In one of my previous jobs I worked with a security guard called Sammy. Sammy was from Ghana and he would bring in his home made stews in a plastic pot every day and heat up them up in the microwave for his lunch. It smelled delicious (apart from one particular fish stew, which had, let’s say, a rather pungent smell that was not so pleasant) – spicy, aromatic, a little bit exotic and indefinitely better than an anaemic sandwich from the supermarket.
Sammy’s lunches had been my only experience of Ghanaian cuisine until a couple of weeks ago, when we visited Pop Brixton, a vibrant, colourful venue and creative hub built from shipping containers and wood, right next to Brixton station. It is home to 53 independent businesses and includes retailers, makers, street food traders, designers, digital start-ups, a community barbershop, a youth radio station, a number of social enterprises and, of course, restaurants. And one of these restaurants is Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen.
The eponymous Zoe is Zoe Adjonyoh, a writer, who started her foray into catering by creating a ‘pop-up’ Ghanaian restaurant in her live/workspace in Hackney Wick in the summer of 2011 as part of Hackney Wicked Arts Festival. After four years of travelling with the ZGK pop-up and supper club across Europe and catering at countless events, Zoe opened her restaurant in Brixton to bring Ghanaian culture to an ever-wider audience through her delicious and authentic food.
A blue and white shipping container on the first floor of Pop Brixton houses ZGK’s kitchen, a few benches covered in colourful African fabrics and tables and it is cosy, to say the least. Shelves are lined with authentic West African drinks, like Nigerian Coca-Cola and Bitter Lemon, Palm Juice and Palm Wine and a variety of beers in 600ml bottles.
We picked an outside table where we had space to spread out and, as it was a chilly evening, we were given blankets to keep warm. We ordered several side and main dishes from Zoe’s winter menu to arrive at the same time and had a lovely and potent bright red hibiscus & gin cocktail while we were waiting for our food. It was still early in the evening and there was hardly anybody in Pop Brixton, but it filled up quickly and from our perch we had a great view for people watching. One group was in fancy dress – no idea what was going on there, but they were highly entertaining.
Nkatsenkwan, the vegan peanut soup with fufu (pounded yam) und diced puna yam and plantain arrived steaming in a large wooden bowl. It was spicy, but not too hot, and with plenty of chunks of yam and plantain, so it was more like a stew with the fufu, which had the consistency of mashed potatoes, sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Beautiful!
Zoe’s Jollof Spiced Fried Chicken was one of the best fried chicken we have ever eaten. The chicken breast pieces had been marinated in Zoe’s secret nine spice jollof mix, dipped in buttermilk, coated in cornflower and served with a homemade shito (the famous Ghanaian condiment; a hot pepper, prawn & fish sauce with lots of herbs and spices) mayonnaise. The chicken was tender, juicy and flavoursome and the smoky mayo had a definite kick to it.
There are many things you can do wrong with okra, so it is not always on the top of my list of dishes to order, but Zita, who cooked for and looked after us that evening, recommend the okra fries, so we ordered them. Marinated in fresh garlic, ginger and chilli, then tempura battered and deep-fried, the okras were delicious, light and crispy, and a far cry from the okra dishes I’ve had in the past.
We also had Kelewele, traditional style plantain, marinated in ginger & cloves; and West African jollof, fragrant rice cooked in a spiced tomato sauce – both of them very tasty.
There were only a couple of choices for dessert and we tried them both: Puff Puff – Bofrot, a yummy Ghanaian doughnut rolled in sugar and cinnamon. It was served still warm and reminded us very much of a German equivalent which is made during the annual carnival celebrations in February or March. The Love Chin Chin Banofee Pie came with Love Chin Chin’s (a West African snack that “crunches like a biscuit & tastes like a cake”) Vanilla Chin Chin as its base, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and layered with caramel sauce, topped with sliced bananas, double cream and shavings of Divine Dark Chocolate. I am normally not a big fan of banoffee pies, as I often find them to be too sweet, but this one was just right.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, the food was excellent and Zita was lovely. We will definitely be back in the summer to try the new menu, if not before.
Zoe has hit the nail on the head, when she describes ZGK: “Home spun, home cooked food. Always fun, always relaxed and always tasty…” And I can’t wait for Zoe’s cookbook, which is due out in the spring. #GhanaBeTasty
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Unit 36, Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Rd, London SW9 8PQ
Tel: 07494 746907
Mon-Weds: 12pm-10pm (kitchen closes at 9pm)
Thurs – Sat: 11am – 11:30pm (kitchen closes at 11pm)
Sunday: 11am-7pm (kitchen closes at 6pm)
Zoe can provide cookery classes, cater for large events, private dining and parties and install their ‘pop-up’ experience across the UK.