The cocktail resurgence in London and New York has truly arrived in Accra, smartly dressed, with a little black book of mixes and silver shaker. Before this year, we'd never seen barman taste a drink in a straw before serving it, let alone pander to requests for a smoky martini and serve a perfect example. We even commissioned our own cocktail from the Lexington. Next time ask for the 'Time Out Accra!
It is the Lexington, alongside Firefly and Santoku at the forefront of the cocktail revolution in Accra. And a bar that takes its time over an old fashioned and a bloody mary is one that also invests time on the menu, design and vibe. It's no surprise these, along with Republik (which has some brilliant cocktails mixed from palm wine - a local brew) are the most exciting in Accra right now. Combine that with a serious and flexible DJ, live music, good and friendly service and some moreish bars snacks (we recommend the sliders at The Lexington and the cassava chips at Republik), you have one seriously fun, and decadent, night out.
It's not all about the chi-chi cocktails. A cold Star or Club in a roadside bar like Lizzies can offer the best insight into nightlife in Accra. Other favourite drinking establishments include Bella Roma, Ryan's Irish Bar and Monsoon.
Categorising bars in Accra, however, is no easy task. Many of the establishments below also offer food, so the ones we've listed here are the best places in the city where you can order a beer or cocktail without feeling obliged to order a meal.
Accra's best cocktail bars...
Burger & Relish is Accra’s answer to an insatiable craving for a good burger, but here we are more concerned with the drinks.
The same passion for burgers continues with booze (they are fine bedfellows of course). There are some interesting beers – rare in Accra – but it’s the cocktails where Burger & Relish excel, particularly rum-based drinks. The B&R Rum Punch (for two!) is Havana White, three-year and seven-year old rum with a fruit blend, spices and topped with over proof rum. Other highlights include the Lucky 8 Cooler – gin, rooibos tea, apricot puree and vanilla – what’s not to like? The non-alcoholic drinks are superb too – it’s worth popping in for an Apple & Mint Swizzle alone.
Music is the defining factor at this fairly new little bar that has seen highlife legend Ebo Taylor pass through its doors. Album covers and black and white photos of music stars adorn the walls and Ghana’s best music plays out – live too on the terrace; check out the Facebook page and Twitter account for details. But the food is making waves as well – the cassava chips are a fabulous accompaniment for a caipirihna made from traditional palm wine, and the Fire Go Burn You pepper soup and Ye Ye Goat soup for GH¢18 is superb value for something this tasty. One of the most happening bars in Accra right now.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest restaurant of all? The shiny new Urban Grill is one of the most talked about restaurants in Accra and for good reason: the food, the décor, the ambience are all superlative. It is located at Icon House, a new building that also hosts equally-hyped Coco Lounge, Vida e caffé and La Maison, all from the same team that started Santoku. This group of eateries is seriously raising the bar in Ghana for food, service and interior design. So what of Urban Grill? At its heart, it is a high-end steak house. The meat is corn-fed and imported directly from Nebraska, and cooked over a charcoal grill to perfection. It’s the best steak in Ghana. At the helm in the kitchen is Andrew DiCataldo who cut his teeth at Patria in New York City where the New York Times said: “Mr. DiCataldo can splash color and flavor all over the plate – what’s the point of nuevo Latino if you don’t – but he has a fine, disciplined hand. He understands subtleties.” . As good as the steak is, the menu really gets interesting when he fuses his Nuevo Latino passions with local ingredients in dishes such as squid three ways, the amazing pork belly with kumquat glaze on crispy fried cassava or, his signature dish, the plantain-encrusted grouper. The desserts highlight is the sticky toffee pudding. The staff strike the right balance of being attentive while giving you time and space. Be sure to pop in a bit early and grab a dry martini or their deconstructed Bloody Mary, which
From the leather bar seating to the tilework in the private dining room, the attention to detail in Coco Lounge is quite amazing. Local artist Nana Anoff has installed pieces alongside thoroughly modern and brave design touches, as you’d expect coming from the same stable as design store La Maison next door, which also curated the restaurant’s interior. The pizza oven is dressed up as an old Italian truck and a sight to behold. Incredible space for sure, so what about the food? The tight menu of mains includes sandwiches, burgers and fish and chips. Plus there’s a wide range of salad dishes, rice bowls and that wood-fired pizza. Oh, and don’t forget the home-made ice cream and cakes. The focus on detail continues through to the food – renowned New York chef Andrew DiCataldo has designed the menu as well as that of the flagship Urban Grill. Our burger was on a brioche (thank heavens), and the quinoa salad was loaded with dried fruit and nuts – an inviting sight. The dickie-bowed wait staff were attentive and kind. The cocktail list is also impressive. Meko Martini anyone? It’s Ketel One Vodka with Ghanaian chili. Pow!
Santoku is the best restaurant in Ghana right now. There are other pretenders to the throne opening up soon, but the blend of incredible food, effortless service, and truly well-designed surroundings make this a cut above the rest. Firstly, the food. Think Nobu, and you’re just about there. In fact the team from Nobu London helped head chef Mohammed Ayres with the menu, and the results are excellent. Japanese chef Daisuke Yoshizaki creates beautiful looking plates of food, that deliver on the taste front too. Santoku’s signature dish is pan fried scallops with foie gras and orange tobiko – a stunning plate filled with the decadent flavour of the ingredients, yet fresh and light. The prawn tempura was light, allowing the prawn flavours to come through and the tuna and salmon sashimi with ginger, garlic and hot olive oil that just lightly cooked parts of the sashimi deepened the depth of flavour. Add in expertly mixed cocktails, design by Hubert de Givenchy (it’s all about the details), a seductive terrace and a bar that mixes some of the best cocktails in Accra (including the only place you can get sake), and it’s a heady and hedonistic combination. There’s also a private dining room that seats 18. ‘Santoku’ means innovation, and for Ghana, this restaurant really is.