Qween of the Week: Dare Oni

Dare Oni//Image provided by Oni

Dare Oni//Image provided by Oni

Finding authentic, quality Nigerian food has been hard for the Nigerian diaspora anywhere, but this Qween decided it was time to change that. Dare Oni, the self-taught head chef of her family restaurant Onidodo, a play on her last Oni and the Yoruba word for plantain “dodo,” opened the restaurant with her husband, to create a unique experience for Nigerians and Non-Nigerians in the London metropolitan area. Oni’s take on traditional meets London is what makes her restaurant stand out from other traditional Nigerian restaurants. Our Qween of the Week is changing the face of Nigerian cuisine in London, one dish at a time.

What sparked your initial love for food?

I enjoy eating, and food makes me extremely happy.

Did you always want to be a chef?

No, I didn’t, I enjoyed cooking and feeding others to see them as happy as I am when I eat. It got to a stage where friends and family would request I cook for them, so I knew I had to take it seriously.  

What inspired you to open your restaurant?

The frustration of finding a Nigerian restaurant that delivered the same quality of food and service at other restaurants inspired me. Most importantly I want Nigerian restaurants to be an option for a place to dine when choosing a restaurant to go to. 

How would you describe your menu to a non-Nigerian?

A taste of Africa with a western influence; you can either go straight to Nigeria with the traditional menu or experience interesting flavours with familiar ingredients.  

What is your favourite dish on your menu?

My favourite dish on the menu is Jollof Spaghetti & Tiger Prawns. I love Jollof rice and spaghetti, so this dish allows me to get the best both world.

What was the inspiration behind your famous suya (spicy barbecue) chicken and waffles dish?

I enjoy eating duck and waffles, I wanted to create something similar but with a Nigerian twist. I started working on the recipe a couple of years ago and perfected it last year July, so I threw it out there as a chef special and the response has been amazing. 

What is one dish you would recommend to a non-Nigerian trying Nigerian food for the first time?

The list is endless. From our menu the Beef Suya and Our Lamb Chops with Jollof and Plantain 

What would you recommend to a traditional Nigerian looking for a new experience?

The Asun (spicy barbecued goat meat) Pie for starters, then the Lamb Shank with sautéed spinach and Yam Porridge Purée for mains and if they have a sweet tooth the Agege (Nigerian bread) Toast with caramelized plantain, fresh berries and ice cream, for dessert.

What inspires you to create new dishes?

Everything around me. It could be a new ingredient I just discovered, colours, country, memories of growing up, the weather or a new dish I had at a restaurant. 

Why did you decide to have a mixture of traditional and non-traditional dishes?

 Growing up in London has allowed me to experience different cuisine, which as opened me to different ingredients and ways of cooking that Nigerians would not necessarily use in their cooking. I wanted to share this with Nigerians and also let non-Nigerians experience our traditional food. However, if they are afraid to try the traditional options, the signature dishes will look familiar. 

What makes your restaurant different from other restaurants serving African cuisine, in London?

We are different because the restaurant offers an experience. From the moment you walk through the door, the vibe, atmosphere, service and food is different. We offer a culinary experience that is different from other Nigerian restaurants. 

Which group do you think your restaurant caters to most, the more traditional crowd missing a taste of home, or the first-generation millennials who might be more interested in fusion cuisine?

I would say in terms of food, the first generation millennials. Most of them know what to expect when it comes to traditional Nigerian food, and they can get that at home. Our signature dishes allow them to experience something new they would never have thought of or even make. However, both crowds enjoy the atmosphere and vibe of the restaurant as it’s not the usual “Nigerian setting” according to the feedback we’ve received.

What’s next for you and Onidodo?

We would like to open more Onidodo, and I would like to continue spreading the new Nigerian cuisine in every way I can.

If you know who the next Qween of the Week should be send us an email: qweens.magazine@gmail.com, we look forward to hearing from you!