Book review: Ikoyi

By Joe Lutrario

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Ikoyi cookbook review chef Jeremy Chan

Related tags Ikoyi Jeremy Chan Chef Fine dining

Chef Jeremy Chan’s debut cookbook tells the story of one of the UK's most singular and exciting places to eat.

A cookbook from Ikoyi's Jeremy Chan was always going to be a cerebral affair. Against each of the Phaidon-published tome's 40 or so recipes are mini essays that range from 300 to over 1,000 words. In the hands of a less erudite chef such an approach could easily have been tedious and self-indulgent, but Chan’s prose is as captivating as his food.

It soon becomes clear that Chan’s development process is somewhat tortured, with the chef agonising over what his plates say about him as a chef, his restaurant, his ingredients and food culture more widely. But then Ikoyi - which launched in 2017 and is a regular on the top end of Restaurant’s list of the best 100 restaurants in the UK​ - has always had struggles with its identity.

Named after a district in the Nigerian capital Lagos, Ikoyi was initially positioned as a West African-inspired restaurant​ but Chan’s influences have become broader with the now two Michelin-starred restaurant currently billed as offering ‘spice-based cuisine’ (there is still a focus on ingredients from that bit of the world and a number of Ikoyi’s key dishes are takes on West African staples, not least its fried plantain and Jollof rice).  

All of this is explored within the lengthy series of essays that make up the book’s preface. Chan does a fine job of outlining how he and his Nigerian-born front of house counterpart Iré Hassan-Odukale came to launch Ikoyi (the bit about the pair’s early interactions with developers and property agents is particularly illuminating) and the story of the restaurant so far. 


All images ©Maureen M. Evans

A surprising amount has happened given that Ikoyi only launched five or so years ago. Chan details the restaurant’s bumpy start - initially perceived as a West African restaurant the venture struggled to get off the ground only to be saved by the unexpected bestowal of a Michelin star - and the switch from relatively affordable a la carte to blow-the-budget carte blanche. A full tasting menu at Ikoyi - which recently moved from its original location in St James’s Market to new digs at 180 The Strand​ - now costs £300 before drinks and service.

That hefty price tag is down to Chan’s determination to use only the very best, with the chef working closely with some of the UK’s most renowned suppliers. This coupled with Ikoyi’s focus on often obscure spices means that most will have their work cut out obtaining the ingredients necessary to replicate his recipes.

Chan acknowledges this in the book, declaring that “many of these ingredients will be difficult or at times impossible to procure” but that this challenge represents what it’s like to run a restaurant “with a kitchen comprising of a complex network of supplier and producer relationships”. While chefs might not be able to get their hands on some of Chan’s ingredients they will appreciate his precise instructions and the fact that the recipes are presented are taken directly from Ikoyi’s own recipe folder. 

Ikoyi - a journey through bold heat with recipes 

Author: Jeremy Chan
Number of pages: 256
Standout dishes: Smoked Jollof rice and crab custard; fried Landes chicken and chicken offal hot sauce. 
Publisher and price: Phaidon, £45

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