Osu is probably the most happening part of town. The busy Cantonments Road, known to virtually everyone as Oxford Street, is a hub of activity 24 hours a day. Many of Accra's best bars, restaurants and shops are in Osu. Stalls line the street and hawkers hound tourists selling personalised wristbands, fake Rolexes and football shirts.
Cantonments Road, between Lokko Road and the busy Danquah Circle, might be known as Oxford Street, but shares little with London's shopping hotspot. The only similarity is the volume of people and traffic. Probably the busiest street in Accra, it's the site of bars, clubs, restaurants and boutique shops. There are no specific tourist sights, but its constant bustle makes it an essential part of any visit.
Expect some friendly hassle at the northern end (one scam is to ask your name and then appear 20 minutes later with it embroidered on a wristband), but this dissipates further down. The area is even busier during the evenings when revellers hit the bars. Many of the shops and restaurants are actually off Cantonments Road, on the quieter numbered lanes. At one end of Cantonments Road is the busy Danquah Circle, a roundabout on the Ring Road, named after one of Ghana's founding fathers JB Danquah. The circle is generally crowded day and night.
Restaurants and bars in Osu
Conveniently situated close to the centre of Osu, Buka is, without question, one of the best lunch spots in the city. More often than not it has the full tables to show for it. Set on the first floor, so there’s a sense of escape from the throng, with lively music and wraparound wooden trellises adding to the ambience. The food itself hinges largely on Ghanaian and Nigerian specialties – dishes include okra stew and eba (a dough ball eaten with stews). Service can slow down during busy lunches.
Fresh and bold Mediterranean flavours reign at this friendly Italian eatery. It’s recently been expanded, and diners have a choice between an indoor restaurant area, outdoor patio, or lounging on the banquettes in the bar area. Patrons devour Italian staples packed with triumphant combinations of smoky black olives, rich cheese, tender artichokes, full-bodied passatas and cured meats. Mains include tagliata with parmesan and rucola (GH¢45), but most people opt for the pizzas (GH¢28 on average), which are superb – giant bubbling disks liberally topped. For a loaded treat, the Quattro Stagioni has mushrooms and artichokes aplenty, and the piquant Diavolo is a simple pleasure of salami drizzled with chili oil. Those heroic enough to vanquish a whole pizza can revive with a espresso in stylish white cups.
Even with the nearby purple bulk of Citizen Kofi luring many city-centre pleasure-seekers, lively Oxford Street venue Monsoon still succeeds in drawing the crowds. It’s a popular choice for the expat community, and its broad street-facing terrace remains a hive of activity at weekends. It’s not the cheapest place in town, but when you see the icon-heavy interior design, the impressively stocked bar and the cut of the clientele, you’ll understand why. DJs play Friday and Saturday night. With three restaurants on site (including a teppanyaki kitchen and a sushi outlet), there’s good food to be had too.
Industrial chic has arrived in Accra. As if plucked from the streets of Manhattan, this confident nightspot has effortlessly slid to the forefront of the city’s social scene; its whitewashed brickwork, dim lighting and edgy beats attracting a preened and international crowd. A lit backbar glows with premium blends, and cocktail aficionados, spirit lovers and wine drinkers alike pull up stools to confer with chatty staff sporting black shirts, braces and the odd hat set to a jaunty angle. Food spans light nibbles and three-course meals, with a silver chainmail curtain gesturing a divide between drinkers and diners.
The Ghanaians are fans of Indian food, and Heritage often gets pointed to as one of the best curry houses in the capital. The atmosphere inside is elegant and quiet, with some fabulously detailed Indian carvings on display. The food is equally pleasing, authentic and spicy. Service is attentive, but relaxed.
In keeping with Accra’s penchant for hiding away great eateries and bars, Khana Khazana is literally sat behind a petrol station. What you find really is surprisingly charming. A thatched dining area overlooked by trees shades tables clad in green and white checked table cloths, while in the adjacent open-fronted kitchen hut the Indian owners sizzle up an abundance of South and North Indian cuisine. There are some Chinese and Thai options too, but as they do such justice to their native dishes, it seems a travesty to opt for anything but. For an affordable lunchtime fill, there is a large selection of dosas – savoury pancakes with crispy edges and spongy centres filled with the likes of paneer cheese and fresh onion.
Ryan’s Bar is dead. Long live Cuzzy Bro’s. The good times are still rolling in this large Osu bar, with even more live music, barbeques and excellent food. Its owners, a South African restaurateur and a Polynesian Kiwi opened the place in June 2013, to much acclaim from Accra’s expat community. Along with a Kiwi chef, they’ve also brought a jukebox, a children’s play area and a love of rugby (of course).
Shops in Osu
While the Christie Brown label has been exciting fashion folk for a while, it celebrated the official launch of it first boutique in Accra in February 2012. This high-design store is a sophisticated shopping venue where ladies with an eye for the stylish things in life can browse premium clothing and accessories. Christie Brown specialises in incorporating African prints into wearable high-street trends. Think statement jewellery, business chic and cocktail elegance. Since the brand was launched in 2008 the label has appeared on international runways and been stocked in boutiques in both Africa and abroad.
A charmingly edited selection of furnishings, art and decorative items can be found inside this cool and airy space designed by Lebanese architect Robert Abou. You’ll find chunky sofas, gilded mirrors, reclaimed leather chairs, eye-catching artwork and some fabulous African-themed ornaments (some by local artists) are wonderful to browse. There’s also a selection of jewellery and fragrances. It’s an eclectic collection, but it is a successful combination. There’s a new branch in Accra Mall. Other location Accra Mall, Tetteh Quarshie and Spintex Road (0302 823043).
This ‘lifestyle boutique’ has an abundance of colourful African-print dresses as well as a nice selection of stylish Italian shoes and sparkly accessories. This attractive shop offers kaleidoscopic racks of individually designed long dresses, many adorned with stones. There are accessories such as necklaces with matching brooches and bracelets. Shoes by Italian designer Silvana are also stocked. Other location Shop G57, Accra Mall.
The simple idea behind Eleanor’s Closet is to provide affordable quality clothes in Ghana (and soon elsewhere in Africa), something that has actually been hard to find in Ghana. Most of the clothing carries the Eleanor’s Closet label, and it’s hoped it will continue its growth in the same way H&M and Zara have done in Europe. This Osu shop stocks a lively selection for a woman’s closet; from dresses for day and night and all the basics, as well as accessories such as sunglasses, bags and belts.
After the chaos of the Arts Centre, this shop in Osu is a bit of a relief. Much of the same items can be found in the many rooms of this large building, but the prices are fixed. All the usual Ghanaian knick-knacks can be browsed, alongside some older items, textiles and some pretty jewellery from recycled beads.
Viva has been supplying high-end clothes and accessories to the label-conscious urbanites of Accra for more than two decades. There’s good reason for the boutique’s continued success, primarily in the form of the broad selection of haute couture designs it incorporates. The top floor has an extensive range of shoes and bags from the likes of D&G to coo over. There’s also a small menswear section, focused on shirts, ties and shoes.