Posts tagged accra

Hi and Akwaaba to my first restaurant review. It has been long promised and here it is!

This week, I was invited by my fellow foodie friend Kwabena, owner of Taste Ghana, a premier food blog and platform in Ghana, to a tasting event at Alliance Francais. The last time I stepped foot on the compound was a smooth 15 plus years ago. I did not pick it for a place to host a restaurant. On my way there, I had to ask for clarification. “Is it inside or in the neighborhood?”. Alliance Francais is basically a French school, a very popular one at that.

As I entered, I was met with a very lit up ambience. A summer hut type structure and a smaller hut adjacent the bigger hut. It had the restaurant’s name written across it so it is easily identifiable. We were a group of about 10 and everyone (well, let me speak for myself) was anxious about what we were about to be introduced to.

The Ghanaian food scene is boring. Very boring. And I suspect it is because our palates have just refused to evolve. We do take our complacency everywhere, don’t we? Every food startup in Accra lately has very similar menu items. Reminds me of the Chinese-American restaurants in New York City, who have the same menus, same prices, same utensils and same setup. But his was going to be different. This was French food. My little experience with French food prepared me for small plates, portions and courses. I was wrong.

Chef Jeff Leneau is the managing director of the restaurant and he is a total delight. Hilarious and very knowledgeable about his audience. He welcomed us and told us a bit about the restaurant and how he was hoping it will be now. I understand there was a restaurant in it’s place a long while ago so this was an upgrade and a new menu. He told us about how he was incorporating local ingredients into the menu to create some familiarity for his Ghanaian patrons, while using French cooking techniques to keep the menu authentic.

Our first course was a bread topped with either hummus (made with chickpeas and agushi/melon seeds instead of pinenuts) or fish & olives. The hummus was such a huge hit with everyone. Think hummus but smoother, creamier and just amazing. I am not a fan of olives but this was not entirely intolerable for me.

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My current neighborhood is interesting. It has been the neighborhood of my family home for the last 12 years. I have hated it since it's existence. 12 years ago, our house was only a concrete shack. The basement which holds 3 rooms, was the only part of the house that was livable. Barely. 

We had no electricity. No running water and had to zigzag through bamboo pillars to get inside. There were 7 of us packed into what my siblings and i nicknamed the "coupè", a play on the word "hen coop". Life was a blur in those days. 

Fast forward, 12 years. Basement level is done. Upper level is done but not entirely furnished. So our 5 bedroom family home is the light of the neighborhood. Sitting a plot over is my family's basic school. 200 screaming kids and i can call them all out from my window. Fun, right?  

Eh. No. Not so fast.  

See this story is about my neighbors but i had to give you context. My Ga West neighborhood has the beachfront in it's horizon. The breeze too. As i write this, i am in my studio, which has a window directly in the way of the breeze so i am indoors but by the beach. Got it? 

To the right of my house lies a small 80 by 100 plot. It is the standard measurement for all Accra lands. 80 feet by a hundred feet. The owner of the plot has passed. He bequeathed it to his sister who has left the plot idle guessed it... 12 years. She has refused to sell, much to my annoyance but for a 70,000 cedis property, i get it. 

On the plot stand a shack. It is so tiny, it reminds me of a standard studio in the Bronx. I imagine my neighbor has to stand outside the shack to think. Indoors must be really hot, unless he is lucky enough to be in the way of the breeze. People who are yet to develop their lands, usually build a small shack and have other people live in it as caretakers. This particular one has seen a few tenants.  

My neighbor in this shack has the best hospel playlist, periodt! He used to play it day and night, while singing on top of his lungs. He would pray loudly and just have a fun time dancing to gospel. He annoyed me slightly with the noise but one day something happened.  

I was driving by and i slowed down because someone was in my way. My old Maxima, funny enough has a really silent engine. Sometimes people walk right infront of me without knowing that a car is right behind them. I just usually pause and not startle them with my loud horn. Except this time, the unlucky person standing in my way, opened my car and sat right behind me. I was a minute from home. He said, "Oh, you don't remember me? I live next to you". I had no idea what my neighbor looked like. But i said, "i know who you are!". 

We drove in silence and we parted ways once we got to my door. He zigzagged his way through the thick forage growing on his plot, right into his shack. I made a mental note of his face and he was no more than 25 years old. Since then, we always wave when we see each other.  

These days, the music has stopped. No more gospel. I hardly see him pass by. I am nosy so i decided to squint and look much deeper into the mysterious case of the vanishing gospel playlist. It's exactly like being annoyed that your man snores so badly but when he is not around, you miss him snoring. See the romance i used to have. Kai kai!  

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