Lagos is a paradox when it comes to eating outside the home––a city that teems with plush eateries but reeks of cynicism about taste. While patrons love it, they are sometimes wary of the ambience outlet. You sometimes hear this: “If the restaurant is too fine, the food won’t be sweet.”
TIMEOUT recently visited the new-in-town Mamee Foods at 11 Jibowu, Yaba, Lagos. It is a place to grab the regulars chow: tea or coffee with cakes (chocolate cuppies or muffins), doughnuts, sandwich, chips and Croaker fish or Moi-moi (Yoruba bean pudding) or Ekoki (its Calabar version made of corn). They serve the ubiquitous rice in various forms –– Ofada rice, Basmati rice, Nigerian fried rice, Waakye and Smoky Jollof rice.
It came as a pleasant surprise when the food house invited patrons to a banquet of ethnic-themed gourmet meals dubbed Calabar Dining Experience on November 3. From 2 to 8 pm, gourmands savoured a seven-course meal, a lip-smacking smorgasbord that included Afia Efere (White soup) prepared with goat meat, periwinkle, catfish and crayfish and Ukwoho Afang (the popular Afang soup), a “brilliant combination of vegetables, whelks and meat in palm oil” served with pounded yam as the main course. On the table were delicacies, such as Ukang Ukom, (unripe plantain porridge with chopped cow leg, bush meat and spicy green) and Ekpang Nkuquo (a pottage of grated cocoyam, leafy green, periwinkle, crayfish, smoked fish, snails and shrimps) and Edasi Isip (coconut rice “inside a coconut”).
“Here is not a quick-service restaurant, but an experience centre,” says Chidi Amudo, the CEO who is a former oil industry professional.
Maamee’s X factor, according to him, is its people’s passion for cooking.
“The chef that took us round had a degree in law, but he has passion for cooking; the female chef that cooked Edika Ikong has a Bachelor in Theatre Arts. She cooks authentic Calabar food. My wife loves cooking and I love to eat good food,” he says.
Amudo dissects the company into three: Experience, Kitchen and the outlets. The Kitchen, on one level, partners educationists, firms or institutions on CSR feeding project and provides recipes with nutritional value for beneficiaries; on another level, it functions as a backup for caterers with limited capabilities. “We cook their recipes or they take any of our own,” he adds.
The Experience department organises the meals-from-ethnic-pot banquet every first Sunday of the month. December’s Urhobo Dining Experience has come and gone. January is scheduled for Healthy Options that include Keto diet meals (with pizza and bread features) while February will bring pastries-based menu to the table. March is scheduled for Ghanaian cuisine. Lovers of Nkwobi, the Igbo delicacy of “cow foot, chopped into sizeable chunks and spiced to taste,” can look forward to April 2020 when it will be the second course of the menu for Ndigbo Dinning Experience.
From outside, the Maamee food place has a charming visage. That is because it was built to specification from a 3D model, the CEO reveals. Inside, it is swanky, an elegant dining lounge, a corporate environment and a ready-to-use space for occasions, such as theme party, private dining or social engagements. At the back-end, you’d find a standard commercial kitchen fitted with stainless steel, top-of-the-range appliances and utensils.