This restaurant opened recently and we decided to try it out because we have had very little exposure to African food and are quite curious about it (perhaps the most we’ve tried is North African food i.e. Moroccan, Egyptian…). But also, it is in our neighbourhood and we would like it to not become a Ghost Town again, so here we are, keen to support local businesses!
A sense of earthiness permeated our lunch. It started with the earth-toned extremely pretty crockery and the retro-looking-but-stylish decor. This continued with multiple dishes that evoked various earth-related sensations: the feeling of having dug a little hole in a recently rained-on field and smelling its moist aromas, or the feeling of digging deep in the beach for building a sand castle, and unleashing all the saltiness that was trapped on the compact and damp sand…
There were also smoked flavours—one of the dishes came covered with a lid full of smoke, which the waiter then revealed to dramatic effect… and customers unsuccessfully tried to capture with their tiny little phones, instead of just enjoying the WHIFF of smoke that was released and curled away in just a matter of seconds. I enjoyed trying all the goat-based dishes (meat and milk)—it’s such an underrated source. And it was quite interesting to see the spice level increasing as we progressed through the menu; fortunately there was a cleanser between the last mains and the dessert!
It was quite vivid and unexpected, but without excessive funkiness (some restaurants go too far in the quest for “originality” and “experience” and the food is just unpleasant).
Overall we enjoyed the food, and it was a very short walk home, so what’s not to like?
Well! You just asked Ms. Perfectionist!
There were a few things that unnerved me.
There’s the one “by design”: the fiddling with the side table each time they brought a dish.
Someone would install the table, someone else would bring a tray with dishes, yet someone else would put the dishes on the table, then the dishes would be transferred to our table. Then the tray person would leave. The side table would sometimes stay as they were busy with some other table. Then someone had to nod someone to take the side table away. Some time later, when we were finished, the side table would be installed again to undo this process. Repeat. I think they could do without the whole side table paraphernalia and it would be way more relaxed and efficient. I was bored of it by the second or third time I witnessed it already.
Then there’s the circumstantially unnerving things, i.e. pandemic related: staff seemed to not be quite familiar with mask wearing. Some would bring it to their chin (and then back up again). Others would half take it off to talk to you (… as we instinctively retreated back in our chairs, to no avail). Others we just couldn’t hear at all as they were not quite “projecting” their voice beneath the mask. Good thing we had a copy of the menu in our phone and we could consult whatever the name of the dish was…
It was these “nits” that didn’t quite allow me to relax into the whole experience. I want to think it’s more lack of awareness than active disregard for masks and other preventative initiatives. Given how risk averse most customers already are, I can’t imagine why they would want to make people even less keen on going to restaurants.
21 Berners Street, W1T 3LP