The text came a week ahead. “Chalee, I will be in Lagos next Saturday for a presentation. I am coming with three friends, Sam Gayvolor (a Sierra Leonean) and Patrice Kouame from Ivory Coast and his fiancee, Abibatou from Senegal. I need a chop bar where we can dine later in the evening.”
The message was from a friend “coming into town” from Aneho, Togo, where he has been vacationing. What he wanted was simple: a place that offers good food, nice environment and memorable evening leisure. One place came to my mind. NOK by Alara.
It’s been a while since I was last there, but the memory lingers. I remember the night over a year ago when I was stunned by the colourful, savoury victuals on my plate and the dazzling ambience of the outdoor setting. The experience was quaintly satisfactory. I did a check up again and found the restaurant still operating at full blast.
Sometimes, the world’s acclaimed restaurants get mixed reviews––that is to be expected, after all, taste buds are not the same. But everyone who has been to NOK by Alara, located at 12A Akin Olugbade, Victoria Island, Lagos, found some satisfaction. The pagoda-style restaurant with its enchanting garden has a self-explanatory self-description: “Nestled within a lush, bamboo-framed garden, NOK is an intimate dining space displaying contemporary art and design from all over the continent.”
I had no reservation recommending it to the visiting group because I had a conviction that each member of this pied group will find something to their taste in the menu.
I was to link up with them much later and partake in the communion because NOK by Alara is strictly lunch (12pm-3pm) and dinner (6 pm to 10 pm) affairs.
They were over with the main course by the time I arrived at 8:23 pm. I wanted to know what they had anyway. It turned out the group had been explorative with the menu. Using Ananse wisdom, each person ordered a different course and then shared among themselves, with everyone ending up eating four different meals. The dishes, drawn from cuisines of four different countries were Misr Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew), Poisson Braisé (Ivorian grilled Whole Fish with Sauce Moyo), Thiebou Jenn (Senegalese grouper with vegetables over broken rice) and Bahia fish stew (Orange fish (Eja Osan) in coconut and palm oil broth) served with Jasmine rice.
Expectedly, they were wowed by the beautiful ambience––it is a magic that hardly fails, the NOK Garden’s outdoor settings, a tapestry of eclectic art and design that is a visual treat.
The group from “out of town” had only one complaint. “In my country, the main meal is meant to fill you up. I am still hungry,” Kouame joked, opening up a debate for a second helping.
There was a little difficulty with the menu. The list was long and every item sounds irresistible––Seafood and okra stew, Chicken Piri Piri with sauteed ugwu, Coconut and lime barbecued prawns, Jerk Chicken with Waakye (Ghanaian rice & beans)…
The attendants further confounded us. Eventually, we settled for Ofada rice balls (which comes in three rolls, one with beans, one with egusi, one with Ndole) and Kelewele, spicy fried plantain (a popular Ghanaian food).
For dessert, we settled for date cake with tiger nut ice cream.
Thereafter, we engaged in small talks.
My second timeout in NOK by Alara was, again, a satisfying dining experience.