Since Akara opened near London Bridge in September (2023), it’s been on my radar. The West African restaurant is owned by Aji Akokomi, the mind behind fine dining Fitzrovia restaurant, Akoko – the subject of the first restaurant review I did for Secret London. Akoko is up there with one of the best restaurants I’ve ever dined at, so upon hearing about its laid-back little sister venue, I knew I had to visit.
Akara, named after a popular West African street food dish, is all about relaxed dining and sharing dishes. Its eponymous dish – which is a crispy savoury fritter made from black eye beans – graces the menu, alongside a succinct selection of mains, sides, and sweet desserts. Intrigued? Read on for my review of Akara.
Simply put, Akara has a great vibe to it. Visually, the space is contemporary, and the clean, cream colour palette gives off a rather calming effect, ideal if you’re coming for dinner after a long day at work. The space was designed by London-based design studio A-nrd, who have used light oak, natural stone, soft lighting, and minimalist accents to honour the ‘under the arches’ location, while still bringing something warm and fresh to the space. This design extends to the gorgeous platewear and crockery too.
Unlike some restaurants, you’re not packed in at Akara; this is a 40-cover restaurant, but I reckon, if they wanted, they could pack in more people, as it feels spacious. There’s an open kitchen under the archway with delicious smells wafting out, and Afrobeats provide the soundtrack to the evening. The phenomenal service makes the dining experience here even better; on my visit, the staff were super friendly, and left us not wanting for anything.
My food review of Akara
As previously mentioned, Akara is all about sharing plates, but honestly, I was trying to go for the bigger half of everything, as it was just so tasty (and totally for the purpose of this review, of course). The menu speaks for itself, as I spotted multiple people stopping in front of the restaurant to check it out and make enquiries for seats.
While you can choose to start with a snack, I went straight in and kicked off the meal with the akara. Towels were presented with a flourish by staff, so you can sanitise your hands – it was a lovely touch. The akara dough was perfectly crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside. There was a lot of filling in each: the BBQ tiger prawn and seared Orkney scallop were incredibly juicy, and the braised ox cheek was tender. If you like spice, I recommend the tiger prawn or ox cheek option; the scallop was a softer flavour.
As for the mains – wow! Myself and my partner polished these off. The barbecued Lagos chicken was super soft and juicy, and the glazed carrot and Senegalese hot sauce atop the dish was divine. Mouth-tinglingly divine, mind – it was spicy, but paired with the sweet plantain and octopus relish, the flavours truly sang. The grilled pollock was more creamy, and was a less spicy option; the fish flaked beautifully. These dishes were brought together by the epic Efik rice. It’s not often that I scrape the plate of a rice dish for scraps, but the spiced, umami, unapologetic flavours of this rice were incredible.
Come dessert, there were just three options – I tried two, and can sing both their praises. My favourite was the tamarind date cake, with tonka bean cream. It wasn’t particularly fruity, rather it tasted like a deliciously moist rum cake – very homey and comforting. The dark chocolate, Kahlua, and citrus meringue dessert tasted like a light tiramisu.
As for drinks, there is an eclectic cocktail menu and a curated, worldly wine list at Akara. Standouts for me were the sweet and slightly fizzy Palm Punch, and the Chenin Blanc Sur Lie Reserve from South Africa, which balanced out the spice of the meal well.
All in all, my review of Akara is surmised as GO GO GO; it’s a fantastic meal out, perfect for a catch-up with friends, or after a long day at work. I found myself doing a happy dance in my seat at many points throughout the meal, yes, because of the good music, and also because of the good food. I’ll be back, Akara!