yet opened, however flipping through their Instagram page one would think the restaurant is fully open and functioning. I was excited to know more about this place, that looked so lively on Instagram. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the restaurant is owned by serial entrepreneur and television producer Tola Odunsi.
It turns out that the reason why the restaurant seemed like it was open online, is because while the restaurant is fully finished the images I saw were from a tasting they had in order to get feedback on their menu from future customers. I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out this Atmosphere and also give feedback on my experience.
On this occasion, I went with a woman who I really like and admire, Bolanle Olukanni. She is a media personality, journalist and founder of God’s Wives Foundation a self-worth empowerment center/NGO. Bolanle and I have one thing in common, we both used to live and go to school in Kenya at some point in our lives. We ended up bumping into Sharon Ooja who you some of you might know from the television series Skinny Girl in Transit, Men’s Club and other amazing projects.
The ambiance at the Atmosphere reminds me of a modern rooftop botanical garden. Upon entry, you see the beautiful green leafed decoration and bright lights. The vibe at the Atmosphere is very chic. The space is bright and very spacious. What I love about this rooftop is that it’s breezy and perfect for stargazing, it also has a seating area, which has a giant LED Screen which seems ideal for weekend sport matches and intimate movie screenings. The restaurant is very large, in fact, the Atmosphere has several seating options, two indoors and two main outdoor terrace seating areas.
We chose to sit at the far end of the restaurant outdoors. The breeze was pleasant and the view of Lekki which can be rather chaotic during the day, at night is surprisingly relaxing. The menu was brought over and I decided to have the surf and turf which was served with tiger shrimp, some steak and pasta noodles. The food was tasty. I remember being exceptionally hungry that day, so the waiter brought over some house suya, which was the cherry on top of my dinner.
Bolanle had the lasagna and she really enjoyed it, I tasted some and it was good, the perfect combination of cheese, tomatoes, mince-meat, and lasagna leaves. Sharon had the grilled fish, she says it’s her favorite thing on the menu.
Here is what Bolanle had to say;
“Rooftop restaurants always give a feeling of euphoria. The combination of the view and breeze is perfect. It was very trendy and had a great vibe. I loved my Lasagna and enjoyed all of my drinks. It’s a combination of Jozi and New York in one and I am going to become a regular there”-Bolanle Olukanni.
The menu at the Atmosphere is extensive, you can pretty much everything from a simple burger to pasta, chicken and seafood-based dishes, African dishes as well as continental. They have an array of signature drinks mocktails and cocktails.
The food came out on time, it was fresh and tasty. The staff is also very professional and kind. I liked the fact that they had a full staff present despite not being open. Why management made this decision? Because they want their staff to learn on the job and want to be able to give feedback openly. The management is clearly very hands-on and pays extra attention to detail which is reassuring as this is important for the restaurant business.
I’m looking forward to coming back again when they are fully open in July 2019. This place will definitely be the next hot spot in Lekki, it is perfect for a large group dinner, hangouts, daily lunches, business meetings and much more. To put it simply… it’s a vibe.
Who knows… while enjoying the vibe, food, and atmosphere you might run into your favorite celebrity, as the Atmosphere has been visited by many well-known faces. Just take a look at their Instagram page. Let me know about your experience when you go.
In the meantime follow us on Instagram @bdculinarydelights
Chef SIA, Simisola Idowu Ajibodu is a budding chef and entrepreneur based in London, England and Lagos, Nigeria. Her mantra, “To Cook Is To Be Happy,” captures her passion for creativity and fusion of great food.
Trained by the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu London, Chef Sia, with a long-term focus on opening her own restaurant, is currently living a life of respect, innovation, and passion for both people and food. As a Chef, her aim is to reinvent the image of Nigerian flavors using fresh produce and creating a new avenue for all foods to coexist.
It’s not every day you get a proper Chef hosting a dinner in Lagos, so I was excited to go to a private tasting a few days before her roundtable along with some amazingly talented Nigerian culinary gaints like Chef Benedict, Chef Alex, Chef Duharte, Chef Obehi amongst others as well as food writers and bloggers.
As I arrived at the Ikoyi residential address, I was excited to taste the mouth-watering food I had previously seen on the menu. The tasting was an opportunity to taste the food items on the menu and give feedback in time for the actual roundtable.
