Tatale, a brand new pan-African restaurant, arrives on the London eating scene at a time when it can not assist however make opponents really feel barely drab. Current flash new openings within the capital have taken a well-known form: posh pub revamps serving salt marsh lamb at almost £35 a pop, pricey patisserie by famous international chefs and 100-plus-cover, all-day brasseries that look alluring within the PR photographs, however offer a menu so drab, you’ll be loud night breathing into your rooster paillard salad just like the dormouse on the Mad Hatter’s tea celebration.
In the meantime, on the sidelines and planning, was Akwasi Brenya-Mensa and his imaginative and prescient for Tatale, an improve of his in style supper membership to a everlasting house within the all-new Africa Centre in Southwark. His menus are broadly west African, however every dish is closely redolent of a childhood in south London, travels in Israel and South Africa, and household journeys to Ghana. So count on crisp, scorching, panko-wrapped ackee croquettes, zinging with citrus and a scotch bonnet kick, in addition to the silkiest, black-eyed bean hummus with pink palm oil and a dukkah base be aware influenced by time spent in Tel Aviv, and served with crunchy plantain chips. This is superb, life-changing hummus. Brenya-Mensa additionally celebrates the informal joys of the Ghanaian roadside “chop bar” with a easy bowl of his mom’s “pink pink” black-eyed bean stew served with an entire, baked, edible flower-strewn plantain perched within the centre of the bowl. It’s a west African recipe with a contemporary twist, and delivered with a staunch, sentimental accuracy.
Brenya-Mensa, who educated below James Cochran at 12:51, is patently not the primary or solely chef in south-east of England to supply plantain, ackee or chichinga rooster. Nevertheless, huge, expensively hewn, pan-African new openings with magnificent artwork installations, bespoke furnishings and a separate cocktail bar are actually slim on the bottom. The partitions are deep indigo, and the chairs and sofas vividly patterned in conventional Ghanian kinds by Golden Editions, which specialises in kente fabric made within the Volta area. Tola Ojuolape Studio, in the meantime, has give you a panorama of clay, terracotta and woven objects to create a relaxed, communal house the place guests to the Africa Centre can come and go or take a desk by the open kitchen. Brenya-Mensa has cited the arrival of eating places such because the much-loved Chuku’s in Tottenham as giving him impetus, however Tatale is a unique and far larger beast altogether. Neither is it very very like the boldly experimental Ikoyi in St James or the extremely likable Akoko in Fitzrovia, each of which provide ornate tasting menus and much heftier payments. Tatale is elegant, however defiantly homespun.
The menu is unabashedly private, with every dish coming with its personal anecdote on the menu. Brenya-Mensa tells of working with a dance college in Tel Aviv, and of his household’s energetic events on a jaunt to Cape City. There’s a nod in the direction of what his mom makes him every Tuesday after soccer, particularly that “pink pink” stew with the plantain, which on the day I visited was the one massive plate on supply. It’s wealthy and tomato-based, and laden with fermented locust bean and gari. I remorse not with the ability to end the bowl, as a result of I went reasonably heavy on the yellow rice, or geelrys, a Malay-influenced, sunset-coloured bowl of sticky jasmine rice with fried shallots and plenty of sultanas. Nice rice is my downfall each time, and this candy, compelling stuff is way more than your common facet. Absolutely the star of the present, although, was the omo tuo in a scrumptious puddle of nkatenkwan. This bowl of wealthy, fantastically fiery groundnut soup with a dainty slick of vibrant inexperienced parsley oil sneaks up on you, turning into extra incredible every time you break off a few of the mashed white rice dumpling from the centre, soak it within the nutty sauce and ship it to your mouth.
These dishes are painstakingly exact and are nearly all vegan. Sure, there’s the much-talked-about chichinga buttermilk rooster, served as rooster wings with a facet of darkish pink, fishy shito, however in the event you ignore that, it is a quietly plant-based menu, and positively one for meat-avoiders to have up their sleeve. We went for Sunday lunch and ate our method by your entire listing, leaving no room for the chin chin cheesecake, which was such a rookie mistake: I ought to in all probability hand again my badge. I noticed it going to different tables, although – crunchy, damaged items of glistening fried dough perched on flippantly whipped cream cheese, apple and lime zest – so I’ve no alternative however to slink again alone someday.
Brenya-Mensa has created one in every of London’s most fascinating and scrumptious new openings, and it’s no marvel he’s been referred to as an “African futurist”. My future, I hope, entails way more nkatenkwan.