A friendly atmosphere and very Instagram-able décor but it’s the food that quite rightly takes centre stage at Stork restaurant located in the heart of Mayfair, London.
Africans in the diaspora can be a very tough crowd to please when it comes to eating ‘home foods’ in a restaurant setting. As a Nigerian, I am au fait with the usual grapple of mixed feelings, loyalty to support the establishment and the sometimes less than excellent dining experience. However, the news of the recent re-opening of Stork in May 2021, the Mayfair restaurant specialising in a pan–African cuisine piqued my interest, and taste buds.
The restaurant, named to recognise the 2000-mile journey of the stork, pays homage to the migration of African culinary inspiration to nearly every continent in the world through fabulous food and contemporary art; art which is displayed prominently throughout the restaurant.
Changes to the restaurant as part of the reopening include a new a la carte brunch menu on the weekends. Brunch-ers can expect classic dishes such as omelette, pancakes, waffles and cooked breakfast, but all with a unique African twist; think porridge (plantain or cornmeal), Zambian Vitumbua pancakes; Crispy corn-fed chicken, fermented chilli, plantain waffle; Yam and palm nut potage, boiled egg and smoked haddock; and a West Africa breakfast.
A sumptuous 4-5 course lunch awaits guests who choose to visit Wednesdays and Fridays. On a sunny Friday in April, I took my mum along to sample this decadent lunch menu.
Now, it goes without saying that you would expect a restaurant in Mayfair to have a certain kerb appeal and this one didn’t disappoint. Nestled in a quiet side road off Cork Street, was the pale yellow and foliage-bedecked exterior of Stork. Following a warm welcome and our jackets discreetly put away, we were enveloped in the dark, cocoon of the restaurant. Imagine dark woods, olive greens and African art and furnishings. As you walk in, pride of place sits a trio of Chinakwe prints, the bold oranges, yellows and magentas creating a pleasing focal point. A great deal of care and attention has clearly gone into the interior decoration of the restaurant.
Once seated, Thomas – the restaurant manager handed us our menus. Originally of Ghanaian heritage, by way of the Netherlands, Thomas’s friendly and knowledgeable recommendations about the dishes on the menu saw us start off our five-course smorgasbord with cocktails.
I opted for the Sweet African Heat. This was so smooth. It left a soothing warmth in the pit of my stomach. My mum chose the Sugar Cane Passion. I was reliably informed that it was “refreshing and fruity”. It was served with a flame in the passion fruit which you blow out before turning the passion fruit over into the drink to absorb the alcohol.
As a pan-African restaurant, guests should understand that the menu would be a creative take on familiar African foods, a fresh take on traditional dishes found across the African continent and the Diaspora.
Stork’s kitchen team, led by Head Chef Taalib Adanse (London born of Ghanaian heritage) and Senior Sous Chef William JM Chilila (MasterChef Professionals 2018), have created a wide-ranging menu that consists of two sections. The ‘Mains’, which broadly features the likes of traditional African dishes such as Okra soup but fancied up and a signature Ghanaian stew with peanut paste base, both served with pounded yam and fufu.
Also available on the menu is a ‘Grill’ section, which as the name suggests is different types of grilled meats, chicken and beef.
For our starters we chose ‘Jerk Chicken Wings’, four wings, well-seasoned with a light dusting of Suya pepper. Very tasty. The King Prawns with avocado and Chow Chow (not a clue what that is) and scotch bonnet and date jam was a real treat. The aroma as it was placed before us was intoxicating. The avocado sauce complemented the heat from the prawns with a lovely cool, savoury taste.
The welcome arrival of our mains soon followed. Whole Spatchcock Poussin, Grilled Sweetcorn made with their signature jerk, served with Jollof. The poussin was well seasoned, with the extra jerk sauce making it nice and moist. The jollof was that lovely Smokey barbecue that we always crave. If you know, you know!
The Sea Bass? “It’s delicious” I was reliably informed. All the bones were removed which made for a pleasurable eating experience. The sea bass was stuffed with spinach in the belly of the fish, giving additional tasty flavours. Served with a lovely salad, and a fresh avocado flavoured dressing.
A side order of Cassava Chips was a perfect match for the fish. Crusty on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Again, sprinkled with Stork’s usual dusting of Suya spice, these chips are truly moreish. Two small pots of Shito accompanied the chips, perfect for dipping in. A popular pepper sauce from Ghana, the green Shito is for the vegans among us and red (the original) for everyone else. The red Shito had a decidedly pleasant and strong taste of the dried crayfish.
Much like an attentive suitor on a first date, the waiters carried out our every request with charm and kept the delicious food coming. The Dark Chocolate Bomb was a whole production. Much like the Sugar Care Passion cocktails at the start of our meal, it was also served glowing with a blue flame. Deflating like a volcano once the waiter poured over the sauces and custard, the rich and robust taste of the chocolate was sublime. Coming in at a close second, dessert-wise, was the Puff Puff Sundae, which was served with a raspberry sorbet-like sauce. Deliciously sweet and satisfying, it was the perfect end to a lovely meal.
Ignoring our half-hearted protests that we couldn’t fit anything more in, as a parting gift the drinks waiter asked us to try out a new cocktail he was developing. We’re glad that we agreed to sample it as it was absolutely delicious. Still nameless, it was a concoction of Hennessy, amaretto, hazelnuts whipped cream, cinnamon. Very nice. Perhaps when you visit it will be on the menu.
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We had a fabulous time at the restaurant. Everything was made even more special by the friendly and attentive staff, led by Thomas the restaurant manager. It goes without saying that we will be back to Stork in the near future.
13-14 Cork Street
Visit: Stork Restaurant website