Where To Eat West African Food In London
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
For years, West African food in Britain has been touted as the next big thing. That said, the people committed to championing the region's food aren't concerned with hype and neither are the scores of fans who pack out their favourite locals throughout the week. Be it from Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, or Nigeria, the food has existed in the capital for decades and the range of options in London is tremendous. Whether you want great-value takeout jollof rice or an experimental, deconstructed egusi stew, there's a restaurant for you.
Chishuru’s spacious, terracotta-toned space in Fitzrovia is a far cry from its original cupboard-sized Brixton location that first made waves. That said, this modern West African spot continues to explore flavours like no other restaurant in London. And that isn’t the only reason it’s one of the most thrilling restaurants in town. There are spices and sauces you’ll want to mainline, be it an electric peppersoup broth or an egusi-slathered spiral of cabbage, and the set menu structure means everyone gets to have a bit of everything. It’s easy to see where this thoughtfulness comes from when owner Joké Bakare greets tables upstairs and down, with hugs, kisses, and recommendations from the serious all-French wine list.
Waakye Joint provides the perfect, brisk introduction to Ghanaian food. Your first port of call should be the eponymous waakye. The dish is almost a set menu in itself. A bed of soft rice and beans is accompanied by salad, noodles, a boiled egg, well-seasoned fried fish, and a dollop of shito. It’s perfect for lunch but the portions are so friendly, it may very well carry you through to dinner. You could stop to sit and eat but Waakye Joint, with its extensive glass cabinets of food, is more primed for takeaway as you’ll see from the waves of people coming in and out. Expect Saturdays to be busy as traffic is halted on the nearby Seven Sisters Road as revellers head to the local struggling football team.
Deluxe Manna in Tottenham is a Congolese spot, so not technically West African, but their menu reads like a family tree of the wider Afro-Caribbean community in north London. The buzzy atmosphere, soundtracked by afrobeats, and late opening hours mean there’s no rush to be in and out. Sit back, relax, and settle in for the evening. The sleek interiors, matte black walls, and a gold-rimmed bar might imply dainty, quaint plates of food. But this is not the case. Our go-to (and you’ll quickly notice many others’) is the Manna platter. In this collab of cultures, grilled fish and meats like ntaba (smoked lamb) surround a mountain of jollof rice, kwanga (a soft cassava dumpling), and more. Elasticated waistbands recommended.
Nigerian food, even when ordered in a group, is usually a solo, personal affair. One’s favourite stew and swallow is chosen, and each person stays in the confines of their own plates and bowl of warm water to cleanse their hands. But Chuku’s’ genius idea to fuse Nigerian cuisine with small plate-style eating is too good to miss. Be it suya-spiced meatballs, ojojo (yam croquettes), or cassava fries. The vegan section is headlined by the tricoloured egusi bowl which deconstructs the classic Nigerian stew into a shareable, sumptuous dish. Plus the Tottenham spot, with its big-hearted hospitality and upbeat playlist, will make you feel at home whether you’re rocking up solo, for a group brunch, or a casual birthday dinner.
Eko Bar, situated in the heart of Homerton, is the epitome of a Nigerian lounge bar. Tinted windows, flash cars parked outside, and a vibe that doesn't pick up until the late hours of the night. But when it does pick up, you’re in for a swing. On Friday nights, the weekly live band plays Nigerian funk renditions of old hits and new afrobeats. Waiters bring out piping hot plates of chewy but tender asun goat meat and gizzard. While the typical beers and stouts are all available, the imported palm wine is a must-try. Vegans aren't specifically catered for but between the mammoth plate of delicious spicy jollof rice lined with sweet plantain and soft cassava fries, there's no chance anyone will leave disappointed.
An unwavering pillar in Hackney, Aso Rock Restaurant is a family-run Nigerian spot that has served the community for decades. It started out as a small takeout spot and now has a jazzy neon-lit bar, to sit with a cold Guinness, and a simple but warm, foliage-filled dining space. While we might not arrange a whole occasion around dinner here, it strikes the right balance for a solo meal or for a group needing a fill before a gig or dance in the area. We recommend getting a satchel-sized box with a rice-based meal or soup-based meal. The latter, which includes the likes of egusi stew and okra stew, is led by their excellent speciality ayamase.
Entering Kate’s Cafe in Plaistow immediately feels like you’ve walked into an aunty’s or family friend’s dining room where everyone knows each other. The space does away with unnecessary decor and keeps it simple. Which is more reason why it just feels like popping over to a familiar kitchen and makes it perfect for a group catch-up. The dishes are a deep dive into Ghanaian cuisine. Grilled fish is served with swallows like omo tuo, pounded yam, banku, and kenkey. Make sure Ghanaian stews like the incredibly rich, peanut-based nkatenkwan and abenkwan are on your table, plus rich, tomato-based red red. All bites come with plantain or yam, and if you can’t choose, get both.
