Eat this: Akoko, a contemporary take on West African food

This new restaurant will be led by MasterChef: The Professionals finalist William JM Chilila, who will use British ingredients to bring a modern take to the cuisine.

2 September 2019
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  • The Gist: Classic West African cuisine plus dishes with a modern twist
  • The Chef:  William JM Chilila
  • Location: 21 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 3LP
  • Food in 5 words: Bringing sophistication to street food
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How did we get here?

It’s a project from a new venture called the British West African group, with its first restaurant being led by head chef William JM Chilila, who was a finalist on last year’s Masterchef: The Professionals.

Chilila has experience working in restaurants such as Galvin at Windows, The Montagu at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, The Langham Hotel and the Orrery in Marlyebone, where he has spent almost the last decade. He was also the youngest chef ever to be included in the 30 under 30 Zagat list at the age of 19. 

The new restaurant, called Akoko, will open in October and offer a unique window on the still relatively unknown West African cuisine in a polished and relaxed setting, according to the group.

What’s different about it?

Akoko, which means ‘time’ and also ’the first’ in Yoruba will offer bold dishes that combine British ingredients with authentic spices.

The menu will include popular West African classics such as the smoked jollof rice and grilled aged beef suya with caramelised onion.

Suya is a street food snack in West Africa in the form of a spicy meat skewer, which is generally made with beef, ram or chicken, and originates from the ethnic group the Hausa people. Traditionally, it’s seasoned with ground peanuts and a mix of salt, pepper, paprika and chilli pepper.

The wine list will be curated by Sommelier Honey Spencer’s new consultancy Spencer & Smelskaya.

The new restaurant enters a trend towards elevating West African cuisine in the capital that was kicked off by Ikoyi, which was awarded a Michelin star this year. There was also a move to put products from the region into retail.

You’ve got to try…

Barbecued baby aubergine maafe. This is a staple peanut or groundnut stew in West Africa. Usually it’s made with beef, sweet potato and carrots, but Akoko is tapping into the plant-based trend and putting a veg spin on this dish.

Sparkie also likes…

Smoked goat consommé. Taking this French method of making a clear soup from a richly flavoured stock but using a meat common to the cuisine.

Go if…

You want elevated West African food without the Michelin star prices.

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