May Foods – “authentic Ghanaian restaurant”

16C Market Row, London SW9 8LD

Tel. No. 020 7978 8830

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The main blogs about Brixton have so far ignored this restaurant – perhaps because it mainly serves Brixton’s West African community. Although we had previously eaten here we also had not provided a review. This is because we never really knew whether or not this was an “Authentic Ghanaian Restaurant”, as it tells us on the front. However, after spending an enjoyable week’s holiday in Ghana, we can now confidently affirm that it most definitely is. It is not so much hidden as unassuming. The front is half covered with frosted glass, so it’s hard to see inside before you enter and, when you do, it probably doesn’t look as inviting as many of the pop-ups in the Village. There are no bright lights, no tasteful décor. Just some posters, a few odd angled tables and mismatched chairs, through which you have to negotiate safe passage to the counter. There you order your food, with usually just one person taking orders and serving the food from an array of large pots. Given the unfamiliarity of the food and surroundings, you might feel you need to be quite brave to step over the threshold, but it is worth the effort.

Ordering is a bit of challenge, as most of the dishes on offer are unfamiliar. So a brief guide to Ghanaian cuisine follows. The main dishes all revolve around large amount of carbohydrate made from one or more of rice, corn, cassava and plantain. The difference lies in the preparation and there are many kinds but here are three –

  • Banku is cooked and fermented corn and cassava dough. It has a strange slightly yeasty taste and comes as a ball of something like greyish mashed potato.
  • Kenkey is fermented corn dough and comes wrapped in leaves and is a more solid consistency. It is like a sourdough dumpling and so the easiest way in to the starchy part of a meal.
  • Fufu is usually pounded cassava and plantain and you eat it by pinching of a bit, dipping it into the sauce and swallowing whole. It looks  more gelatinous than the other two in this list and we can’t comment on the taste because we have not yet been brave enough to attempt it.

With each type of carbohydrate you can choose meat or fish and some sort of sauce, usually highly spiced. But if all this is too unfamiliar, they do sell the Brixton favourite – rice and beans with grilled jerk chicken – and the more accessible jollef rice, which is a sort of spicy risotto.

The restaurant was nearly empty at 1.00 pm on a Monday but as we ate, people came in for takeaways and mothers with pushchairs come to feed their children and pick up a takeaway. The main carbohydrate is sold in plastic bags, so it can be microwaved. The plastic bags are authentic, as this is just how it is sold on the streets of Accra and Elmina. We ordered eba and spinach sauce with assorted meat, which came with rice balls and peanut soup & fish with banku. Also worth trying is the pepper soup and, if you want even more carbohydrate, fried plantain as a side dish

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As we found with the restaurants in Ghana, it seems impossible to eat all the starchy part of the meal. I only ate a quarter of my rice ball (two large tennis balls of solid rice) but my partner managed all his peanut soup and half his banku – a considerable achievement, even on an empty stomach. There’s no shame in eating with a spoon and fork, as we did, but they do provide bowls and liquid soap, if you want the authentic experience of eating with your fingers. It might be thought that this is an impossible task with the soup but the art is to form the starch accompaniment into little scoops. This is not fine cuisine but it is interesting, tasteful and, most definitely, filling.

The whole meal was cheap – it would be hard to spend a lot of money with the main dishes costing no more than £6.00. We didn’t have any drinks on this occasion but there is water and other soft drinks available.

2 thoughts on “May Foods – “authentic Ghanaian restaurant”

  1. I used to walk past this restaurant every day on my way to the tube. My parents are Ghanaian and I would often crave home cooking, never thought to pop in and pick something up from here. I will definitely have to eat here when I am back in London from Montreal! Thanks for reviewing it. Louise.

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