A delightful evening at the Nigerian tapas Supper Club
The pace of change on the African food scene is frightfully quick. From London, to the States and back to Africa, there is a voracious appetite for something different. This weekend I found one of those different “somethings” in London. The mention of tapas and Nigerian food in the same sentence quite frankly does not raise my eyebrows as it perhaps would have done a couple of years ago. My goodness, I never once thought I’d cook a Suya pork ramen noodles soup, but I did just that a few weeks ago! So when the chance to partake in an 8 course tapas dinner flickered on my twitter timeline, I quickly took the bate.
Chuku’s by the way is the name of the innovative pop up behind the tapas dinner.
As they put it themselves:
We are a Nigerian inspired tapas lounge revolutionising the London food scene. We pop up and our guests come to chop, chat and chill.
For those not in the know, Spanish tapas is the name given to small plates of dishes. The dishes can be combined to make a full meal. The tapas concept revolves around sharing the dishes with friends.
The duo behind Chuku’s are brother and sister Emeka and Ifeyinwa (a graduate of Cambridge university). Their tag line Chop, Chat and Chill was explained by the duo in a recent interview
Chop is Nigerian pidgin for eat and it shows that Nigerian food is at the heart of what we do. Chat is for the conversations we expect our ambience to foster. Londoners are notorious for avoiding contact with strangers but at Chuku’s we want you to speak to people you don’t know. And chill is for our relaxed atmosphere. An afternoon at Chuku’s is an opportunity for our guests to take some time out from their hectic schedule.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect, but a note by the organisers that the last event was sold out had me scrambling to get my order in quick. The only concern I had was, I hoped it wouldn’t be so private that I couldn’t take photographs. I was told I could and that was the green light I needed to get my three tickets.
The venue was the Oval House Café, a quaint and intimate little location tucked away near the Oval tube station. The famous oval cricket ground, a ground I’d been to, to watch cricket was nearby. My party and I got there at 18:30 for a 19:00 dinner start time. The crowd was refreshingly mixed. This after all was Nigerian food so I expected a typically Nigerian crowd sprinkled with a few Ghanaians and Sierra Leonians. That’s normally what happens in my “yard”(London). I was wrong. I had to take a double take as it suddenly dawned on me that the majority of the folks gulping down the palm wine were white.
As guests came in they were pointed in the direction of a rather cool lounge area, with a glass of palm wine to welcome them. We sat in the lounge area for a half hour that went quick as guests chatted away.
Dinner began shortly after 19:00. Pepper soup came up first, followed by dishes like jollof quinoa and chin chin cheesecake. I shall defer to our in-house food taster, #TasteWithPrinny and the duo themselves to tell you more about those here – Chuku’s Chop Chat Chill. All I can say for now is that it was worth every bit of the £35:00 per head. The moi moi quite possibly could have been worth half of that £35:00. It was that good.
This was an intimate affair. On my table were six others, four of whom I had never met. It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to food. Yep! We, AfrEnglish don’t do weather talk. We do food. Uche on my table was on her second event. She knew her foodie scene and even suggested I check out Executive Mama Put, apparently another innovative Nigerian foodpreneur making waves in London.
If for some reason you are surgically attached to bukas (Naija slang for down-scale restaurants) and expect your waiting staff to treat you like they are doing you a favour, then this is not for you. If you like your pepper soup so spicy that you might as well call the soup Mousier Scotty Bonnet then give this a miss. If your idea of networking or meeting new people involves yelling – it’s a penalty! as you watch football on one of a million screens dotted around you then please “abeg” contact us and we’ll gladly point you in another direction. If on the other hand you are young (20 or 30 something), upwardly mobile, don’t see anything wrong with speaking English better than the Queen and your social media followers and friends are a kaleidoscope of races and cultures then I’d recommend Chuku’s supper club. If all you know about Africa is what Bono tells you and you’ve suddenly realised that there is a culinary world beyond Chinese and curry then I’d say give this a try. In a way it’s perfect for the trier, as the food has been, intentionally we were told, tailored more to London (European) palates.
As one of the ladies on my table mentioned to wild nodding of heads, African food is wholesome, but in reasonable sized quantities. This tasting session met that wholesomeness criteria. Lots of variety, but good sizes to help you not become like uncle Bayode, yeah the one who spots the
three month old baby, sorry pounded yam bump.
Overall a delightful evening. Did I mention Chisara Agor, the jazz fusionist?! Our Erica Badu cum Amy Winehouse of the evening. She writes her own songs, knows a lot about tapas as she once lived in Madrid and plays the ukulele! How cool is that?