There are few things I love more than Nigerian food. My dreams are filled with towering mountains of jollof rice, rivers that run red with palm oil, and forests of emerald-green bitterleaf. I was blessed to grow up in a home where both Nigerian and Ghanaian delicacies appeared on the dinner table. Whenever I visit my folks, I make it my mission to eat ALL OF THE THINGS. This is often done in a wild panic because I know it’ll be a while before I get that taste again.
So when the same Nigerian restaurant was mentioned to me five times in the space of a week, I started to take notice. The original 805 restaurant on Old Kent Road, Peckham is a popular hangout for London’s Nigerian community. But for those of us who can’t be bothered to head down “Sarf” on a regular basis, the good news is that 805 has just opened a northern branch in Hendon Central! *cue celebratory kukere dance*
A few weeks ago, I finally gathered up my gals and headed for 805 Hendon. The first thing that stopped me in my tracks was the restaurant’s appearance. I mean… listen… I’ll be honest. I was expecting more of a casual “chop bar” (shack-type establishment where you grab super-cheap, super delish street food). You know, Formica tables, plastic chairs, etc. But 805 is absolutely gorgeous. Dark wood accents, pristine white tablecloths, napkins meticulously folded into crystal-clear glasses. I was impressed. Also keep an eye out for the artwork! Lucky for them I had a small purse or I would have been walking out with the feature painting of a woman with a beautiful gele (ornate headdress).
I was surprised and impressed anew when we got a warm and professional greeting from the staff. As much as I love my fellow West Africans, sometimes our customer service sucks. Like, sucks bad. One time at a Ghanaian restaurant I dithered for a second too long when choosing a table- the waitress kissed her teeth at me and sauntered off towards another customer who was more worthy of her time. WENCH. But hey! At 805 there were smiles all round, and not one moment after my bum touched the seat did the waitress come over to take my drinks order.
Speaking of DRANKS. As I headed to 805, a still small voice in my head whispered “But will they have Chapman though?” For my darlings who are unfamiliar with this drink, let me tell you what a Chapman is (please note you will never be the same again? Ok thanks). So. Imagine a drink made of the following:
- Fanta (but the GOOD KIND: African Fanta which is roughly 10,000 times sweeter than any other known to man)
- Sprite (see above re: the good kind)
- Angosutra bitters
- Essence of Idris Elba and tears of a unicorn (optional but recommended)
- A cucumber or pineapple slice to garnish
As far as I’m concerned, the Fanta Chapman is Nigeria’s most precious commodity. Forget the oil. This delicious ruby-red drink is the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, and every time I sip one it takes me back to my happy childhood. So you can imagine my joy when I walked into 805 and saw that YES THEY MADE CHAPMANS. I promptly ordered about twelve of them and sat back to enjoy. And they were good, if a little sweet (I have the sweetest sweet tooth in all the land, so if I tell you it was sweet you need to take me seriously). Next time I might ask them to go a little easier on the grenadine- other than that, perfection.
And then it was on to the menu. Oh my effing God, the delights that awaited me! I couldn’t believe it- almost all my favourites were there. Eba and egusi? No problem. Chicken and jollof rice? Why not! Even the side dishes were perfect- fried plantain, fried yam, the list went on…
We ordered a plate of chicken suya to start. If you don’t know what this is, then I feel sorry because your tastebuds are not yet truly living; they’re just existing. Suya is chicken or beef that has been cut into small pieces, coated with a distinct suya pepper mix, and then grilled to within an inch of its life. 805’s version was near-perfect and could almost challenge some of the suya I’ve bought at the roadside in Nigeria.
For the main course we ordered chicken gizzards (hear me out cos they’re AMAZING) in a spicy stew and jollof rice. It. Was. Out. Of. Control. Perfect spice blend, perfectly cooked, just a delight to eat.
(Rumour has it that we also ate the restaurant’s entire stock of fried plantain, but I can neither confirm nor deny this)
The food was authentic, hot, and bursting with flavour. The portions were extremely generous and I soon regretted not wearing something with an elasticated waistband. And when I finally came up for air, I noticed that the restaurant had quickly filled up. The atmosphere was fab- afrobeat music being played at the perfect volume, people kicking back and having a good old time. I can imagine the vibe on a Friday night would be LIVE!
To sum up: the ambience was great and the food was even better. Now darlings it is on the pricey side so please don’t be alarmed. I promise you it’s worth it as an occasional treat. Having said that, the prices on the wine list gave me arrhythmia so steer clear of that side of the menu if you’re feeling fragile.
So whether you’re a hardcore lover of Nigerian food, or a novice looking for adventure, get on down to 805 and order some orishi-rishi (“different-different”) treats ASAP!
View: http://www.805restaurants.com/; Visit: 60 Vivian Avenue, Hendon NW4 3XH; Wallet: Chicken suya from £10 (LAWD JESUS!), Rice dishes from £11