Nigerian-born Adejoké Bakare (known as Joké) was hosting supper clubs and dinner parties long before she won 2019's Brixton Kitchen competition, which gifted her the opportunity to open her first bricks and mortar restaurant, Chishuru, in Brixton Village. And when I say restaurant, this small (there are no more than a dozen tables), peach-painted venue brims with so much warmth and hospitality that it feels much like an extension of Bakare's own dining room.
The back wall is an open kitchen and bar, where you'll find Bakare and a handful of helpers preparing her set menu, which can be tweaked for different dietary requirements upon request. And while the five-course meal focusses on showcasing traditional recipes and techniques from West African cuisine ("This is the food that I grew up eating", Bakare told Time Out back in April 2022), dishes have been given a proper contemporary glow-up.
The perfect collision of sweet, salty and peppery heat
Take a starter of corn bites, for example, where a mix of pulped corn, garlic and ginger had been crafted into bite-sized yellow cubes, steamed for a spongy inside and then fried to give crisp at the edges. On top of each was a dot of fiery, bright orange scotch bonnet gel (any more would have scorched your tastebuds) and a sprinkling of crunchy chicken skin. Oh-so modernist to look at and oh-so moreish to eat, offering the perfect collision of sweet, salty and peppery heat.
Another belter from the top of the menu was the pan-seared scallop. Plump, buttery and caramelised to perfection, it arrived in a pool of silky, mouth-warming and sumptuously nutty banga sauce, a rust-coloured Nigerian gravy made with palm nut fruit, chilli and a blend of spices.
But Chishuru isn't all dinky plates, drizzles and considered dashes of uziza oil (a vibrant green oil made from West Africa's peppery uziza plant, which marbled the banga sauce). Mains such as meaty Cornish hake in spiced plantain sauce and confit chicken leg with a velvety, curry-like spiced bean and lentil purée were accompanied by a pile of bronzed plantain wedges and an absolute mountain of fluffy rice, flecked with herbs and wilted spring onion. You best bring your appetite, people.
Meat eaters should – ok, must – order the charcoal-grilled bavette steak too, which is tossed in smoky Nigerian spice mix yaji and served with thin ribbons of vinegary pickled oyster mushrooms. While it might seem an unnecessary add-on to the set menu, it's a masterclass in flavour pairing.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, but it's a very happy one when I'm given a bowl of soursop ice cream, charred pineapple and bitter molasses. A small, green fruit actually native to South America and the Caribbean, soursop is initially tangy but mellows as it moves around your mouth. One minute you think you're eating lemon sorbet and the next, thanks to the molasses, a burnt caramel gelato. Either way, it's bloody delicious.
Bakare says Chishuru diners ‘are really adventurous', which may be true when options next door include smash burgers and fries or sourdough pizza. However, the way she delivers passion and flavour-packed food by the plate-load, I defy anyone not to feel right at home here.
The vibe: Friendly and inviting but with a side of Brixton cool
The food: West African classics get a modern makeover
The drink: Nigerian flavours by way of both signature cocktails and softs
Time Out tip: Each pick a different main as part of the set menu, so you can share and try a bit of everything.