Indulging in Food, Fun and Finds with Ash & Dede of Accra Craves
Do not be mistaken. Ash and Dede are pioneers in what they do. The depth of their reviews and the sheer number of restaurants reviewed on their blog, Accra Craves, is unprecedented in the Ghanaian setting. Of course, as the duo explain below, they also go beyond restaurant reviews and delve into other areas. What I find most refreshing about this interview and by extension Ash and Dede is the candidness of their responses – a sheer display of unreservedly straight forward “talking” which perhaps is also the most important quality of any worthy and notable reviewer. Ghanaian bakers dye vanilla cake red and call it red velvet? And thanks for the heads up on the “perfect” Accra restaurants. Cheque is in the post! Without much ado, let me hand over to this splendid duo – Ash & Dede.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Ash: Well Dede has been my friend for a very long time. Our families are pretty close so we’ve known each other for quite a while. She is your fun loving, ever-ready-to-live-life kinda girl. Dede is the more outgoing one of the duo. Leave her in any situation and she will start a conversation and make lifelong friends. She really is the life of every party, the moral compass in every situation and an amazing friend.
Dede: Well now that Ash has given me such a raving review, it looks like I have to repay the compliment. No long essays needed! She’s one of my favourite people in the whole world. In her head, she is the Craves in Accra Craves. She’s all about experimenting so if you hear we are having an event underwater just know who came up with it. She’s our email responder because I tend to always want to throw in a smiley or acronym here or there. Honestly, why do emails have to be so serious? But I digress, without Ash, Accra Craves will just be Accra without the Craves.
What is Accra Craves about? What was the inspiration behind this venture and the story behind the name?
Accra Craves in a nutshell is a lifestyle blog. We want to be the go-to-place for where to eat in Ghana, where to shop and what to do. We currently focus on restaurant reviews because that is the number one source of entertainment in Ghana. When friends are bored, what do they do? Eat.
So Ash basically wanted to start a dessert review blog and I wanted to start a food/fashion blog. Our first conversation about Accra Craves was about looking for the best desserts in Accra, which Ash actually attempted to do. She was craving a creme brulee and searched Accra tirelessly for some. She tried out the desserts at 5 different restaurants in one day! I think she was also on a mission to get sick. Later that night we talked about the struggles of finding good jollof for lunch and we were immediately sold on sharing our experiences looking for food in and around Accra. That’s basically the story of our slogan Crave.Taste.Indulge, which was actually the first step towards our name Accra Craves.
But then we dropped the idea for 10 months and when we came back to it and tried to decide what we truly wanted to do, we came to realize that our passion for Accra went beyond the food. We wanted to answer questions about where to shop and what to do for fun. We, well Ash, in particular was very interested in having our own events and influencing the entertainment scene in Accra. It’s not everyday that you go out to eat or go to nightclubs. It’s time that we explored other avenues for fun in Accra. Choosing our name at this point was almost easy, we knew we wanted a spin off of our slogan, which we still had in mind from 10 months earlier. Our options were Taste Accra, Accra Craves, Crave Accra and Accra Tastes. We passed the options around with a few friends and I’m pretty sure Accra Craves came out on top unanimously. Ash was fighting for Crave Accra. As you can see, it didn’t have a ring to it and that’s why it didn’t make the cut.
How does it feel to be Accra’s foremost restaurant review site? Do you only review eating places or there is more that we don’t know?
We feel fulfilled. We feel blessed. We are actually speechless and the support has been insane.There is more you don’t know. We indulge in food, fun and finds.
Food is pretty obvious but fun and finds seem to get lost in translation even for us sometimes. Fun is any entertainment that is not a trip to a restaurant. We call this Accra Jams. So while we try to focus on travel and other fun activities to do in and around Accra, this still includes some eating experiences like the nomadic dinners by Midunu or the private dining experiences by Villa Grace.
Finds are our Accra Gems. These are shops and vendors that we feel are priceless and we as Ghanaians should be excited about. The excitement is generally a combination of quality and price and just the unique nature and creativity of their products. While we have focused more on fashion, we hope to include other art forms and other little Accra trinkets in the near future.
We’ve hosted two brunches so far, which were both eating experiences, but we tried to throw in some fun in there. It was great both times and we can’t wait for what the future holds for our events.
What are your pet peeves in a restaurant and what will get you to leave a million-dollar tip or give a 5-star rating to a restaurant?
Bad Customer Service and False Descriptions. Bad customer service has to be number one on the list. It’s interesting how we as a people take some little things for granted. These things could be as small as offering a menu when customers arrive, coming back for a drink order or smiling when taking an order. The norm for the majority of Accra based restaurants is to offer zero customer service. It isn’t even available to be termed bad, if we may be allowed to be so candid. To a large extent the mostly dismissive nature of waiters and waitresses sheds a negative light on the entire experience and does a restaurant zero favours.
