London’s 280 degrees Nigerian restaurant, where food is cooked from scratch
The 280 degrees restaurant’s abode is as perfect as can be. Any restauranteur worth their weight in gold would tell you that in the restaurant business it’s all about location, location and location. The restaurant is on Kilburn High Road, one of London’s busiest and only a short walking distance from the Brondesbury underground station. This and the fact that the last restaurant I went to – 805 restaurant, with this group of friends was a massive hit played a massive role in my choice. Like the 805 restaurant, 280 degrees restaurant was also a Nigerian restaurant. By the way, what is it with address numbers as names of Naija restaurants in London?
I phoned and booked a table for 10 a week or so in advance, this time to mark the impending nuptials of our dear brother Carl Owusu Agyeman. The booking was fine except I was asked what I thought was a strange question. “What will you like to order?” In my head I thought, well I hadn’t even seen the menu so how could I possibly make a decision much less for the 9 other diners I was bringing along. As far as I was concerned convention suggests that our choices would be made in the restaurant when we got in. That was in the most polite of ways my response to the lady at the other end of the line.
On the evening, a Thursday, we turned up at 280 degrees restaurant without much fuss. A football match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United was on.
The vast majority, if you include our all male table, of diners were male who all seemed totally engrossed in the football match. The atmosphere was so friendly and homely that the regular exchange of conversation and banter between tables seemed normal. The proprietor mingled freely as she wrote down orders which also added to the homely and informal feel. There were no uniformed waiters on the night. She was a good sport as she patiently explained and suggested various combos on the menu. We shared a small platter of moi moi, fried plantain and yam as well as Naija style stewed gizzard to start off with.
The conversations flowed as we meandered between politics and football and interestingly to the Ghanaian photographer, Emmanuel Bobbie, who lived in the UK but, now doing great in Ghana. A story of how he would carry his camera literally everywhere crouching in all sorts of positions to take photos of seemingly things only he saw beauty in was shared to nods of – yep that is why he is making waves! His brother is known to most of us.
However, after a while things began to go awry as the wait time for our mains got longer and longer. We joked that we were sure the chef was waiting for the plantain to ripen, the rice for those who ordered jollof rice was stuck in a port somewhere in China and the goat meat? Well the goat was probably still alive awaiting a trip to the butchers. This was all friendly banter until a couple of folks in my party announced they’d rather have their meals as take outs, as it was now past their “evening” meal time. I guess they were watching their “figures” and did not want any excess carbohydrates not likely to be fully used up playing havoc with their diet plans. Another stated rather confidently that he didn’t want any strange dreams. Strange looks were shot his way and I guess he felt pressured to add “……and this is not spiritual oooo….” I was disappointed in the wait time and felt a pang of responsibility as this was my choice of restaurant.
Surely there must be an incredibly good reason for the delay. I inched my way to the bar and asked the proprietor why but, before then I took a deep breadth and glanced quickly at the poster behind me, which read:
It was at this point that the question I was asked when I first phone to book the table made sense. “What will you like to order!?” She explained to me that this was a restaurant whose patrons usually phoned ahead, sometimes a couple of hours, before arrival to order their food.
We don’t keep anything in the fridge. Every thing is prepared from scratch.
At that point my disappointment began to disappear as it dawned on me that this was really a type of urban “farm-to-table” restaurant where the emphasis was placed not on speed but, on cooking everything from fresh or scratch. I doubt it is so by design but, looking at how relaxed and happy the regulars were I imagined this was the norm. My pounded yam and egusi tasted fresh. The portion size was large enough to bring half home which served as dinner the following evening. It tasted even better then. African food is not Chinese food or English fish and chips. It takes time and effort to get it right. Africans know this and expect to exercise a level of patience that we will not necessarily show in non-African restaurants. The question though is – Will non-Africans be as patient in our restaurants?
Indeed as a wise man once stated:
Perfection is attained by slow degrees : it requires the hand of time
On the whole the brilliantly homely and relaxed atmosphere and my great tasting pounded yam and egusi made our 208 degrees restaurant experience a good one. I will be returning, but this time I shall tow the culture by making my order on the phone before arrival. Only then would I confidently be in a position to consider moving my marks from 280 to a full circle – 360 degrees.
280 Kilburn High Road
tel: 0207 3288832
websites: 280 degrees restaurant