How London restaurant Ikoyi conquered the final frontier


Taste of London does many things for London and of course, for food in the capital. I discovered two things here this year. One of the things is the wonderful Ikoyi and its introduction of West African fine dining to London. The restaurant was founded by childhood friends Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukal. Since their opening last year the dynamic duo have gained a loyal following of food connoisseurs. I was pleased to catch up with one half of Ikoyi’s innovative team, chef Jeremy Chan, at Taste of London. We talked about how Ikoyi conquered the final frontier:

GTW: What do you find most exciting about African ingredients and how do you use them in your dishes?

JC: I love West African ingredients for their pungency, umami, bold heat and intensity. We use hundreds of different ingredients from around the globe and not only from West Africa. I strip the ingredient of it context and culture then use it in its original setting. I look at it objectively. We think of this as an academic exercise. I’m always asking new questions about old ingredients. Something that’s not been done before. For instance, we use a fermented bush mango seed in a dessert; Ogbono. It’s traditionally eaten with a meat stew in Nigeria. At Ikoyi we use it to create a sour and salty caramel akin to a whey caramel. The results are a combination of the new and the familiar.

GTW: What unusual flavour pairings have you included in your menu and how do you go about sourcing ingredients you need?

JC: That has to be coffee and octopus. The sauce is bitter, sweet, smokey and pairs well with the tender but textured Octopus. With the sourcing side, firstly I read a lot on cooking, cuisine, medicine and history of West Africa. Then I make a list of products to test based on their chemical properties as well as flavour. I then look online and speak to any contact I have in the region to put me in touch with a supplier. Often I get bags of spices brought over in suitcases!


GTW: So, the focus is on bold heat and umami. What would you say are the best examples of this on your menu for those who might need a little help choosing a dish?

JC: All of our dishes are based on concentration of umami and not always in heat. This shines through mostly with the chicken oyster dish which is glazed with fermented locust bean and smoked eel jus.

GTW: Have you been surprised by the positive reaction to Ikoyi and to West African cuisine in general? 

JC: There has been a surge in interest of African cuisine largely because sophisticated diners are always on the lookout for what is new. I think Africa has remained one of the last frontiers in food. However, it seems that the interest in African food comes with expectations and pre-judgments which makes it challenging for new expressions. Yes, of course there is interest but it seems ephemeral. In many cases it doesn’t scratch beneath the surface.

GTW: How do people who have never experienced West African food react to it?

JC: It depends on the guest. I think people who have a global mindset whose taste receptors have experience with a broad range of flavours will find our food delicious. People who have grown up in a singular culture less exposed to spice & intense umami may find our food overpowering.

GTW: What do those acquainted with West African cuisine make of it?

JC: For those acquainted with West African food, it depends if they come to the restaurant expecting West African food or not. Ultimately if you come to Ikoyi without an open mind you’re probably going to be disappointed. Our intention is to demonstrate our passion for cooking and making people feel good.

GTW: What are you most looking forward to showcasing at Taste of London and why was it important for you to be a part of it? 

JC: We wanted to be a part of Taste of London to access a broader range of guests who may have heard of Ikoyi but have yet to walk through our doors. We also liked the idea of interacting with people and talking through our concept to convey the message of Ikoyi outside of the restaurant. We also thought it would be fun for our chefs to cook in a different setting.



Ikoyi is located at: 1 Saint James’s Market, SW1Y 4AH. For more information visit:





Alyn Williams at The Westbury: Michelin-starred supper club

Aspen Room at Alyn Williams.jpgPicture it if you will, an aptly low-lit private dining room in London, a distinguished hotel, an esteemed set of guests, the finest wine and one of the greatest chefs of our time. The stage was set for what would unfold effortlessly as the most refined dining experience this year. The hotel in question? The Westbury Mayfair. The fine wine, Nyetimber. The chef, none other than the British powerhouse that is Michelin-starred Alyn Williams.


