In Brockley, Fortune Favours Us All
The phenomenal soupe de pêcheur at Sikatiô, London's newest Ivorian restaurant
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Vittles Reviews is a column dedicated to critical reviews of London restaurants, written by Jonathan Nunn.
You can read the previous reviews below:
Extraordinary Ordinariness at Uncle Wrinkle
The Last Guardians of Beef Dripping Fish and Chips - Molesey Fish Bar, Knight’s Fish Bar and Marlow Fish Bar
At Peace With Change on Green Lanes - Köfteci Metin
Crispy bhajia and the golden thread of true quality - Tulsi
There’s a Thin Line Between Heaven and Hell - Asian Harvest Butchers
An analogue desire in a digitised world - D&K Gambian Roast Chicken and Rice
In Brockley, Fortune Favours Us All
The phenomenal soupe de pêcheur at Sikatiô, London’s newest Ivorian restaurant
I can’t tell you precisely when it happened. All I know is that it was at some point during my half dozen or so meals at Sikatiô that I started to feel the first pangs of jealousy. I don’t think it was on my first visit, when it was made clear, via some faultlessly prepared nem (Vietnamese spring rolls) and a peanut soup with the depth of great satay, that this was a more ambitious restaurant than suburban south-east London is used to. It would have probably been somewhere between the long wait for a deep-fried croaker in a chainmail of crispy skin and the arrival of the choukouya, on-bone lamb where wood smoke permeates everything from the fat cap to the marrow. And if it wasn’t then, then it certainly would have been during the silence that fell over our table on my third visit when the soupe du pêcheur arrived, ruddy with prawn head, crab and chilli, so big it can only be served in an Asanka earthenware grinder. Yes, then it was unmistakable: I finally felt envy towards anyone lucky enough to live in Brockley.
You see, Brockley is traditionally where people from Camberwell go to die. I have seen some of the best minds of my generation swap the ability to order a wrap from Falafel and Shawarma on a whim and easy access to the TEP noodles from Silk Road all for a “cheap” two-up-two-down semi-detached and the stability to raise a small family. Because of this, and to prove to their friends who live in Zone 2 that they haven’t given up on life, Brockleyites like to talk up their neighbourhood food options. “But Babur is a great Indian takeaway,” they say, even though it’s clearly in Honor Oak. “It’s the best fish and chip shop in London,” they boast, despite Brockley’s Rock not even being the best fish and chip shop in Brockley. These are the lies that Brockleyites must tell themselves in order to put up with a neighbourhood that is livable, well-connected and objectively quite pleasant, but also contains a Mexican restaurant called Brorritos.
Of course, this is a completely unfair portrait of Brockley, a diverse neighbourhood that has a small but thriving restaurant scene – everything from jerk lamb at Jerk N Fry and nasi kerabu at Malaysian Deli, to the most well-stocked Costcutter in London. But even within this ecosystem, Sikatiô is unexpected. Opened in November 2022 by couple Lynda Beble and Brice Assemian, it is one of those places that started with a modest idea: selling frozen stews of sauce gombo and kedjenou at their grocery shop Akwaba Market in Deptford. Having the shop was key to forcing their dream of a restaurant into a reality – it gave Beble and Assemian a base where they have a direct supply chain for ingredients, but it also meant that Brockley became an ideal location to open, as it’s just a short drive from Deptford in case of an emergency restock.