I used to think there was rice and then there was rice. It was either edible or burnt. Growing up in the Southern hemisphere, it was a necessary staple to any home cooked meal. There wasn’t really that much to say about it and it seemed rather boring and necessary. There weren’t really any surprises to be found about rice.
I then moved to the UK for university and had to fend for myself. This included learning an essential life skill if I wasn’t to starve on my impoverished budget. Cooking. This was when I was first introduced to the various types of rice offered at local supermarkets. Let’s just say that through experimentation I came to understand that there was edible rice and those less so.
Further development of my rice discernment occurred when I spent 2 years working in Japan. That is where I tried the emperor of rice. With an appropriately kingly price tag. I enjoyed it very much but to continue eating this would quickly make me more broke than I was.
So you could say that rice is dear to my heart. Which made the meal below even more interesting as it was to be only one highlight of the meal.
Buttermilk plantain with smoked scotch bonnet. I haven’t really had plantain before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I found was that it wasn’t just any banana but proudly showed what bananas could be! Savoury and spicy, an unexpected treat. This dish made my visit in itself already worth it.
Smoked bass, red pepper and kelp. Crispy skin, moist flesh, tantalising sauce and crunchy elements. In that way that great food can summon you to a faraway land, this swept me away into the tropics. I could almost hear the lapping of the waves, feel the sand between my toes and taste the tinge of salt on the air.
Smoked Jollof rice. If I had to pick the star of the meal, it would be this. I must profusely thank Ikoyi for showing me African rice. Not just any African rice but that done in an almost delectable way. It was so flavourful and spicy, I almost cried. Although perhaps it could have been the spices of the meal though that led to this almost tear jerking moment.
Groundnut and zobo. To translate, this is nuts (peanuts), flowers (hibiscus) and a base (meringue). Cool and delicious, with a heavy peanut flavour set off with delicate flowery notes, it was a great contrast to what had come before. Settling the fire in my mouth and stomach, it soothed and left me pleasantly full at the end. So this is how I left Ikoyi, with a sweet but nutty taste in my mouth, content and full.
Surprises add spice to life. Often for me, they make life unpleasant at that immediate time but they later provide valuable conversation pieces. On the much to be preferred flip side and on fewer occasions than I would like, I am knocked off my feet in a good way. So blindsided by flavours that almost pull me out of my mundane existence, occasions like this remind me that this is why I love to eat.
So I know where to go next time I need something to bring me back from the brink when I eat bad food. Proof that you can find surprising rice in the most unlikely (well at least to my plebeian and uncouth knowledge) places. Time to visit Ikoyi again.
A quiet eating 8.5/10.
Lunch (3 courses) was GBP28 excluding drinks and service.
1 St James’s Market, St. James’s,
London SW1Y 4AH