I was here to preview Alyn Williams at The Westbury and Nyetimber’s exclusive Michelin-starred supper club. As I took my seat at this exquisite table, in the rosewood-panelled private dining room, it was difficult to imagine the evening falling short of perfection. Nyetimber, which pioneered English sparkling wine, expertly paired their signature Classic Cuvee, Blanc de Blancs and Demi-Sec with the menu. A brand ambassador from England’s first premier sparkling wine house was on hand to offer a rare insight into its much celebrated sparkling wine varieties; all of which are crafted from their estate-grown grapes.

The evening began with Chef Alyn Williams himself discussing his inspiration based on the finest British seasonal ingredients. From canapés on arrival to Chef William’s signature dessert the five-course menu was a wonderful celebration of what was possible with fine British food and wine. The bespoke offering was an alternative to the traditional Michelin-starred menu here at Alyn Williams at The Westbury.

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Starters of pea mousse with mint and yogurt granita paired with Nyetimber Classic Cuvée was sublime. Poached halibut and roasted pork jowl paired elegantly with Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs and English strawberries with pannacotta was a dream with MV Nyetimber Rosé. Alyn William’s signature walnut whip arrived with the Demi-Sec and it was all I could do to stop myself from silently screaming in awe. Whenever I am fortunate enough to write a review on food and drink I do my best to highlight a favourite to help my readers choose wisely. In this instance however, I apologise that I am unable to do this. The entire affair was a triumph never before equalled. The food, the pairings, the impeccable service added to a meal greater than the sum of its parts; what flawless parts they were too.

With its Michelin star, four AA Rosettes, 15th place in the UK’s 100 Best Restaurants and a National Chef of the Year crown all placed at the foot of Alyn Williams at The Westbury, this is the second triumphant British celebration this year. It’s one that you definitely do not want to miss.


This exclusive Michelin-starred five course supper club takes place on Tuesday 24th July from 6pm – 9pm at Alyn Williams at The Westbury. Tickets are priced at £144. Reserve yours early at:

The Westbury is located at: 37 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2YF. For more information visit:

Antonio Lai at Gong Bar – an unforgettable sensory experience

It’s taken me a while to write this. Not because I didn’t want to but because my schedule has been so packed lately that I’ve struggled to catch up with my writing. So it’s lovely to finally sit down, breathe and write.

Antonio Lai at Gong

Last month, Shangri-La, London hosted multi-awarded international mixologist Antonio Lai for three nights at the hotel’s Gong Bar. Antonio pioneered the comprehensive Multisensory Mixology concept in Hong Kong and is the owner of Quinary Bar. So we were very lucky to have him grace us in London even if only for three nights.

Earl Grey Caviar Martini by Antonio Lai

Cocktails on the night

Vanilla Sky, especially created for the night, was made of Italicus infused with cedar wood, Bullet Whiskey, Rosso and bitters with smoky notes. The striking amber shade encased in a classic whiskey glass of cut crystal was a bold move against the other more theatrically presented drinks on the menu.

My favourite was the Earl Grey Caviar Martini (pictured above) made of Ketel One Citron Vodka, Cointreau, elderflower syrup and containing caviar with a dramatic whipped top. Antonio’s knowledge and skill had created an utterly stimulating creation which triggered, as expected, all senses. Colour, texture, aroma and taste all in perfect balance for an incredibly immersive cocktail.

I am Jade was another winner for me. Made of B24, jasmine basil syrup, lemongrass syrup, lime juice and soda water. It was all my favourite things at once; lemongrass, lime juice, jasmine basil. Ingredients which can easily overpower if not used correctly. In this instance of course balanced impeccably with precision which can only be expect from skilled hands.

IMG_4286The evening ended with cocktails served by Shangri-La’s rooftop infinity pool. With whimsical views across London we watched the sun patiently sink against a purple sky. The capital illuminated itself, slowly, one flickering light at a time. We sat spellbound, as dusk unfolded its blanket, savouring the cocktails as patiently as the sunset itself. For a few breathtaking moments everything was synchronised and in perfect harmony just as we always hope it could be.


Gong is located at The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG. For more information visit: Gong Bar


A Taste of Edge with Celebrity Cruises

For a restaurant festival Taste of London has a habit of bringing many things to the fore. We get to catch up with our favourite chefs, sample great taster menus and no one gets to judge us when we start sipping champagne at 10am on a Wednesday.

Read my full post at Seen in the City