Dining Out 4 minutes 17 June 2024

Ikoyi: The Michelin Inspectors Give Their Verdict

A Michelin Inspector reveals all on their visit to this creative, West African-influenced Two Michelin Star restaurant in central London

There’s something quite thrilling about Ikoyi. There always has been, ever since it first opened in St James’s Market in 2017. Named after a suburb of Lagos, it combines West African flavours with a whole host of other influences to create a bold, exciting style of cooking of the like London has seldom seen before. Founded by former school friends Iré Hassan-Odukale and Jeremy Chan, who heads up the kitchen, it was awarded One Michelin Star in 2018, before winning Two Michelin Stars in 2022 then recently relocating to a swish new premises on the Strand.

In this article, we’ll get the inside track from a Michelin Inspector on exactly what makes Ikoyi such a unique and impressive part of the British culinary landscape.


First impressions are pretty important when you’re visiting a restaurant. The look of the room, the warmth of the welcome and the tone of the atmosphere all immediately set out the stall for the experience you’re about to have. At Ikoyi, our Michelin Inspectors were greeted by a stylish dining room designed by the Danish company Studio David Thulstrup. It’s all copper, curved walls, leather, oak and steel mesh ceilings – softer tones juxtaposed with harsher elements. Here’s what one of our Inspectors had to say about their arrival at Ikoyi.

“After a warm welcome, we were led to our table past the open kitchen where the seven chefs were working with a calm assuredness; here, nods and gestures replaced barked commands. The room seats only 22 (with a further six around the corner in a semi-private room), so there was a feeling of intimacy along with a palpable air of expectation. Our fellow diners were a relatively youthful, international bunch and it was quickly apparent that some tables were celebrating. After all, this is not an everyday kind of restaurant.

The Dining Room Interior Design by Studio David Thulstrup at Ikoyi
The Dining Room Interior Design by Studio David Thulstrup at Ikoyi

“The room itself looked something like the bridge of a space-age vessel. Stanley Kubrick would have loved the details. But it’s the lighting that really set it apart from your average restaurant; you’re aware of the outside but cocooned from it, while a single spotlight above each table shines a warm and seductive glow on every enticing dish.”

The Drinks

A great meal is always enhanced by the presence of great drinks. But what did our Inspectors order during their visit to Ikoyi?

“I started with a Plantain Old Fashioned for a bit of summer warmth that the weather was singularly failing to provide. My colleague chose a glass of Jean-Marc Seleque Solessence grower champagne. When it came to the wine to accompany the meal, the Sommelier suggested a 2021 Les Clos Chardonnay, Domaine Bärtschi from Savoie, France. It was a pure, taut and understatedly creamy chardonnay with notes of apricot and peach, although it wasn’t quite as weighty as we anticipated.

“The wine list is rooted in the Old World; the strength is the French selection and small, artisanal growers abound, with lesser seen regions such as the Loire, Jura and Savoie well represented. A selection of orange and minimal intervention wines are also present. A few of our fellow diners went for the drink pairings, which include a non-alcoholic version.”

Suya Sweetbread and Creamed Peas at Ikoyi
Suya Sweetbread and Creamed Peas at Ikoyi

The Cooking

At Ikoyi, Jeremy Chan’s innovative cuisine takes the form of a surprise tasting menu comprising around 14 dishes. Some are just a mouthful, others are more substantial creations. As you leave, you’re given a copy of the menu so you can reminisce about the many delicious morsels you enjoyed. But what makes this cooking so impressive and so distinctive within the London dining scene? Here’s what one of our Inspectors had to say.

“In a world where everything is pigeon-holed and packaged, boxed and labelled, there is something defiantly unique and uncategorisable about Jeremy Chan’s cooking. But originality counts for nothing if it isn’t backed up with intent, an inherent understanding of one’s ingredients, strong technique and an appreciation of complementary flavours.

