Apologies for coming late, but better late than never and yes, the mountains here are the ones that hinder one from seeing the ones yonder, are some of the truisms that come to mind and mouth when I think of the fact that for over at least 6 years there has been right at the centre of North London, High Road Tottenham, and in plain sight, a museum of Nigerian cuisine called Chukus and I have never dined there. You might say it does not matter that much but it does for me. I am paid for what I do, know and try. Missing such a spot is really a sort of sleeping on duty.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Sweet awakening came thanks to the invitation and arrangement of some old school mates that planned a reunion dinner for a Thursday night and chose Chukus for the rendezvous. No need to mention their names as I doubt other old boys will know them by their names, our school days were a weird world of whacko nicknames. Descriptions maybe, but I doubt recognition by names.
One of the diners with me was a very popular and admired footballer who is now a consultant in London and the South East of England, another diner was a bad footballer (he insists he was good) who was more known more for his fancy boots, of which I was terribly envious, he is now an international legal luminary, that acting busy, travels across the world while international organisations pay his bill. A third diner was a school pianist, prefect, royal prince and trained engineer turned venture capitalist; unlike me he was a well-behaved boy those days. Today he is one of the few, that like me, still has a head full of hair. Also present at Chukus was another very well-behaved boy but no hair now, sometimes I think he was always bald even as a boy; he was known to most by a nickname culled from of a TV character, even I discovered his real full names thirty-five years after we left school. Today he is a businessman and a leading player in the automobile industry, he does things that only very rich people can think of doing. Anyway, on that table at Chukus, in 2023 we were all as usual Omnes Unum in Domino.
The ambiance and décor at Chukus is soft, light, delight, clearly designed for young urban city people. You will be out of place of if you went in there in black tie, I was the only one in blazer. Their website is chicer. The theme seems to be simple, beautiful and cosy. Most diners whispered and gently smiled, you can easily guess the only table that was crowded and boisterous.
The chap that had the fortune of serving us was a lanky tall young man who spoke with a very modern London accent, he explained to us with a smile under a non-existent moustache that waiting time with no booking is normally two hours but that he will fix us. He gauged us and concluded that we deserve arguable the most spacious and most comfortable table in the restaurant. He gave us the menu and straight to the point, we ordered drinks without looking the at menu he handed us in clusters of two.
Their carefully crafted and proudly presented menu includes vegan, gluten-free & halal options stirred more than slight deliberations amongst us. The list came with plates like lamb ayamase, jollof quinoa, plantain waffles, suya meatballs, honey suya prawns, yam brownie, chin chin cheesecake, and many more dishes including my own special delight, ojojo. We enlisted the help of the waiter to explain some of the items on the menu, we eventually settled for a mix of many dishes, some familiar, some experimental, the idea been that we can try a bit of the many delights.
After some bottles of drinks and many teasing that injected conversations that went from the deep to the surreal, food started arriving and what we saw made us laugh and laugh more. Nobody needed reminding of why Chukus is described as a tapas restaurant. The moin moin looked like cakes made for looking not eating, the rice looked like those bowls of condiments you use to see in the old Reader Digest family magazine we read in the 70s. Originally a spanish word “tapas”, is the plural of tapa, it means appetizer, or better still a cap, lid, the cover of a container, this from the fact that plates of tapas were originally placed on the tops of glasses of alcoholic beverages as lids.
Chukus is a truly tapas restaurant for those who want to taste the creativity of the new Nigeria (or Naija as they have taught me to say) but it is not for hungry Naijas it is a place for tasting. No grilled mega fish with dodo or imposing flaming hot amala challenging ewedu…
Our fellow diners of various sizes and shades, seem to know all about tapa they appeared very comfortable with the setting. The way the world is now, it is rather difficult to safely guess where people come from, suffice to say the diners looked cosmopolitan. I saw red, blond and even pink hair. There was also a couple with braided hair