Contemporary Nigerian cuisine in Lagos

Lagos is an undeniably cosmopolitan town when it comes to its restaurant culture, but it doesn’t skimp on its own Nigerian cuisine. Often fused with European or “˜continental’ flavours, there are a number of outlets that cater to those with a passion for pepper. From traditional dishes such as ofada rice to local favourites like suya, the following are some of the best places to taste modern Nigerian food in Lagos.

Contemporary Nigerian cuisine in Lagos | Explorers Restaurant

Table Service at Explorer’s Restaurant at Federal Palace Hotel © Sun International Photographic Library

Starting off in Victoria Island, the choice of places to sample Nigerian cuisine is pretty good. Hotels are often the best bests for high end dining, with most offering more than one restaurant under one roof. Inside the Intercontinental Hotel, the fifth floor Ariya Terrace restaurant has DJ nights, views over Lagos lagoon and cocktails that can be sipped as accompaniments to chicken suya, for a modern take on the Nigerian-style shish kebab.

The luxurious Federal Palace Hotel is another salubrious choice for African fare with the Explorer’s Restaurant offering traditional Nigerian cuisine alongside European dishes. Jollof rice and groundnut stew are often on the menu here, and the buffet style of service means you can try a little bit of everything, while savouring views out over the lagoon from the hotel terrace.

Contemporary Nigerian cuisine in Lagos | Explorer's Restaurant

Buffet stir fry action station at Explorer’s Restaurant at Federal Palace Hotel © Sun International Photographic Library

Always popular for lunch, dinner or business meals is the Terra Kulture centre, where the ground floor Food Lounge is a must for anyone looking for generously sized, authentic Nigerian dishes. The all day buffet service features everything from snails, goat meat, beans and plantain and rice – either the plain white or spiced jollof variety – as well as the heavier ofada rice dish that comes topped with a spicy meat stew.

Well established, the Yellow Chilli Restaurant and Bar regularly has its praises sung for the food service at its Victoria Island branch, as well as at its outlet in suburban Ikeja. The Nigerian menu features some mouth-tingling specials including the seafood okro (a rich broth with a combination of fish, shrimps and prawns) obe dindin (fried stew with rice and assorted meat) and yam pottage (beef, snail and yam pieces cooked in palm oil). Lunchtimes are heaving with customers but the venue still manages to keep its service times quick enough to keep loyal customers coming back for more.

Contemporary Nigerian cuisine in Lagos | Otres Restaurant

Edikiakong Soup and Pounded yam at Otres Restaurant © Orode Ryan-Okpu

The Grill Room at Ikoyi’s Wheatbaker Hotel heads to a different part of the continent for its menu, which includes South African as well as Nigerian dishes. Prime steaks as served alongside local staples of well-spiced meat or fish grills, while a long wine list and a selection of cigars make the Grill Room a great post-work and weekend hangout.

Bogobiri offers casual dining at its best at its atmospheric, upbeat restaurant. October’s Independence Day celebrations saw Bogobiri officially launching its Nigerian food menu to sit alongside its international options. Breakfast includes yam chips or plantain with egg stew, while combinations of main meals or starters feature snails or gizzard marinated in spicy hot sauce, spicy traditional goat meat in pepper sauce, hot and spicy “˜curry’ of chicken or the African dish of the day. There’s also a choice of Moroccan lamb cutlets as a nod to North Africa. 

Otres Restaurant is a Lekki-based outlet with a discerning range of Nigerian dishes, its popular favourite being the heavyweight banga soup and starch for those with a serious appetite. Modern, comfortable and homely, Otres serves “˜great African meals made from the heart’, including dishes like stewed oxtail, chicken nkwobi (diced chicken in spicy African vegetable sauce), edikaikong pumpkin seed soup with meat or fish, plantain pottage and banga rice cooked in rich vegetable spices with shrimp and served with chicken or fish. Drinks also include the bright red and moorishly sweet Chapman cocktail.

Contemporary Nigerian cuisine in Lagos | Otres Restaurant

Take a seat while you wait for you table at Otres Restaurant © Tobi of TCD Photography

Inside Freedom park on Lagos Island, Veggie Victory seems like a suitable name for Lagos’s first ever vegan and vegetarian restaurant with an African flavour. Let’s not forget that Nigeria as a whole is a fiercely meat eating nation, so culinary game changers are a big deal in this carnivorous town. Veggie Victory does have a “˜vegmeat’ concession, although naturally this is for tasty options of barbecue or stir-fried tofu, mushroom and eggplant stew and vegan pizza. Other edifying choices are the rich vegetable efo riro soup, the ogbono broth made from bitterleaf and okra, as well as the similar okra-based soup, ila alasepo.

The University of Suya was once a roadside outlet (bukka) but graduated to a bona fide storefront where passing trade numbers in the hundreds per day for the ginger and pepper-spiced meat kebabs. Also known as the “˜faculty of meatology’, specialising in outdoor services and fresh beef roasting, this outpost on Allen Avenue has become a popular and much talked about street food landmark.

Virgin Atlantic operates daily direct flights to Lagos from London Heathrow, bringing this delicious African cuisine within easy reach.

Have you visited any of these Lagos restaurants? What are some of your favourites dishes from traditional Nigerian cuisine? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Nana Ocran

About Nana Ocran

Nana Ocran is a London-based writer and editor specialising in contemporary African culture. She was Editor-in-Chief for the Time Out Group’s series of guides to Lagos and Abuja and has consulted on and established publications on West African culture for the Danish Film Institute, the Arts Council England and the Institute of International Visual Arts. She was a nominee for CNN’s African Journalist of the Year (2011), and curatorial advisor for the Afrofuture programme at La Rinascente during Milan Design Week 2013. Nana is a regular features writer for Arik Airline’s in flight magazine, Wings, in which she writes about art, lifestyle, innovation and enterprise issues relating to Arik’s African, European and US destinations. She has been a jury member for Film Africa (London) and the Festival del Cinema Africano, d'Asia e America Latina (Milan).
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