After booking a trip to Lagos at the end of last year, my Instagram scrolls soon began to focus on finds in the Nigerian city. One place starred particularly frequently: the sleek David Adjaye-designed restaurant Nok by Alára, the surprising offshoot from Reni Folawiyo’s exquisitely curated boutique Alára. A meal at this Victoria Island culinary hotspot was quite clearly a must – in fact, I ate there twice during my short stay.
I was instantly wowed by the design. The garden space is cool and colourful, furnished with woven mats from northern Nigeria, vibrant rattan raffia lampshades made locally by Burkinabé craftsmen, sculptural chairs by Malian designer Cheick Diallo and a bar handpainted by Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor. The contemporary African-art aesthetic extends into the dining room with black walls offset with photography by Nigerian artist Logo Oluwamuyiwa Adeyemi and lit with a multitude of cloud-like raffia pendant lights, by South African women artisans.
A look over the menu cemented my excitement. I opted for the peanut-encrusted chicken sandwich with yam chips (₦3000, about £6.50). It was a good choice – crunchy yet tender, with a peppery tomato dipping sauce for the yams. I washed it down with the Eko Traffic cocktail (about £7.50), a refreshing mix of clove-infused gin, dry vermouth and elderflower soda.
My subsequent brunch a few days later was no less enjoyable. Having indulged in a midnight street-food feast of spicy suya-crusted meat skewers earlier in the week, I was even more keen to sample Nok’s version of this favourite dish. The delectable crusted suya steaks were paired with fluffy scrambled eggs (about £8.50) – a perfect example of Nok’s ability to embrace local fare and give it an haute cuisine twist. As Nok’s founding general manager Faridah Folawiyo told me, “An important part of our vision is to elevate African food. It is about recognising the innate value of our culture and pushing it as far as we can. It wouldn’t make sense to have a space like Alára, and what it symbolises for contemporary African design, and then serve Italian or French food, you know?” I certainly do.