805 OLD KENT ROAD: YOU GOT ANY AFRICAN IN YOU? WOULD YOU LIKE SOME?
I am told that, I was unkind about my annoying Aussie friend, Chelsea last time I posted about her. So, I will resist my first urge to refer today, to her as “approaching thirty” and concentrate on the fact that she donated to the “Simon goes freelance fund” and bought me dinner last night.
Of course, I organised it, such things being beyond a person who has the attention span of a gadfly and, as is my want picked somewhere a little out of the way and a little out of the ordinary. Chelsea is the one person I know who is, in that regard, fearless and will go anywhere when there is good food on offer.
So tonight? Well, we were not quite sure. I had the address. In fact it is the name of the restaurant, 805 Old Kent Road. But, I had no clue which end of that slightly dubious street it was. Not indeed did the cab driver and there followed a long drive that took us from in front of Liverpool St station to the edges of New Cross where I only normally go to visit my hubcaps.
Still, we arrived safe and sound and found the restaurant without any trouble. 805 was, according to most descriptions I found during a little bit of research, the best Nigerian restaurant in London. The Old Kent Rd is, for some reason, littered with them. I have no idea why, but 805 is the one everyone said to head for.
Eating out as often as I do, I am usually pretty good with menus. Here? Not clue number one. I can’t recall a time when I have had to ask so many questions of a server as I did here. Fortunately, the waitress was patience itself and delighted to help guide us through what was otherwise daunting task.
To begin, I was disappointed to find out that they were out of Santana. Apparently a dish made of fried gizzards. So, instead, we chose to share medium size plates of Beer mate and Goat Pepper soup.
In as many years as I have been eating out, I cannot recall a dish as hot as the beer mate. Imagine eating the hottest chilli you can find, in Hades on a 100o day in July. Well, it was hotter than that. Chelsea mailed me this morning that she felt like someone was rubbing chilli into her buttocks. While that thought made me slightly queasy, she is correct. The aftermath was inevitable and I have not cried so much since I last watched Brief Encounter. I quite liked it.
The Goat pepper soup was a lot more benign with a sauce with the depth of long cooking and big chunks of chewy goat with a slab of tripe to add texture.
We had barely begun to get to grips with these two dishes, washed down with some local beers, before the main courses arrived. Dainty, they weren’t. This is not food for the squeamish or the fussy. This is full on food for people who need refuelling after a hard days work.
Jollof rice was not that much fun. The rice cooked with tomatoes and spices and topped with dodo (a fried plantain) would have served four people but it was so dry and unappealing that I could only take a few mouthfuls. It came with a bowl of “assorted meats” which contained more tripe and tough chunks of beef and goat.
Much better was a dish of tilapia topped with a layer of steamed ewedu (like a slightly slippery spinach) in a spicy but not overpowering sauce. It came with a dish of gari, which is made from ground cassava. The texture reminded me of wet polenta and it serves the same purpose to mop up juices. As required, we downed cutlery and used our hands to good effect and, although we made a valiant effort, we barely made a dent in our plates much to the concern of our waitress who kindly doggie bagged the remains for Chelsea.
We shared something cold made with coconut for pudding to douse some of the flames and asked for the bill which was about £60 including service and the drinks.
Amusing though it would have been to leave Chelsea to find her own way back from New Cross in the middle of the night, I thought better of it and we got a cab back to home turf by which time she was looking a little tired and emotional as the picture shows. That may have had something to do with the Guinness night cap she insisted I buy her before we parted. I guess it is the least she deserves for putting up with all the grief I give her.
Next time I am trying to think of something even further away both in terms of travel in London and in the world. Anyone know a good Peruvian in Purley?