Drunken Squid at Ikoyi
Drunken Squid at Ikoyi

“On the way out, we stopped to gawp in wonder at the produce ageing in the glass cabinets by the front door, from cuts of Wagyu to whole turbot, pigeon and mullet. The cornerstone of all great cooking is great ingredients – and Jeremy Chan understands this. He also understands the importance of good pacing when your menu takes on a tasting format. Our whole experience at Ikoyi lasted three hours and 15 minutes – any longer and we would have started struggling for conversation topics, any shorter and we would have felt rushed through the menu.”

The Dishes Tasted

To go into detail on every element of every dish would make this article painfully long. Suffice to say, each one was not only complex and detailed in its make-up and construction, but also a joy to behold in looks. Here are a few of our Inspector’s highlights.

ikoyi gola pepper broth.jpg


“Our dinner began with some small bites to kick things off in style. Gola pepper broth made with chicken wings was served as a welcome cup; not only was it soothing and beautifully balanced but, with its use of gola peppers from Sierra Leone, it served as a preview for the style of food that was to come.

“This was followed by a mouthful – albeit a generous, ‘open-wide’ one – of smoked sirloin with trout and its roe. It filled the mouth with its crisp yet succulent textures. By now, the taste buds were truly awakened, armed and ready for action.

“Rounding out the early snack-like courses were seabass with green strawberry – the only dish brought to the table by one of the chefs – and the delicious, similarly ‘one bite’ fermented rice with ‘drunken’ squid, topped with a single chanterelle.”

Saffron Crème Caramel

“This strikingly handsome dish looked a little like chawanmushi but had a delicate sweetness, with superb nutty razor clams arranged artfully around the dish. A layer of beetroot juice covered the crème caramel itself and a waiter was on hand with his pipette to release a few drops of saffron oil for the finishing touch.”

Suya and Creamed Peas / Turbot and Egusi Miso

“My single favourite ingredient of the night was a suya-spiced sweetbread that was deliciously creamy and enhanced by wild and black garlic and a meaty morel mushroom. Turbot, the king of fish, was up next and didn’t disappoint. It was aged, so it was quite firm, but it melted in the mouth and was accompanied by a perfectly cylindrical honeyed brioche. I noticed many a phone appearing at that point to snap a crafty pic.”

Turbot and Egusi Miso at Ikoyi
Turbot and Egusi Miso at Ikoyi

Smoked Jollof Rice

“Like that moment at a gig when you hear the opening bars of your favourite song, we saw the jollof rice being carried to the table; its lid was lifted and smoke rose into the air. This is the restaurant’s signature dish that’s been on the menu since day one, but it’s also much changed from the early days – if any dish represents how this kitchen has evolved, it is this one. Now it comes with a lobster custard draped over it and this has taken it to the next level. It was one of the highlights of the evening.”

Apricot and Salted Pine / Flower Sugar and Red Long Pepper

“The rice signalled the end of the savoury dishes and time for dessert. A little baba with apricot was made memorable by a few haskap berries. They’re like an amalgam of various different berries and you can feel your vitamin C levels rise with every bite. A mushroom-shaped second dessert, appropriately dusted with porcini powder, featured red long pepper and was an elaborate construction that really showed off the skill of the kitchen. Finca La Pastoria espresso from Guatemala, along with a couple of mouthfuls of Cuban chocolate and verbena berry, rounded off the evening in style.”

Apricot and Salted Pine Dessert at Ikoyi
Apricot and Salted Pine Dessert at Ikoyi


“One of the attractions of Ikoyi comes down to the fact there is nothing quite like it anywhere else. The food here is daring and dazzling. The set menu doesn’t follow the traditional path of steadily offering stronger flavours as it progresses; Jeremy Chan is not afraid of mixing things up, of challenging expectations and of pushing the boundaries. If you don’t constantly move forwards, you’ll find yourself going backwards. Ikoyi encapsulates this spirit and is all the better for it.”

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