Tarragon: Dining experience not a restaurant
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.
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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)