22. Ikoyi

St James's, London

Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale run what can now be considered one of the capital’s most distinctive places to eat

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Jeremy Chan and his Nigerian-born friend and business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale launched Ikoyi in the summer of 2017 just south of Piccadilly Circus.

Named after a district in the Nigerian city Lagos, the foundation for Ikoyi’s menu is a large collection of spices with a focus on sub-Saharan West Africa. Ingredients explored include Grains of Selim, a smoky peppercorn with the scent of eucalyptus, plantains and scotch bonnet chillies, which the restaurant ferments, burns and pickles before using sparingly across its menu. The result is what Ikoyi calls its own spice-based cuisine around British micro-seasonality.

In Chan’s own word, Ikoyi brings “moments of heightened beauty reformulated for others to experience”. It’s esoteric stuff, then. But against all the odds Chan’s cerebral dishes, which focus on flavours many will have never experienced, somehow translate into dishes as accessible as they are delicious.

To eat at Ikoyi requires a leap of faith. Its multi-course £160 dinner tasting menu is served ‘blind’ based on seasonality, but sample dishes include squid, smoked scotch bonnet and fermented rice; plantain caramelised in ginger and kelp; and a blue poppy seed waffle topped with kaluga caviar and truffled angus sirloin. At £60 the lunch tasting menu is more accessibly priced but no less interesting in the flavours it brings.

Ikoyi is located in a central yet somehow out-of-the-way development just south of Piccadilly in a rather uninspiring modern glass box. But don’t let that put you off; this is a restaurant that is far from formulaic.

1 St. James’s Market, St. James', London, SW1Y 4AH

020 3583 4660

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