Bola Cuisine is the type of place that has a menu, but you can ask for any combination of things and a suitable price is agreed upon. In a few minutes your concocted meal is dished out from the cauldron-esque pots and wrapped up in a box for you to go on your way. The Nigerian takeaway spot in New Cross is stripped back, with just enough space for half a dozen people—so it’s best you are on your way quickly. Between different combinations of plantain, cassava, egusi, and puff puff, you'll easily get return change from a tenner or even a fiver. Just make sure to get the jollof rice. A lot of Bola’s trade comes from catering for good reason—people across London crave their rice dish and when you try it, you’ll find out why.
We’re not sure when bakeries started selling jollof rice, stews, and fresh-off-the-grill meats but Angels Bakery—a staple across south east and east London from Peckham to Plumstead—executes this concept perfectly. Almost nobody seems to walk out with just baked goods. Even though the bread and fish/meat pies are what they specialise in, their jollof rice, deep in flavour and not too tomato-heavy, and vividly seasoned, succulent grilled suya is better than many takeout and dining spots. For a more-ish, homely snack, the soft sweet bread spooned with some Ghanaian shito (that you can find in many shops nearby to all their stores) is a must-try.
805 is an institution as popular as it is in Nigeria and Ghana’s capital as it is in England's. Nigerian dignitaries and celebrities head down the Old Kent Road to come here at all times of the day and night. It’s a pioneer of British West African fine dining. Smartly dressed waitstaff serve dishes on elegant, polished porcelain plates. Loud, but not overly raucous, music and conversation set the tone for date night or sensible large occasions. The sprawling menu spans Nigerian dishes like edikanikong (a leafy green, pumpkin, and crayfish stew) and efo riro (spinach stew), and juicy, fiery grilled prawns. Our cutlery usually remains spotless, though, as we tear apart house specialty monika—perfectly crispy-skinned, succulent fish with chilli sauce.
What we have come to know as Nigerian food in the UK is a small subset from the incredibly populous and ethnically diverse country. Alhaji Suya is representative of a different Nigeria, one even foreign to most Nigerians given that most of the UK’s diaspora hails from the south of Nigeria. Alhaji’s mainstay dish, suya, is a portal into the lesser-discussed northern reaches of the nation. With spice mixes imported directly from Kano state, where the owner hails from, the suya here is unrivalled. A choice of lamb, chicken, guinea fowl, or crowd-favourite beef is fused with these spices and grilled to perfection, and neatly wrapped up for takeout. There are three locations around south east London, in Peckham, Greenwich, and Walworth.
Head to any of Enish's spacious locations across London, from Brixton to Finchley, if you've got a birthday party on the cards, for any age. A dressed-up gathering never feels out of place next to a couple on a casual midweek date. In the evenings, loud afrobeats plays over the airwaves while plates of Nigerian staples fill tables. Enish serves good versions of all the expected dishes like jollof rice, suya, and grilled options like goat and chicken. But it's worth getting specialties like isiewu, a spiced goat's head stew which is traditional to eastern Nigeria, as well as spicy pomo (cow skin). Like you would a sommelier for wine recommendations, ask the staff for their best swallow pairing—be it pounded yam, eba, amala, or a mix.
The food of Nigeria and wider West Africa tends to be found in neighbourhoods in London, and it's harder to find homely cooking from the region the closer you get to central London. But street food stall Naija High Street, located at Lower Marsh Market near Waterloo, packs a huge punch with a simple takeaway menu. Grilled chicken and fish, or beef stew is served in trays, with a choice of spinach (usually an anglo term for egusi), beans, plantain, and jollof rice. The sides are all vegan and combined are a satisfying lunchtime meal.
Stork’s food is a pan-Afro-Caribbean feast. We relish the chance to have some old favourites with a unique twist here—the peppery BBQ octopus suya is a particular joy. Served on a bed of yam fries, it's like a dish of calamari and chips served off the Côte d’Azur, reimagined for the warm breeze of the Gulf of Guinea. Stork’s put-together Mayfair setting is similarly sleek. The dress code is fitting of their west London location and higher-end price point, so put on your finest—everyone else does. That being said, the plush interior with soft lighting and modern West African art remains cosy and avoids any stuffiness.
Akoko’s rustic and serene central London restaurant provides a multi-sensory experience and culinary expedition of West Africa, in Fitzrovia, via its tasting menus. Each dish, be it an adaptation of a stew, salad, or baked treat comes with a story. The jollof rice even comes with a physical printed story, and is topped with shredded smoked goat and accompanied with sumptuous, soft goat belly. The menu changes with the seasons but you can always be sure of vivid flavours that wow. Any thoughts that a tasting menu may beget a stuffy experience are immediately put to ease by the relaxed and calming pastel interiors, and charming staff.