The dinner started shortly after we arrived and after a brief introduction of the menu by chef Sia, the dinner was off to a good start. On the menu was Panko fried plantains with rodo jam and oxtail pepper soup, which is slow cooked oxtail in a pepper soup gravy with ehuru pie crust. The next dish was fish banga with poached fish which was really tasty. I really enjoyed how rich and balanced the dish was. The flavor permeated through each inch of the fish. The next meal was the rosemary lamb which was rosemary tuo with penja roasted lamb. I like how we got to taste different meals that all complimented each other. We ended the meal with the Chef ‘s crumble which is mixed fruits topped with lavender gari crumble and a petit fours which is mint bliss jelly and Zobo truffle. Overall I found the food experience unique and the food tasty.
I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Sia and find out about her passion for food and culinary experiences. Excerpts
What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was much younger, let’s say between the ages of 6-8, I was fascinated by baking and cooking. I watched my grandma and mother cooking and was always transfixed. Fast forward to boarding school, my favorite class was Food Technology and I knew then that I wanted to be a chef. 3 degrees and a few jobs later, I decided to go to culinary school and I have not looked back
How do you describe your cuisine?
This is an easy answer for me. I attended Le Cordon Bleu London, where they teach primarily French cuisine. I was quite motivated to use the techniques, I learned to recreate Nigerian dishes. Our traditional dishes are bold and flavor so there is no reason why we can’t re-imagine the way they are presented. For instance, our Jollof Rice can be turned into a rice cracker that is served with ponmo mousse and rodo oil. Why not if not!
Is the chef business profitable in Nigeria?
If you are a well-known brand, guests are more willing to want to experience your cuisine. My long-term goal is to open an exclusive modern dining restaurant feeding 15-20 people with a long tasting menu, showcasing locally grown food that is in season. I do hope it is profitable but I am happy for my passion to be experienced through food.
How has your experience at Ikoyi the popular Nigerian restaurant in London, helped you grow as a chef?
Ikoyi has been a wonderful experience. It has allowed my mind to broaden about the wide potential that the West African ingredient has. Having worked in other restaurants such as Cut at 45 Park Lane, I can boldly say that Ikoyi has been the best learning experience.
Is the world ready for West African cuisine to become mainstream, similar to the way Italian and American cuisine is?
East African Cuisine (Ethiopian for instance) is fairly popular. I would say right now it is a novelty. A one time experience with bold flavors. It is going to take a little time (with the help of eager foodies) to take our food to the world!
What is your favorite Nigerian dish?
Haha, this is a very difficult answer to give. I would say anything with plantain from gizdodo to mosa to boli to fried & boiled.
How do your build your clientele?
Engaging guests can be difficult especially when attempting to sell a service related to food. There can be a tendency to solely focus on social media, however, that does not always translate to guests reserving a seat. I rely a lot on recommendations and over time have built relationships with loyal guests.
This culinary experience was different than just going to a restaurant to eat, it brings a different flair to your average dinner party and I look forward to booking Chef Sia for an experience or attending the next round table in the near future
To book an experience with Chef Sia contact
Rating is 4.5 out of 5
Total- N25,000 per person
La Taverna is a Chilean, Italian and Spanish inspired restaurant located in Victoria Island on a secluded street called Balarabe Musa Crescent.
Chef Cristian Duhalde Diaz, owner of the restaurant has 23 years of cooking experience across several countries including Italy, Spain, South Africa, and Chile. The restaurant recently celebrated 6 years of operation and in Lagos that is quite a milestone, considering the turnaround of restaurants in the city.
The name La Taverna means cave in Spanish so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Interestingly enough, when I ask my friends what their favorite restaurant in Lagos is, 4 times out of 10 the answer is La Taverna, therefore I was curious to find out why. The first time I went to La Taverna was with my friend O’tega Ogra, who works at BUA group. Ote considers La Taverna as his favorite restaurant in town, so I was excited to check it out.
The outside aesthetic of the restaurant is simple, which intrigued me to see what was on the inside. The interior has a very homely feel to it and as soon as I walked in, I understood why so many people I know say it is their favorite place to eat. I’m learning that most diners seek a wonderful, stress-free culinary experience but also want to feel comfortable and at home and that is exactly what La Taverna provides.
La Taverna has a plethora of menu options ranging from authentic Italian Pizza to all the different kinds of pasta you can imagine: Fettuccine, Alfredo, Penne.. the list goes on. There is also a good variety of meat, seafood and poultry bases dishes. I had a hard time picking what to eat but opted for the chicken Milanese which was very tasty and equally pleasing on the eye. The decoration of my meal was so beautiful, I almost didn’t want to eat it. O’tega opted for the seafood pasta. My first time at La Taverna I found that the service was good, the sous chef made recommendations on what to eat, which I appreciated. We came on a Tuesday which was rather quiet, but perfect for dinner conversation.
