Black Eats Best… Plantain Kitchen

We’ve teamed up with Black Eats London to highlight some of the city’s best eateries. Here’s what you need to know about Plantain Kitchen.
BE Plantain
Plantain Kitchen is something special.

Work your way up five flights of stairs to the sixth floor of Peckham Levels and you’ll be rewarded by more than just the step count on your phone’s fitness app. It’s up here where you can find Plantain Kitchen – a West African street food brand that serves up an array of suya lamb skewers, rice and beans, and oxtail alongside fudgy chunks of the joint’s vegetable namesake.

Plantain Kitchen was founded by Toby Oladokun and his mother, Sika back in 2019. Today, it's a busy hub where delivery drivers stream in and out of the premises with bags weighed with flavour and regulars come and order their "usual". Although Toby is typically the man on the ground most days of the week, he still uses all of his mother's recipes to make the dishes come to life. “She’s okay with me stealing them,” laughs Toby as he shows us how to get to make a perfect batch of crimson jollof.

Plantain Kitchen started as little more than a pipedream with Toby taking Deliveroo orders out of his kitchen at home. Toby eventually quit his job and dedicated his life to making Plantain Kitchen the hottest spot at every food market it appeared. Toby’s hard graft paid off. In November 2019, he was officially given the keys to Plantain Kitchen’s current home at Peckham Levels. Not content with merely feeding SE15 with bowls of his best-selling grilled chicken with jollof rice and fried plantain, Toby has his sights set on opening a new Finsbury Park premises soon.

“I’m trying to work on the operational side of things where I can be away from the place and it doesn’t fall apart,” explains Toby, “I’d like to spend more time working on the business and less time working in the business.” Being half-Ghanaian and half-Nigerian, Toby is in the enviable position of having equal jollof bragging rights. That mishmash of cultures is present in the drinks selection at Plantain Kitchen, too. You can settle down to a meal with a bottle of Star Lager (a popular Ghanaian beer) or an ice-cold bottle of Nigerian Coca-Cola which tastes approximately ten times better than any other cola you've ever had.

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“We’re not far off from where we should be,” says Toby, when we ask about what the food offering at the Finsbury Park outlet will look like, “but we’re looking to add that creative sense that people can appreciate. More small plates, y’know? Oxtail croquettes – that sort of thing. It’s about taking that next level up.”

It’s not hard to envision Toby and the rest of his team rising to that challenge. The key to Plantain Kitchen’s success is down to a combination of Sika’s foolproof recipes, a lot of elbow grease, and excellent sourcing of produce. Toby gets his oxtail – which arrives falling off the bone and wobbling with flavourful fat – from the Farringdon meat market at the crack of dawn where possible but also has a great relationship with local butchers. “It’s all about that balance between cost and time,” says Toby. Costs certainly aren’t cheap considering that Plantain Kitchen goes through upwards of 160kg of rice a month but Toby has managed to keep his head above water so far.

“That hard layer on the lamb gives that tenderness a jacket,” says Toby as he sears off three uniform suya kebabs that fill the room with a wonderfully heady scent of meat and spice, “it’s a little gilet for the lamb." Although Toby won’t divulge all his secrets to making the fluffiest jollof rice, he does let us in on one incredibly useful nugget of information: you’ve got to use a spoon when you’re making jollof. "That way, all the love can properly transfer from your arm and through the spoon into the final dish," he says with a smile.

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