Zolene: The Cool Neighborhood Dining Dream
More often than not, I receive a lot of questions such as: Where should I eat right now? Where can I eat this or that? The truth is it can get pretty difficult finding a pure African cuisine restaurant within the axis of Ikoyi, unlike the other sides of town, where you are literally spoilt for choice.
I recently stopped by Zolene, a restaurant which opened a few months ago but officially launched recently. Situated in a very serene and quiet neighborhood in Ikoyi, far away from the usual bustling nature associated with the city of Lagos, Zolene is an African Cuisine inspired restaurant. It is owned and run by a well-nurtured lady whose love for African dishes, and most importantly, her undying love for her two beautiful daughters inspired her to open a restaurant. Little wonder that the name of the restaurant was culled from the names of these two beautiful girls. ZOhara and arLENE – together “Zolene”.
Locating Zolene was no trouble at all and I couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that it felt like home. This stems from the quiet and private nature of the environment. I loved it instantly, but prayed I would love the food too! I didn’t come all the way to look around, I’m here for the food, honey!
Zolene, with a sitting capacity of about fifty people, including the garden area, makes for a good lunch hang out with the girls, brunch meetings with your colleagues, private dining spot with the lover, private events, etc.
It also has a small cute sitting area with books, where you can sit and sip a drink or even have a meal, while you surf through their collection of book and fun magazines. the first of its kind, for me.
Looking through the menu, one thing was certain… I was going to explore all the way!! fingers crossed
Digging in, I started with the Yam Crouquette. has anyone tried these? This is deep fried mashed yam with seasoned fish flakes. It was served with the Signature Zolene dip. This was a bit of a gamble for me because I’ve never had Yam Crouquette prior to my visit to Zolene, but I’ve had Potato Croquettes a few times. And this is mostly because I’m not a fan of yam, especially boiled yam, so I found this really intriguing. Surprisingly, I loved it. It was crunchy, smooth and tasty. I think this is the best way to attract fussy yam eaters like me. The blend with the Zolene signature dip was brilliant!
Next up was the Bruschetta & Zolene Salsa. This is bread brushed with olive oil, topped with chopped tomatoes and basil leaves. It was more than just a piece of toast. Though, of course, toast is what it is. The bread had a rough and crisp surface, soft on the inside, chewy, with a faint sourness. I could tell it was made with fresh ingredients. What intrigued me was the simplicity of something made from just bread. I mean, how could something so basic be so good? loved it!
I’m a pasta girl, all day everrry day, so seeing African Pesto on the menu excited my taste buds and I knew I had to go for it. This is penne pasta dish made with African basil, paneer cheese, and bits of chicken with cashew nuts. This is not your basic pesto sauce dish. The African twist to this one gave it an awesome taste. It had a fresh herby flavor and it was moderately spicy. I loved the fact that it wasn’t bland in my mouth as with most creamy pesto sauce or pesto penne pasta dishes I have had in most restaurants, where I always have to request for some pepper.
And then came the Akara Waffles! drums rollinggggg Okay, I think this was the climax of my meal time at Zolene. Forgive my excitement, but I haven’t had Akara Waffles prior to this moment and in my usual manner of exploring, I decided to try it. Akara is what I will refer to as West Africa’s favorite dumpling. Some people make pancakes out of it, but waffles? Who would have thought? definitely not me. The presentation was good, and without tasting it and knowing it was made from beans, I wouldn’t have guessed it was Akara. Akara has graduated! It was so yummy!
I had a really convincing food moment at Zolene. I think it’s a safe choice for those who are not tired of never-ending African dishes innovation.
The ambiance is beautiful, with minimal and natural toned decorations. It has a traditional, yet contemporary touch to it. Food presentation was good, I could tell some skills and creativity was put to play. The average cost of a meal is pretty friendly, considering the location. While the servers were pleasant enough and attentive to my order, I couldn’t help but notice that they were chatty. Hospitality is more than being nice, it includes everything. I brought this to the attention of the manager who addressed it immediately.
If you love it beautiful, quiet and private, here’s your spot!
26 Mekunwen, off MacPherson Road, Ikoyi
Reservations not mandatory.