805 Nigerian Restaurant Awarded Hungry Cyclist Wheel of Approval

805 Nigerian Restaurant

It’s minus 23 and dropping. The 8.44 night train from St Petersburg to Helsinki is delayed. At my feet my backpack is collecting a light covering of dusty snow. Bouncing on my toes to keep warm I stare hopefully through condensed clouds of breath along the tracks that disappear into a frozen infinity. Turning a hard-boiled egg in my gloved fingers I am anxious for sight or sound of my train and a niggling hunger pesters me to crack into my meagre rations. Reminding myself that the Duke of Wellington never went into battle without a hard-boiled egg, I also wonder how at the age of 34 I have found myself waiting in arctic conditions on an empty train platform in Northern Lapland with nothing but a boiled egg and jar of pickled fish for sustenance. Life sometimes throws up these peculiar scenarios when you are found saying to yourself “how on earth did I end up here?” and two weeks after my icy Finnish adventure, fate once again conspired to put me in one of these intangible serendipitous situations.

“How on earth have I ended up eating stewed goats stomach, al fresco behind Toys ‘R’ Us on London’s Old Kent Road?

The first stop on the London Monopoly Board, it was the 14th letter of the Alphabet N that brought us back to The Old Kent Road. 805 is London’s most acclaimed Nigerian restaurant and buried beneath a weighty 1950’s tower-block, at the rougher end of The Old Kent Road, on first impressions it is less than impressive. Inside however it is large and opulent. Around 40 tables in white cloths support glistening wine glasses and faux-leather-bound menus that proudly display the word ‘Executive’

A sunny day we opted to eat our executive lunch ‘al fresoc’ on the pavement and after ordering a round of ‘Malta Guinness ’ a carbonated malt beverage, we are assured is good for us, we asked our waitress to bring us a selection of typical Nigerian dishes. Good things come to those who wait, and first to arrive looked very good indeed. Slivers of curled meat dusted with russet spices and decorated with ribboned cocktail sticks. Nkwobi is a delicacy we are told. Cows foot boiled, sliced and served with traditional spices. Slimy then chewy, then crunchy, my mouth did its best to expel these bovine nail clippings while I moved to the next dish to take the unusual tastes and textures away. Beer Mate we are told is dry spiced-beef again garnished with traditional spices. Not the texture torture of the previous Nigerian delicacy but a similar beefy tang.

Lumps of pounded yam looked like a light relief. Creamy in colour and whipped into peaks their deceptive appearance masked the texture of a substance you might use to adhere an explosive to a tank. Golden fried plantain were starchy and sweet followed by gargantuan tiger prawns, tails-up in a rich and fragrant red sauce that was liked by all. Continuing on an aquatic theme Monika fish, grilled and well rubbed in a secret combination of Monika spices, were laid out whole on the table. Informed it was croaker fish, I had never heard of this bony specimen that tastes like it spends the majority of its days filtering the mud in the Niger delta.

Almost recovered from the textural torment of the boiled hoof it was time again for more meat, this time arriving in Nigerian stews made with ‘assorted meats’. And what and assortment! Lumps of gristle, tissue and sinew all immersed in a deep bowl of Egusi an attractive stew of green pumpkin leaf and ground egusi (melon seeds). The colourful edikangkong was as hard to swallow, as it was to pronounce. A gooey combination of boiled goats stomach and okra. The latter, providing enough of its infamous slime to ensure that it resembled almost exactly what might fall out of goats stomach when butchered. The stomach, complete with all its clever fronds, was as wet and chewy as I expected but the release of a warm intestinal liquid as I tentatively chewed caught me totally by surprise and lunging for the Mint Imperials that accompanied our bill. The owner asked us if we enjoyed our meal. There was a long pause.

“It’s very interesting” I replied savouring the minty freshness.

“But if you do not try it you do not know if you like it”

Peering queasily through the large glass windows at the full tables and content customers, it’s clear many people do like this Nigerian restaurant. I’m afraid I don’t. But we did not start this project to find culinary perfection. We began because we wanted an adventure in our capital and a taste of the world. 805 provided a true taste of Nigeria and it’s a great adventure but don’t forget your hard-boiled egg.

805 Old Kent Road
805 on Urbanspoon

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2012 at 08:19 and is filed under A to Z of London Food, A to Z Reviews, Travel Writing, Wheel of Approval, World Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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