Interestingly enough, I came back to La Taverna the following week with my friend Chinonso Arubayi, who is a media personality and the founder of Look Art Me which is a cosmetic brand that women around Nigeria are starting to love. I came back because I enjoyed my first experience so much that I wanted to explore what else was on the menu. The food at a Taverna is carefully and tastefully made. Each bite excites ones taste buds and the food is very well marinated with the right amount of spices. Chinonso and I opted for a chicken pizza which in my opinion is the best pizza in Lagos because it it is traditionally made. Too many fast food restaurants have ruined my pizza experiences, as they often sell commercial pizzas that don’t taste good and are overly thick. Here is Chinonso’s take
“ I love the ambiance, it’s very cozy and homey. I appreciated the clean creative plating and food presentation. The food tasted as good as it looked. We had continental/Foreign meals which i enjoyed because it tasted continental yet warmly spiced to satisfy my acquired taste for spicy food”.
This time, Chef Diaz was around and he took some time to tell us some heartwarming stories about his move to Nigeria 6 years ago and his passion for food and hospitality. He now calls Lagos home and is not going anywhere any time soon. He relocated 6 years ago, opened the restaurant and has fallen in love with Nigeria. It was great to see the passion he exuded as he described the various dishes. The recipes at La Taverna each have a special story, some ingredients are from Chile, some from Italy and others are locally sourced. He kept going to each table to ensure everyone was fine and took time to chat with the guests, which is something I don’t see too often. For some restaurant owners, it’s a business but for Chef Diaz, it’s a lifestyle and it is evident.
La Taverna has both indoor and outdoor seating areas, it is popular amongst both local and expatriate communities and often organizes weekly themed nights. The restaurant’s popular pizza meal deal is on every Wednesday and Sunday. On Thursdays, it’s ladies night at La Taverna! The ambiance is calm yet exciting. The service is good, the servers are efficient and friendly and the food came out in no time. They also have a large variety of drink options for those interested.
I definitely will be making La Taverna a regular on my list of go-to places and I am glad to have discovered this restaurant. If you get the chance check out La Taverna, let us know about your experience.
Follow us on Instagram @bdculinarydelights
Photo credit to Wale Kadiri
Total for both visits
Chicken Milanese – N5500
Seafood Pasta – N5500
Pizza – N4500
Penne Pasta -N5500
Calamari Ajillo- N4000
N 24 000
( This review was done by Lehlé Balde for BusinessDay Media)
Founded by Eric Kayser in Paris in 1996, Maison Kayser is an authentic artisanal French Boulangerie, meaning that bread and other baked goods are mixed and baked on-site all day long.
Recognized as one of the most talented artisan bakers of his generation, Eric Kayser built his reputation on his passion for bread, the quality of his products and his incredible skill to combine authenticity and innovation in the world of French artisanal bakeries in cities like Paris, London, Dakar and now Lagos. Eric Kayser Lagos opened its doors late last year and was a welcome addition to the budding Lagos restaurant scene. Located in Victoria Island, on Bishop Aboyade, a street in the cosmopolitan neighborhood of Victoria Island, the new bakery/ bistro seems to be the new hot spot for pastry and gourmet lovers around town. Having visited the well-known French bakery/bistro in Dakar and Paris, I was excited to see what the Lagos franchise had to offer.
Maison Kayser is known around the world for delicious and authentic French pastries and gourmet food. As a Senegalese I appreciate pastries, as it is a part of most people’s daily food back home.
My typical breakfast is often a croissant and some tea and some baguette with strawberry jam and butter. This is due to French influence during colonisation, and I must say it’s one of the good things they left behind.
While there are many bakeries/boulangerie’s around town that have attempted to replicate an authentic French croissant, in my croissant hunt around Lagos… most have fallen short. In fact, I have only found two places in Lagos to buy an authentic croissant and Maison Kayser is one of the two places.
