Atlanta’s grass wall trend has quickly taught us that all that glitters (with green vines) isn’t gold, so at the sight of fake trees and foliage, our hearts usually shrink like the Grinch. But Verdure, a garden-themed, fern-draped newcomer near Piedmont Park, makes us reconsider. That’s because Verdure isn’t just a pretty place to impress judgy dates and friends, they have a Pan-African menu delivering some of the most exciting flavors in the city.
The upscale atmosphere sets the mood for a milestone night. Tables are dressed with vases of tall, fluffy pampas, and small table lamps provide an intimate glow. If you're lucky, there's a sax player in-house beautifully harmonizing songs you'll recognize. There’s no strict dress code here, but so many folks dressed up in their best night lounge ensembles can fool you into thinking that this Garden of Eden is managed by a bouncer who has typed out “lewks” on several occasions.
Once settled at your table, you’ll quickly observe the bar-to-table parade of Verdure’s gorgeous cocktails, which weave in flavors like Ethiopian honey and South African Amarula. If you fancy sweeter cocktails, then the coconut hibiscus margarita is a silky-smooth showstopper—the glass rim is coated in a red hardshell candy and the creamy coconut milk makes this limey punch go down easy.
But the real big flavors come into play when the plates start arriving at the table. And we won’t dare say “slap your mama good,” but the Kedjenou mussels make us want to disavow all her guidance to not fill up on bread. We will, Ma, ask for as many complimentary focaccia slices as necessary to soak up every ounce of their Ivorian-spiced tomatoey, gingery, and garlicky mussel bath.
In fact, it’s actually the African-influenced sauces, broths, and gravies that make all the proteins stand out. These days, lamb entrees are about as common in the city as streets with the name “Peachtree.” And while Verdure’s lamb chops are charred just as well as any other great lamb spot, woody notes in the accompanying Zanzibarian gravy give the dish the nostalgia of a holiday dinner. A crispy whole fish is already our jam, but their semi-sweet tomato puree layered in earthy spices makes their crispy red snapper snappy and memorable.
You'll remember your night at Verdure—the food, the setting. It's also entirely possible that when you're heading out, you'll strike a pose against the grass wall as the sax plays on, leftovers in hand. Just give in gracefully.
Creamy Coconut Hibiscus Margarita
Like kids at a birthday party waiting for their turn to get a balloon animal, you’ll watch with growing anticipation as pretty cocktail after pretty cocktail gets dropped off at tables. Will your drink be pretty, too? If it’s the hibiscus margarita, it will be, and if you like sweet cocktails, then you’ll love it, too. It’s more fruit punch than margarita because there's a touch of creamy coconut milk that makes this smooth enough to disguise the alcohol.
Zesty Pineapple-Glazed Gambas
The sweetness of the pineapple can be a little off putting for these meaty shrimp. But when paired with a slice of creamy avocado and the sharpness of the sauteed onion, the whole dish spikes to life.
Kedjenou de Moules
If you always order mussels for the broth, this wine-based Ivorian bouillon doesn’t disappoint. And we like the meat of mussels too, of course, but we’d just be happy to have a big loaf of bread and a bowl of this liquid stewed with onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, and spices.
Zanzi Peppercorn Lamb Rib Chops
The lamb chops are meaty with a light charr that gives them a satisfying smoky taste. A side of spiced Zanzibar gravy may look like just showy complement, but after you find yourself with the last forkful of lamb chasing around any remaining sauce on your plate, then you’ll know who the true start of the meal is.