Tapas at Chuku's
Nigerian and Tapas aren’t the usual couple you would think to put together however brother and sister duo Emeka and Ifey Frederick have done exactly that. For those of you unaware, tapas are a selection of small dishes that combined together make a meal. These two lifestyles work together because Nigerian cuisine is all about sharing and Spanish Tapas is all about an informal vibe. I’m all for the idea of adding contemporary touches to Nigerian cuisine. Of course nothing will ever compare to authentic Nigerian food but nonetheless I find impact of multiculturalism fascinating.
In all honesty I heard about Chuku’s last year but up until two weeks ago, I hadn’t been able to pay them a visit. I dined with Harleigh (check out her blog) on the last day of their residency at the Canva’s Café. The café had a very laid back vibe with notes from guest on the wall. Chuku’s added their own touch with a wall of fame for famous British-Nigerians and old school afrobeats music playing in the background. The staff carefully set our table with small wooden tray bowls and with wooden cutlery which reminded me slightly of a calabash, helping to reinforce the fact we were about to eat Nigerian tapas. Additionally, each table is allocated a Nigerian name and underneath each is name the English translation, a fun yet subtle way to get guest learning about Nigerian language culture.
While their menu isn’t as big as a standard tapas menu, the options are exciting and innovative. On that particular day they were offering jollof quinoa, coconut rice, suya prawns, kuli kuli chicken, moin moin, plantain, egusi salad and chin chin cheesecake slices. We opted for everything bar the moin moin (steamed bean pudding). My favourite tapas were the quinoa, prawns, chicken, plantain and cheesecake. I found the quinoa to be delicate, fluffy and the tomato base balanced out very well. The prawns came with a sweet nutty kick, were suitably sized and evenly coated with throughout. I wish I could have chosen a more intense spice level but Chuku’s isn’t Nandos, it’s Chuku’s. The chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, I saw it as a friendlier version of KFC with a light batter made with peanuts. You can never really go wrong with plantain, and they upped the levels by seasoning it richly with a mix of sweet spices.
Although I have no qualms about the coconut rice, I could have done without the egusi salad. Unfortunately, I felt it slightly out of place in terms of taste and would have preferred a few more Nigerian ingredients in there. I always have room for dessert, so the soft biscuit base and citrus burst from the chin chin cheesecake was very welcomed. My last comment on the food is that, even if there is only so much they can put on the menu, I would like to have a choice between at least two dessert options. Still five/six out of seven isn’t bad. I left feeling satisfied and not like I was about to going into a long food coma.
Their code is to #chopchatchill and I couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s the place you would take a group of friends or your family if you want to eat in a relaxed environment and not be rushed. It’s the perfect entry point for someone who has never had Nigerian food before. In fact, I would recommend Chuku’s to ‘experienced’ Nigerian foodies too. Chuku’s is currently a pop up meaning that they take up a residency in different venues in London for a certain period of time. If you would like to know more about their next pop up check out Chuku’s Tapas Lounge HERE.
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Lope Ariyo xx