For those of you who want to explore Senegalese / Gambian cuisine and experience the music too, Little Baobab is the spot. The pop-up was my first experience of the cuisine so I wasn’t sure of what to expect in terms of the flavours but I assumed it would be a little different from the Nigerian palette I am accustomed to.
Price Tag: ££
Location: London, Hackney Central station (159 Lower Clapton Rd, Hackney, London E5 8EX) Do check the website as the location is subject to change
What is Little Baobab?
Named after a tree native to Africa, Madagascar and Australia, the baobab, also known as the “tree of life”, inspires the name of this restaurant. Founded by lead chef, Khadim Mbamba, the pop-up is pretty unique as it not only serves food, but it is also a music agency for emerging African talent. I found this pretty unique as there are not many African platforms that combine food and music in this way.
Anyways, let’s get to the food…. I hope you enjoy this review!
The evening consisted of a three-course meal and evening entertainment for the price of £28. For a three-course meal and entertainment, it falls within the type of price range that is expected for a restaurant in London.
We ordered the Hibiscus juice (£2.00) and the Baobab juice (£2.00), two flavours that were new for me. The highlight was the hibiscus juice, for me it tasted a little like cranberry but with a more floral taste and less bitter, I felt it complimented my meal well as it was very light.
Similar to marmite, when it comes to the baobab juice, you either love it or hate it. It requires an acquired taste, as it has a sharp citrusy, tangy taste to it as well as a nutty undertone (it reminded me of a Nigerian custard called Ogi).
The evening began with a mezze-style starter consisting of Senegalese samosas called Fataya, olives, stuffed vine leaves, couscous, humus and pitta bread. I usually do not go for mezze platters as I normally prefer a warm seafood dish to begin my night, but this was a nice alternative and I will be going for it again. My highlight however, was the Fataya, specifically the pastry, as it had a very thick bread like fluffy texture and the tuna fish was super tasty and well-seasoned. So for the carb lovers, this is for you.
I ordered a dish called Thieboudienne, which is Sea bass and rice casserole (jollof rice) with yam, carrots and aubergines. I had to go for this dish after Khadhim (lead chef and owner) said the “Senegalese do it best” (Nigerians will always do it better). I enjoyed the seabass and the light tomato stew it came in, yet I felt the jollof rice could have done with a little more salt. Overall, I did like the rice it as moist and super light.
The second dish was Yassa Chicken, a spicy marinated chicken with onion sauce, olives and rice. This was the most seasoned dish which I enjoyed, even though it wasn’t as spicy as expected, it had so much flavour which came from the onion sauce and the saltines of the olives. I was really impressed with the chicken, it was moist and every part of the meat was seasoned incredibly well.
An orange and chocolate cake with baobab ice cream. Similar to the baobab juice, the ice cream has a distinctive taste, but it worked better as cake provided some sweetness to balance out the sourness.
Now for me, this was the best part of the evening: from the darkly lit room, to the neatly arranged candles on the tables and the music. I particularly loved sharing the tables, as it made it easier to speak to new people. But overall, the most beautiful part of the night was seeing people dancing to the live music and whilst seeing the chefs cook in the kitchen, I liked the togetherness of the night, it made me feel so comfortable and relaxed, something needed after a really stressful day at work. So I would definitely recommend it if you want to wind down and catch up with a few good friends.
For me, the ambiance the winner.
The next pop up date hasn’t been announced yet, but I will update the post when it’s been confirmed. Plus keep an eye out on their website!