In terms of false descriptions, some restaurants and bakers take advantage of the fact that many Ghanaians don’t know about certain ingredients and so they can sell something falsely. They want to sell a dream they aren’t ready to create. Number one pet peeve is creamcheese icing and red velvet cake.
Ghanaian bakers honestly have to stop dying vanilla cake red and calling it red velvet. The dishonesty is upsetting, but more so we steal the experience of enjoying a real red velvet from our people because truth is 80% of Ghanaians have no clue what an actual red velvet cake tastes like, yet they go announcing it’s their favourite cake flavour.
But this also applies to restaurants that serve terrible carbonaras or bread and stew as pizza. I wish restaurants and bakers will hold themselves to higher standards, while not everyone can hold a michelin three star rating, everyone can at the very least plate decent food.
Have you been to the perfect restaurant in Accra yet? We’ll gladly pay handsomely for that information by the way, if it’s a yes!
Ash: YES! THE RESTAURANT AT PLANTER’S LODGE! EAT EVERYTHING! Bistro 22 is also pretty amazing in my opinion. I’m yet to be disappointed. Wait I lied, don’t eat the brie burger.
Dede: Duncan’s on the Republic Road, Osu. The Honey Chicken, Lo Mein and Samosas. It’s actually the best Chinese food in the whole of Ghana. Takeout should be your preferred option unless you are looking to bask in the moonlight. Should I send my number to receive my payment now?
Can you give us three most memorable food experiences you’ve had recently?
Dede: Duncan’s Honey Chicken, Lo Mein and Samosa
Wafflemania Honey Crumble Crepe
Gladys’ Sweet Fried Chicken
How do you deal with restaurant owners and fans who disagree with a review?
It’s not easy. We think we need to put a disclaimer on the website saying that it’s not personal. Critiquing food and service is not easy, putting into words what you taste so as to convey an experience can be challenging. And honestly, when our credibility and character gets attacked because someone disagrees with our review, it hurts a little.
While we highlight that our pieces are entirely subjective, there are two of us and even though we may disagree on some things, bad is generally bad and good is generally good. We are not here to try to run people out of business, but to encourage them, through our complete third person view of their product, that either they need to improve or that they’re doing a great and wonderful job.
But many restaurants, bakers and fans that disagree with a review see us as “saboteurs” of another’s dream and just take it all so personal, as though our review was intended to cause harm. We wish they could look at it in the light that we are actually what the outside world sees, and would use our review to make improvements because we really do want to see changes on the restaurant scene. We want to taste good food, be welcomed by happy waiters and feel so pleased that we leave massive tips.
Reviews are great because they help increase standards. Where do you foresee Accra’s burgeoning foodie scene in the next 3-5 years? Are there any trends to look out for?
To be completely honest, I’m not sure Ghanaian restaurant owners care too much about reviews and sadly I’m doubtful about the impact we as food bloggers, the community as a whole, will make in the coming years. There needs to be a massive shift in people’s (Ghanaians, patrons) approach to restaurants. Subpar food is subpar food, yet we as Ghanaians and as Africans tend to celebrate them. The saddest part is that it translates into all other aspects of our lives.
Praising mediocrity is the current trend on the food scene and if we hope to see blogs influence restaurants, readers and patrons must be the ones to push the movement.
Restaurants have never had an overlooking eye here in Accra and that’s what the food blogging community provides, an incentive to make sure every restaurant always plates its best and offers unmatched service simply because they never know who is coming, who is eating and who is writing.
Will you travel outside Ghana or Accra just to have a particular dish and if you would, where and what dish might that be?
Dede: I will. I’m a dessert and breakfast lover and I went to Nigeria recently and honestly, one of the reasons was for cupcakes from Hans and Rene. I was like a kid in a candy store, but I digress. I would travel to LA for french toast from Blu Jam Cafe.
Ash: I will go back to Morocco any day for that Goat Tajine from La Sqala. It was amazing.
If you had to pick three things of interest happening in Accra right now, what would you want the world to know?
The popup private dining experience is making waves.
Not having constant access to light is devastating.
Don’t sleep on Accra Craves.
What can we expect from Accra Craves in the future?
Bigger and Better. We hope to have more unique events, frequent food reviews and increased engagement with the public.
If you were to put together a “101 Things to Do in Accra” guide for non-Accra or non-Ghana residents, what will be your top three?
Check out the Art Market on High Street for all your souvenirs, if you want to go a little more upscale for the ladies, go straight to our fave store, Chic by Siba.
Try Azmera in Ridge for the biggest buffet of all you can eat Ghanaian food. It’s honestly the best idea ever. You don’t have to order multiple meals or go to multiple places to try all the different Ghanaian dishes on different days. In one seating you can sample darn near everything and you’d have enjoyed authentic Ghanaian cuisine.
Twist and Soho Nightclub. You can’t come to Accra and not experience one of these nightclubs.