Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Return to 1960

As many super-sized, ultra successful restaurants  as there are in this city, there are at least ten times as many underdogs – struggling under-the-radar spots that open and quickly close, mostly unnoticed, often with years left on their leases and no more than a few hundred meals served.These are spots that don’t get read about in the glossies. These are the places that keep the mortality rate of the restaurants business so high. In many cases, their fate is sealed from the beginning. Often times affordable rent means a locale with poor street traffic. Passionate chefs often have big dreams without the experience to back them up, or a budget for more than a green management team. And certainly there’s no cash left over for PR, or even more basic things like stylish décor.This week, I came upon a snug and charming restaurant that is unique…but it’s also one that will survive. Because this particular restaurant is fly. I speak of a jewel-toned bistro called 1960, located on an appealing street called Olunfunlola Okikiolu by the stretch of Toyin Street in Ikeja.While the street does not carry much beauty, what lies beyond the doors of 1960’s façade is. 1960 is owned by a charming man named Akin Adeoya, the CEO of Marketing Mix and Publisher of the popular marketing magazine- M2. Akin Adeoya is a formal gentleman. He can be found at his restaurant most nights, casual but smartly dressed. He welcomes every guest personally and his mission seems to be as simple as spreading joy and happiness through food and drinks.1960 restaurant is a dining haven that treats dinners like they never want them to dine anywhere else, I was quite surprised by the attention I was given by the beautiful waitress who each minute came to apologise for the delay of the menu, but I couldn’t complain because of the flavours the chef transported towards me. While I waited my meal  I couldn’t count the number of delicacies that passed  by me – apparently, this is one thing about 1960, although the meal could take more time than expected but when it comes, it’s so beautiful looking and tastefully satisfying, and that simply gave me a gastronomic experience I’ve not had in a while.I happened upon 1960 through a friend and with my other friends, Gbemi and Eniola, prolific culinarians whose opinions on matters of food I trust implicitly. We settled in on a frigid afternoon few weeks back and were quickly welcomed by a gentle waiter (in a great dark suit) he directed us to a seat at a cozy pillowed banquette opposite a dark-wooded bar lit from above by beautiful light.With 1960, Akin has created an oasis-like ode to his native land. Although 1960 comprises of the unique three – the lodge (which has the best of all that defines comfort) the bar, stocked with a wide range of wines both continental and intercontinental but the restaurant however small and simple, is also beautiful, with walls filled with beautiful paintings by great artistes.The dining is lovely and the tables are heavy solid dark wood with glass top matched with straight plush chairs. While we caught up on the past few months cup of groundnut that was presented us with our drinks as we waited patiently for our meal The beauty, warmth, serenity and sophistication of the environment at the 1960 restaurant, bar and lodge is on a completely different realm to its competitors. I specially like the lounge area at 1960 as its ideal for those special moments you need to impress a client or business partner with your good sense of class and style during lunch or dinners.Hot as it is 1960 restaurant has come to be on the list of top favourites for both diners and lodgers particularly on the mainland. And since recently, when all around Lagos boasts one restaurant or the other, good diners like me have been on the look out for places where there’s a good measure of ir-regrettable dining experience. And 1960 is one on top these places that has definitely got my taste buds savouring for more of their deliciously sauced meals in the not less than 16 degree Celsius air conditioned atmosphere. It is one chilled place that I called to be rescued from freezing.The entire concept is unique and pleasant; the food- a combination of continental and Nigerian dishes in an African style of dining that makes you feel at home – the setting; tightly arranged, colourful lantern lit wooden dining tables, wooden shutters; simple but exclusive, and the music all play to create an amiable and relaxing ambience. The décor is in cool cream with light brown accents and large collection of beautiful art works adorning every corner of the environment gives it a strong African influence.When entering 1960, I imagined a place where waiters would bombard me with skewers of deliciously prepared meals or perhaps grilled meat – on an as much as I can eat basis. Well, I wasn’t disappointed, and just like that I’ve been introduced to the redefinition of fine Nigerian cuisine and range of fine drinks sourced from all parts of the world.        Fish, conch, land crabs and rock lobster – called crawfish by the locals – have long been the bedrock of local cuisine. Although a few menus, mostly in upscale resorts even in Ikeja, feature dishes with Italian, Asian, 1960 restaurant still serves simple Nigerian fare, with a few nods to Continental influence. 1960 is not particularly dieter-friendly. Breakfast tend toward the hearty eggs, toast bread, yam and egg variety. At lunch, there are variations on a few standards; fried fish fillets served on slightly sweet buns; cracked fish which is tenderized, deep fried meat with tasteful sauce, all usually sided with local favourites like rice, but there’s also the tasty fish pepper soup that is simply tantalizing. And while dinner promises more options for the local favourites like semovita, pounded yam, fufu, garri, amala, rice, fried chicken or minced lobster fish cooked with tomatoes, garlic and onions – which seem to be the very common dishes though. It got me wondering if there really are more dishes we possess in Nigeria , just then it occurred to me that almost nothing is grown locally, so high-quality fruits and vegetables which of course will produce sweet tasteful menus are a rarity, especially right after the recent scarcity of important cooking stuffs. By the same token, I wouldn’t be surprised if all dishes aren’t available every day. The remoteness these days means meals aren’t cheap, even in the humblest spot.  1960 is a good place to go on a quieter day with a group of friends, - - as I have turned habit- get a promising meal and drink to the good life. The experience is simply orgasmic and not to mention the numerous celebrities that hang out at this great restaurant, bar and hotel.

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