Husband and wife team, Segun and Dare Oni, are the foodie lovers behind Onidodo, the latest Nigerian restaurant in town offering a new take on both traditional and modern dishes in London. Initially starting as a supper club in 2014, the couple officially opened the doors of their north London restaurant for business in 2018. We went to check it out.
Onidodo, which means “plantain seller” in Yoruba, is also a hybrid of the couples’ surname ‘Oni’ and Dare’s favourite food, plantain, called ‘Dodo’ in Yoruba language. Segun and Dare Oni were inspired to launch the restaurant when they noticed the lack of Nigerian spots available in the city. In a 2017 study conducted by Statista, out of 1,000 UK adults, 69% consumed Chinese food, 66% opted for Indian, 33% Thai, 26 % French and 23% Japanese – Nigerian (or African food) was not even on the list. Statistics like the above, is something Onidodo aims to change. Previously speaking about this, Dare, who is also Head Chef at Onidodo, said: “It is time to showcase Nigerian food in the UK. It is time for Nigerian restaurants to be an option when families and friends want to dine out on a Friday night. Food lovers should be able to see Nigerian food in the same way that they see Turkish, Chinese, Indian, Italian and other global cuisines.”
So, on a pleasant Saturday evening in December, we went to check out the cuisine at Onidodo and we were not disappointed.
The restaurant has a simple design which serves to give it a bright look and feel. The restaurant is on the smallish size so it would be a perfect location for an intimate meal. Each table is given a complimentary serving of Chin chin (a crunchy finger food), which is a lovely touch. The Chin chin was delicious and more-ish and so didn’t last long at all!
We were impressed by the menu design, as it was simple to read and understand. The food options are split into two parts: starters and mains, and under each section there are traditional and modern options. In the traditional list you’ll find classics such as Asun, Gbegiri and Ewedu and Banga Soup; whilst in the modern section, expect to find dishes like Asun Pie and Butternut Squash Ayamase.
We decided to opt for both a traditional and modern starter, choosing the peppered snails (£18), also known as ìgbín in Yoruba. This was executed well, the snail was tender and not overcooked or chewy, and the spice from the pepper complemented the snails perfectly. The price tag could be considered on the higher side, but as snails are a delicacy in Nigerian cuisine it’s not surprising.
We then ordered the Oxtail and Plantain (£12) from the modern selection. The plantain was served in gorgeous little ball shapes coated in breadcrumbs. We loved the creativity behind the presentation, and the plantain balls looked aesthetically pleasing thanks to the golden coating. The crunchiness of the breadcrumbs went well with the softness of the plantain, while the heat from the scotch bonnet pepper sauce balanced out the plantain’s sweetness. The Oxtail was a little more challenging to eat. Those familiar with Oxtail know it can be rather bony. Personally, I feel this dish has a lot of potential, perhaps if the Oxtail was cooked for a little longer, resulting in the meat falling off the bone?
Next, we tried the Asun (£12) (Peppered Roast Goat). The meat was flavoured well and while it’s usually known as being a very spicy dish, the spice level in this was bearable, thankfully! Again, my personal preference is for the meat to be on the tender side, although I know many prefer a chewier texture.
We absolutely loved the concept behind the cocktail names! Paying homage to Nigeria, expect to find names like Lasgidi (a Peach schnapps); the Lagos Island (a Nigerian-twist on the classic Long Island); and the Slay Mama (a rum and strawberry drink) – all under £10. We ordered the Chapman (£8), a classic Nigerian alcoholic beverage comprising of grenadine, Sprite and Angostura bitters. This was amazing; it was refreshing, similar to a Spritz and it had a nice fizzy finish, and the bitterness nicely complemented the subtle sweetness. So, if you don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, this one is for you!
We next ordered the Slay Mama (£8), a strawberry-based drink with lime and rum. Overall, we enjoyed the freshness of the drink as it was made from fresh strawberries instead of a syrup, making it subtly sweet. It’s worth noting that it is a frozen cocktail.
For the mains we ordered the modern option of the Lamb Chops, served with Jollof rice and plantain (£16). For us, the lamb chops were the highlight of the whole menu. The lamb was cooked to well done but it was still tender and not chewy. The lamb was well-seasoned and the Jollof rice had the beloved smoky flavour too.
We then opted for the Onidodo Suya Chicken & Waffles (£13). This dish consists of two waffles, thick cuts of plantain, crispy chicken strips, a fried egg accompanied by syrup. We loved the idea of taking a classic American dish and giving it a Nigerian-suya twist. The combination of the sweet plantains and the savoury waffles worked very well. Additionally, the chicken was cooked well and was very crispy, but it would have been great to be a bit more heavy-handed with the Suya seasoning.
Many Nigerians tend to be purists when it comes to their food, however, there is an increasing willingness and realisation that exploring new ways to present traditional dishes, doesn’t mean forsaking tradition. Onidodo does an excellent job at showing that this balance is possible by paying homage to classic dishes whilst exploring a modern twist for those feeling adventurous.
Final word from Segun, Onidodo Co-Founder: “Our aim is to create unique and exciting experiences for our customers regardless of their background whether they are Nigerians, Nigerian millennials who want something different but with the same flavours that they grew up with, or Non-Nigerians who have never tasted Nigerian food before.” In our humble opinion, we think they’re certainly on the right track and can’t wait to visit Onidodo again.
83 Turnpike Lane,
Image credits: Melan Magazine
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