Photo: Lemlem Kitchen
‘African food’, as is decreed in this month’s Foodism, ‘has for too long been ignored by modern London restaurants.’ A valid point (go on, just try and name a handful of decent African joints). For London, a part of the world thought of as diverse and all-encompassing, it’s a bit strange.
But look to the streets and things are different. Quite a bit different, actually. African street food does well on the outskirts of a city – the kinds of places where people are, perhaps, a bit more open-minded. That’s where, if you know where to look, African food is flourishing.
Been to Netil Market? Then you’ll be acquainted with Lemlem Kitchen’s Afro tacos – small, crepe-like flatbreads topped with coffee and cardamom-braised beef shin, jalapeno and mustard seed slaw and pickled mooli. Not bad for £3.50 a hit. Punters love it. Also flatbread-related, Nanny Outars brings some of the best of Guyana to Croydon’s Boxpark with their ‘classic chicken’ roti – that, to you and me, involves a blend of seven spices, with some much-needed mint yogurt to rinse the ol’ tastebuds. Meanwhile, the South African phenomenon known as bunny chow (hollowed-out bread loaf filled with curry, as haphazardly as possible) certainly does the rounds, and not just in London – the eponymous Bunnychow closed their Soho shop last year, but other bunny chow-slinging traders can be found in Lanarkshire, Winchester, Welwyn Garden City, and Altrincham.
A couple of years ago, Ghanaian street food purveyors Chalé Let’s Eat wrote that, somehow, Africa’s ‘delicious, diverse, and healthy food is not something we’re known for.’ The British palate’s lack of adventure being a compelling reason as to why. Perhaps Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen in Pop Brixton – a place where street food and restaurants intersect – best illustrates where African food is at now. African food’s coming off the streets, and into something more recognisable. Something a bit more permanent. Something it might even call home.