Chishuru is a West African restaurant in Brixton Village market, following on from a supper club run by head chef Adejoké Bakare, and located thanks to her winning a competition that has given her a unit for six months. It is one of the most enjoyable restaurants I have been to in this difficult year – the food is homely and comforting, with unusual and surprising flavour combinations, and it comes with big portions at a reasonable price.
We ordered all four starters on the menu. The Ekuru (£6) was like a slice of deeply savoury cornbread, apparently made from beans, topped with pumpkin seed pesto and served with a ferociously hot scotch bonnet salsa.
The king prawns (£6) were big and juicy, and came in a hot and sour ‘hot water’ that mixed citrus flavours with pepperiness in a rich broth. At £6 for the dish this felt like a bit of a bargain.
Grilled and chopped chicken thigh (£5) was topped with pickled onions and served with a sesame sauce and a spice powder. The chicken was cooked well – juicy and somewhat pink (which, although some are not used to it, can be a fine way to cook good chicken) with a good sear from the grill. The sesame paste could have been a bit more strongly flavoured but the combination of it, the spices and the pickled onion with the chicken made the dish incredibly moreish. It was an enormous pile of chicken too, for a cheap starter, and was a pleasure to nibble through.
The cassava fritter (£5) was the weakest dish, although it was still enjoyable. It was very crispy, like the edges of an onion bhaji, but lacked flavour and the crispiness was a bit too crunchy at times. That said, the lime and coconut sauce it was served on was delicious, and it was a pleasant vehicle for that.
Both the mains were excellent. The sea bass (£14) was fried in cornmeal and served with a spicy yam mash and something that resembled Chinese crispy chilli, but less spicy. It was an astoundingly good – one of the nicest dishes I have had in years. Every bite with the three combined silky fish with spiciness, savouriness and the toasted chilli crisp flavour. The fish fillet was large and if I hadn’t been so full by the end of the meal I would have ordered this dish a second time to enjoy it all over again.
The goat ayamase (£14) was a stew of goat with mild green peppers, onions and beans. Much of the goat had melted into the sauce, giving it a thick lusciousness and making the dish enormously comforting on a cold night. Unlike most of the other dishes, it was gently flavoured, but it was an extremely welcome winter warmer.
Sides came as a single order for two (£10 total) – red beans and rice topped with red peppers, some fried plantains, and a small green salad. The red beans and rice were delicious in their own right. The plaintains’ sweetness was a nice complement to the stew.
The chocolate cake (£4) was nice enough – a bit artificial tasting, although soft and pleasant, and I enjoyed the marshmallowy ice cream it came topped with. Split between two it was a nice end to the meal.
Overall, for £64 before drinks and service, Chishuru was incredible value and genuinely exciting. The ingredients used were superb, and the flavour combinations were surprising and extremely enjoyable. By the end of the meal (before dessert) we were stuffed, and no dish felt like we would have wanted more (except out of greediness because many were so delicious). Like others who have visited Chishuru I deeply want it to succeed, given the circumstances it has opened in, but it’s on the strength and value of the food alone that I’m already planning my next trip.
Rating: Two medals.