Restaurant & Wine Review: Ikoyi in London

by Ian D’Agata


180 Strand

London, UK

Tel. +44 2035834660

The dishes

Gola Pepper Broth

Artichoke Caesar

Drunken Crab & Fermented Rice

Mussel and Saffron Crème Caramel

Dover Sole, White Penja Pepper & Pomeloquat

Pigeon Suya

Turbot & Egusi Miso

Native Breed Rib, Caramelised Chanterelles & Sauerkraut

Smoked Jollof Rice

Citrus Babá & Salted Pine

Flower Sugar & Red Long Pepper

Suya Ganache

Verbena Lemon & Honey Berry

The wines

Jacques Perritaz 2019 Cidrerie du Volcain Poiré Cidre Mousseux Brut            91

Kelly Fox Wines 2021 Pinot Noir Mirabai Oregon                   91

Ikoyi is by all accounts the hardest dining reservation to get in London these days; and even those who don’t agree are quick to concur that it is at the very least among the three toughest to latch on to. Such is the popularity of this dining spot’s two Michelin star and number 35 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list appeal, one that has its foundations of a heavy use of Sub-Saharan West African spices that have been sourced carefully and assiduously over the years. The place deserves all of the accolades thrown its way, but to be clear, it is an expensive proposition to dine here. The fixed menu will boast twelve or more small-sized dishes, and cost you a tidy £300+/person and it is available for dinner only Monday through Friday and at Friday lunch. A smaller, less expensive menu (but still £200/person) is available at lunch on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Prices are what they are, but more or less in one with the cost of many two-star eateries world-wide. And the highly imaginative, different from everything else you have ever eaten food really is interesting and memorable at Ikoyi. Young superchef Jeremy Chan boasts many different origins (among them British, Canadian and Chinese) and he weaves his cultural sensibilities rather effortlessly in each dish he creates.

The restuarnat was founded in 2017 by Chan and entrepreneur Iré Hassan-Odukale. Its first home was on St. James’s street, but Ikoyi has since relocated to this modern industrial design-themed space on The Strand. It si very dark but also very intelligently illuminated, sleek and refined: you can tell there is a bit of Nordic  influence at work here (Chan spent time at Noma) but said nordic influence is not overdone (and thank goodness, it isn’t so in the food either). The name Ikoyi refers to an upscale neighbourhood of the Nigerian capital Lagos, and though the restaurant is known for digging deep into West African cooking culture, Chan is very quick to point out that Ikoyi is not a restaurant specializing in Western African cuisine but rather one that wants to draw on global cooking cultures allowing ingredients to shine at their best. British micro-seasonality plays a big role at Ikoyi, as do line-caught fish and sustainably-farmed and raised produce and game.

The dishes, all of which are visually gorgeous, are characterized by aromas and flavours that are at once deep and complex, but easy to like, though paying each a few minutes attention before swallowing allpws to better appreciate the different interplays between temperatures and textures. Most of all, the dishes exude outstanding balance and very likeable tastes. In other words, there’s no need to pretend you like and enjoy eating ants or kelp at Ikoyi. On my most recent evening at Ikoyi, I found most dishes to be really be worthy of my taste buds and to stand out, as they really were delicious: to be clear, this is rare in almost all restaurants featuring many small bite-sized dishes where usually half are instantly forgettable. But not so at Ikoyi. I especially liked the jollof rice, hinting at a light smoky nuance but a real caramelized sweetness to it; it’s more or less a signature of the restaurant so I guess I should not be surprised I liked it so. Saffron and mussels are also something Chan seems very at home with, and the crème caramel was both tasty and fun.

The wine list is not huge but well thought out, and there are cocktails and teas that are also selected to pair especially well with Ikoyi’s unique food. I enjoyed a Jacques Perritaz Cidrerie du Volcain Poiré Cidre Mousseux Brut made with eleven different types of, pear, partially fermented and non-pasteurized. Not especially sweet (it deserves its “Brut” category, but tastes even drier than that, leaving the mouth feeling clean and vibrant, but showcasing enough pear-derived creaminess to stand up to some of the more mellow, creamier dishes at Ikoyi in ways that a pure apple cider might not have. The Kelly Fox 2021 Pinot Noir Mirabai Oregon is very fresh and easy to drink, and though it is most definitely not the most concentarted wine you will ever drink, it’s hard not to like it’s approachable, easy-going style. Even better, this politely-styled wine does not overpower in any way the complex dishes coming out of the kitchen, always a good thing. Pretty aromas and flavours of red and blue fruit and subtle spices make for a fruit-forward joyous drinking experience.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellence and professionalism of the service, another outstanding aspect of Ikoyi (and happily elegantly-clad waiters, not people coming out with beards so long they are cleaning the floor with them and tattoos everywhere, individuals who might be real cool in a car repair shop or a Hell’s Angels possee, but not in a fine dining restaurant). What can I say, except Ikoyi is the real fine dining deal. Very well done indeed. This is one place, cost aside, I would love to go back to go again and again. There aren’t many I will say that about.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata