This is my second time dining at Mayfair’s Stork. The first visit to the restaurant was a year or two back and under different ownership. Then Stork had set itself the rather hard task of offering a fusion of West African and Eastern European cuisines, with British accents. Since changing hands in early 2020 the restaurant has refocused and serves contemporary pan-African food, which it has done incredibly well. My dinner date and I went on a Sunday evening in winter – an unusual time to find ourselves in Mayfair, but really quite magical. The Christmas lights were on, the opulent streets completely deserted, and it was a very romantic walk to Cork Street for a bougie meal out.
The restaurant was not as quiet as we were expecting for an off-peak evening just as the days are getting very cold and short. Several couples were out enjoying intimate dinners. We were given a cocktail menu with half-a-dozen signatures that sounded inventive, but we chose to go straight to wine and into the food. An incredibly good bottle of South African white was ordered from a luxurious list – the Kleine Family Reserve Chenin from Stellenbosch that was elegant and oaky, and went superbly with the food to come.
Stork’s chef team is lead by Albert Clarke who has created a menu inspired by the colours, flavours and aromas, uniting culinary influences from across the African continent and the diaspora. And each dish that came was deeply flavoured, and artistically presented. Starters were a grilled chicken salad and grilled tiger prawns. The first came as three beautifully soft, succulent pieces of chicken, with yam crisps and Nkatenkwan peanut sauce. ‘Nkatenkwan’ is the Akan word for peanut – the base of many recipes in Ghana, and the dish is a nod to the traditional Ghanaian peanut soup, which (as an afterthought) I’d have loved to have tried alongside. Shellfish is a staple for many coastal regions in Africa. The prawns were good big ones and were served with ripe mango pickle, nori flakes (nori being a sea vegetable), black garlic crumb, and a green chilli and lime dressing. The dish was fragrant and went beautifully with the sweet mango. The colours were deep, rich reds and yellow, served artistically on a heavy black dish.
The best of the meal was to come, however. I chose charcoal-grilled suya – heavily spiced, full-flavoured prime beef cooked on a skewer. This was the highlight for me, so rich in flavour, firm in texture. Suya is a popular western African street food, with a spice rub made from ground peanuts and a blend of seasonings. Here it was served with pickled cherry tomatoes and aioli. My date was presented with what at first seemed like the fattest bream that had ever been caught. After admiring it for some time, my date finally cut into the fish to realise it was stuffed with colourful veg: spinach and rainbow chard in a smooth Nigerian ata din din pepper sauce. Divine. We’d also ordered a few sides to accompany: smoked Jollof rice, cooked with an array of spices, tomatoes and sweet peppers; Ampesi – boiled yam and plantain. Both were delicious but a warning to order less than more, with such generous portions.
After two decadent courses, dessert wasn’t really on the radar as we finished the wine and enjoyed the calm dining room, its walls decorated with revolving art exhibitions curated by BetterShared. This is Mayfair’s iconic art street after all. Our waiter convinced us to try the chocolate dome, quite possibly for his enjoyment, the presentation being quite some theatre. The dish is vanilla custard inside a dark chocolate shell, which is coated in gold leaf. Surrounded by a trail of biscuit crumble and pansies for decoration, it is an impressive plate to behold. Then a hot liquid is poured over, melting the chocolate and unleashing the inside causing the gold to swirl artistically into the melt. Very Instagrammable.
Here’s to rich culture, high-art, great wine and good food, all in an intimate, relaxed setting. ‘Jije to dara’ – ‘good eating’ in Yoruba.
Food from Stork is also available for home delivery, for more info see online.
13-14 Cork Street