Woolwich is getting “Back to Business” after the riots, and in response to calls to support local enterprise, it occurred that one way to do so might be to make a beeline for the Nigerian businesses that have, in some ways, helped to keep local commerce alive in the years between the exodus of the Woolwich Building Society, Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society et al, and the arrival of new investment from the council, Berkeley Homes and Tesco.
For several years now there’s been more and more Nigerian shops in the SE18 area, and having followed the food related ponderings of local musicians Afrikan Boy and Tinie Tempah, the time seemed right to try out some West African cooking.
I went to Palm Beach, which is opposite the swimming pool. The reception there was possibly the most good-natured I’ve ever had at a restaurant in this country, and the family that run the place provided a fun and detailed explanation of Nigerian eating and drinking. Broadly speaking there seems to be no wheat or potatoes, and key ingredients include eba (cassava), yam, egusi (melon seeds), beef (nkwobi is hoof stew), tropical fish, and enough scotch bonnet pepper to give you a long and pleasant afterglow. For drinks I tried Palm Wine and Nigerian Guinness, which is much stronger than the Irish type. Overall, I found the intensity of this style of cooking very enjoyable, and am looking forward to trying some more West African fare in the near future, probably at one of the other Woolwich restaurants. At Palm Beach, the cost of mains and drinks was £10-15 per person.