Zoe's Ghana Kitchen x Beer52

Zoe Adjonyoh, on the front line of an African food revolution


Zoe Adjonyoh believes that we are on the cusp of an African food revolution. In her book, which shares the name of her London restaurant, she says, “It’s the last continent of relatively unexplored food in the mainstream domain. For too long Africans have kept this incredible food a greedy secret.”

Diners can now unlock this secret at the Institute of Light culture hub in Hackney, a space that is ten times bigger than the original kitchen that Zoe opened in Brixton during the summer of 2015, five years after she first started serving West African food at Hackney Wicked Art Festival. This offering consisted of a pot of nkatsenkwan (peanut butter stew) ladled out to punters passing her flat, which she later transformed into an occasional restaurant after the sell-out stew’s success. She’s come a long way from those early days, now serving jollof chicken in lettuce wraps, plantain pork belly, okra soup, red spiced bean stew, cassava crisps with scotch bonnet salsa, kewele spices chips and kenkey (dumplings) with sardines. Handmade puff puff donuts and chin chin banoffee pies round off the hearty meal.

Zoe has no formal training as a chef, just a huge curiosity for the food that makes up her heritage. Her mother is Irish and her father Ghanian, and until she was two years old, she lived with her paternal grandmother in Ghana. One day, observing her father cooking the base of his signature dish of tomatoes, onion, ginger and Scotch bonnet, she asked how you know it’s done. Her father pointed to the hob’s splashback, spattered in sauce, and said “When it’s up there, it’s done.” 

Today, Zoe makes the same sauce in her kitchen, a space filled with found or recycled items, like the shelves, made from an old pub sign her girlfriend rescued from the venue of their first date. It is a personal bridge to her ancestry, and for her scores of customers, a door to a delicious cuisine.

Creating the beerChris J.J. Heaney

“We caught Zoe in the middle of food prep late afternoon, which was an amazing thing to behold. She’s a great fan of beer, particularly dark beers, and has made a couple in the past. We wanted to make something lightly spiced, which evoked the rich, distinctive flavours of her style, but which wasn’t a chilli beer as such. Those flavours pair brilliantly with roasty, malty dark beer character, with a light acidity and just a touch of chocolate sweetness. This one stands up brilliantly on its own or with food.”

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