Kate’s Restaurant, Plaistow, London
Kate’s Restaurant in Plaistow, East London is one of those restaurants that everybody talks about, but I’ had never set foot in before. The perfect opportunity presented itself yesterday, to celebrate with a man who was about to flee freedom (as some know it) into the hands of his sweet heart and into bliss (as others know it). The booking had been made for 15 men of no small repute. These were Men of Influence destined for greatness plus 1 foodie – me.
The groom to be, Jude has written two wonderful books, Crossroads and Good things happen in Glasgow. I smiled when the idea was first mooted by Pete. I knew this will be a stag night where the objective would not revolve around a last-ditch attempt to lead the groom into temptation. Certainly no tying him up to one of those munky East London lamp posts for hours. There’d be no topless waitresses winking furiously at him through their Beyonce-esque 6 inch eye lashes. This was after all Plais – Stow! A piece of land, now an integral part of London, which used to be owned by a Sir Hugh de Plaitz from the 1060s, and whose wife put her stamp on the town by naming it the manor of Plaiz. Luckily for our blessed groom to be, the “stow” in Plaistow is the old English name for a Holy place of assembly and on this evening it had been set apart and re-named Addostow.
With all “thoughts” of leading Jude astray and defiling his stow relegated deep into the abyss, we set about getting on with the evening.
I had one thing in mind to order before I had even seen the menu – Fried Yam and Akonfem (Fried Yam and Roasted Guinea Fowl). It had to be. The taste of a Ghana style spiced roast guinea fowl has been so indelibly etched in my food memory bank that I’d need the most compelling of reasons to have it, probably surgically removed. As we waited to order, chatted amongst ourselves, and teased and attempted to “pond” the groom to be, I noticed the size of the restaurant. This was apparently a 100 person capacity restaurant and it showed. The decor was not overly Africanised. There were no drapes of Kente hugging the ceilings and certainly no adornments of heads of zebras and antelopes on the walls. The decor was fairly contemporary, but the atmosphere was unmistakably African. My party was expectedly loud, but I overheard other diners quietly talk about politics as they watched a Ghana news channel on a screen located at one end of the restaurant. Kate’s Restaurant was as warm and friendly as it was intimate. I made contact with Auntie Kate trying to delve deeper and for a fuller sense of her wonderful restaurant. Like a true modern and visionary entrepreneur she knew the power of the internet and social media and was grateful for the opportunity to tell me more! Her personality shown through as she hurriedly looked for her specs and adjusted her colourful African fabric attire to pose for a photo for this piece. She beckoned her rather shy husband, Mr Armah, to come closer to her in her local Fanti dialect as she tried to suppress a laugh and burst into a rendition of King David’s Tsi Obenke Mi. I laughed; she laughed too. One of her staff caught on to what was happening, strategically placed herself within shot of the photo and did all she could to tease and to distract her boss. Auntie Kate like Margaret Thatcher, another inspirational matriarch was not “for turning”. She stood her ground and was determined she would hold her smile for that perfect snap. She did!
We had an engaging conversation. Like all successful entrepreneurs she had a story to tell. Auntie Kate worked for 10 years in the Insurance Industry in the heart of London, whilst catering for events on Fridays and Saturdays. As her catering business became successful, she quit her day job and subsequently added a small cafe/restaurant to her portfolio which she run for 11 years. Two years ago she moved Kate’s Cafe and Restaurant from its tiny building into its present large building. The restaurant is now certainly one of London’s premier African restaurants. Tilapia with Fried Yam and Aponkye Nkrakra (light soup with goat meat) are, she says with a smile, the most popular dishes. Curiously enough for non-Ghanaians or most notably Nigerians and South Africans, Tilapia with Fried Yam and Salad held sway. Given the slowly increasing popularity of African cuisine, I was not surprised to hear that Kate’s Restaurant has a sizeable number of British non-African regulars. Asked what makes her restaurant standout, Auntie Kate, without hesitation, said “the good food and the friendly atmosphere”. This I can attest to.
As the orders arrived, I noticed the portions were truly super sized, unusual in the UK, where we tend to live in “chicken coops” and the mini cooper has a cult-like legendary status. There was enough food left on my plate to compel me to ask for a doggy bag. I had no choice, but to squash the food in as the rather large sized doggy bag also began to take in more than it had been built for. Someone on the night did say confidently that “Watch, this thing will taste even better tomorrow” to which I said “yeah the spices would have all been well and truly been infused in the meat”. We were not wrong. Not only did the left over feed two the next day, but the roast guinea fowl tasted like the meat equivalent of a matured wine that had spent 25 years in a cellar ready to up its price to something only Russian oligarchs could afford.
Hausa Koko and Tom Brown (both traditionally breakfast porridges) do things to me. Tom Brown, I regularly make, but to make an authentically tasting Hausa Koko in London is a challenge. Had the groom to be not been there, the evening would have been dedicated to Hausa Koko. The sheer number of conversations around this porridge had me placing my take away order well before the evening had come to a close. My brother Evans, a regular at Kate’s Restaurant looked me straight in the eye and told me he had placed an order to take home for Hausa Koko worth £20.00. I laughed, but he didn’t. He was dead serious! I had my first taste of the Hausa Koko at 12 midnight after arriving home breaking all tradition about it being a breakfast porridge. As I had it I instantly knew what the fuss about Kate’s restaurant koko was all about. It was really something, but the secrets to the taste lay firmly in spices – the chunk of ginger and grains of selim floating in my portion gave the game away but perhaps not fully.
On the menu were Ghana’s red red, Chinchinga (grilled goat meat on skewers), Fried Yam and Tsofi, Banku with Tilapia to mention a few. Deep- fried Tsofi/Chofi or “Turkey Tails” was the most popular choice amongst the brethren on the night. Not the healthiest, but at the risk of offending “Ghana’s most irreverent journalist” amongst others, I shall swiftly move on.
It may take a village to raise a child, but at the end of the evening it felt like a husband was being raised amongst us. As the African proverbs goes “if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Those who could, responded when the call was made; the elders and husbands amongst us spoke when the time was right and Auntie Kate’s food gave gladness to our hearts. I couldn’t have asked for a better night out. Auntie Kate, please make that loyalty card ready!
PS: Sam Quartey took these wonderful photos. You can find his work here – Sam Kings Photography
Average Price for a meal: £7.00