For this edition of Culinary Delights, I visited Maison Kayser with a friend of mine who works in broadcast media. Brunch is my favorite meal of the day, so naturally, I was really excited to catch up over delicious food. Upon entry, the vibe at Maison Kayser exudes modernity, bright lights, and is very spacious. The ceilings are large and have a very inviting feel about it. The restaurant is separated into 3 sections, an indoor seating area, a terrace seating area and bar located in the center of the restaurant. To the right of the main entrance, you will see an impressive selection of pastry and bread options as well gelato. As we made our way our waitress brought over the menu. There are so many delicious and healthy options, so I decided to help my friend out and order for the both of us. I decided to have some freshly squeezed orange juice while I decided what we would eat. The menu is Is easy to read and the options are clearly laid out. I find the menu simple, classic and not too busy and the great things is that there is something for everyone.
After some serious deliberation, I opted for the quiche as my starter which is a savory dish consisting of a pastry crust filled with eggs, milk or cream, and cheese, meat, seafood or vegetables. Quiche can be served hot or cold. It is part of French cuisine but is also popular in other countries.
My guest and I shared the quiche which was very filling. I almost could have left my order at just the quiche but for the purpose of this column I decided to have the Chicken Milanese as my main meal which is crunchy panko bread crumbs, salty parmesan cheese and a tender, juicy chicken breast served with a side of penne pasta. The food tasted very fresh and was equally as easy on the eye. My guest opted for the fillet de poisson which French is grilled fish. My guests’ food looked beautiful and tasted very nice too. I love the effort and detail they put into the food at Maison Kayser. The food is beautifully made and is very picture-worthy. The entire aesthetic of the restaurant makes you want to snap snap snap!
The food came out in a timely manner and the service was excellent. The waitress was courteous and knowledgeable on the various options.
We also loved the fresh juice options and kept ordering more.
Maison Kayser is the perfect weekend brunch or lunch spot in Victoria Island, you can come here during the week for a quiet meal by yourself or for a business meeting, or even for a birthday lunch. You can also pop in and order your pastries and gelato to go, specifically for your home parties or events. I often pick up pastries for weekend breakfasts at home.
At Maison Kayser, the management and staff are visible and hands on, which is what I find makes the place work so well. I definitely recommend Maison Kayser.
Let me know about your experience, when you visit.
Follow us on Instagram @bdculinarydelights
4.5 out of 5
Chicken Milanese N4500
Poisson Grillé N7000
2 Orange juice N 1800
Pineapple juice N1800
(This Review was done by Lehlé Baldé for BusinessDay Media)
I would like to start this column by wishing everyone observing the Holy month of Ramadan a fruitful fasting period. Ramadan Mubarak!
In every cosmopolitan city in the world, you are likely to find an Ethiopian restaurant,from Toronto to New York to Johannesburg, Ethiopian cuisine has been one of Africa’s biggest exports. I am excited to tell you about a different kind of African cuisine in this edition of Culinary Delights’ cuisine and culinary experience from the corners of East Africa.
The land of the Amharic language, Ethiopia. Ethiopia is known for many amazing things, the world best long distance runners, Ethiopian airlines, coffee, and food amongst other things.
When I first discovered ‘Memories of Ethiopia’ I was pleasantly surprised that an authentically Ethiopian restaurant could do well in Lagos just the same way other Ethiopian restaurants are successful in other cosmopolitan cities. It is encouraging that African cuisine is making its away across various African countries. It’s the true essence of Pan africanism being able to enjoy different aspects of our diverse continent freely. Memories of Ethiopia offers a true culinary and cultural experience and as luck may have it, they are having a popup stand at La Taverna in Victoria Island. Having tasted this culinary experience about 5 times, I wholeheartedly recommend this pop up happening on Sunday, May 12th at 1 pm and 7 pm.
The main dish is called Injera,the most popular dish on the menu, is a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture that almost every household in Ethiopia will have every day. Teff flour is the main ingredient of Injera. Like a sourdough starter, the flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days which makes it have a mild sour taste. After the fermentation,it is mixed with wheat and millet and baked into large flat pancakes. Similar to a French crêpe, the Injera is poured onto the baking surface, rather than rolled out.
The bottom surface of the injera, which touches the heating surface, will have a relatively smooth texture, while the top will become porous. This porous structure allows the injera to be a good bread for scooping up sauces and dishes. Injera is best served with various meat sauces or vegetarian sauces.
While Ethiopian food may be different from most Nigerian dishes, I believe food should be an adventure so I invite you to join me at the Memories of Ethiopia pop up this Sunday at La Taverna Restaurant in Victoria Island this Sunday, May 12th to truly get a taste of Ethiopian cuisine. You can find the details in the flyer below. See you there!