A while later, I signed up for a storytelling class and since I’m the ‘go to place to find the go to places’, the course facilitator asked me to find an upscale looking place with a decent budget. Target total cost per person was around 7k, drink inclusive.
I hadn’t yet been to Helene’s in spite of my very good intentions (sic!)… there was always one thing coming up when they introduced a menu change and I felt like I was missing a great deal. Sooooo… when Lamide (the storyteller) Johnson asked my help in picking a venue for a lunch-and-lear session, I knew we had to, had to, had to, do a Helene’s.
Helene’s is run by Chef Emeka. Le Cordon Bleu-trained, his cuisine is an interesting Nigerian-French fusion, and the restaurant is, in his own words, ‘fine-dining meets bistro’ styled. Self-described as a ‘Gourmet-Food Company’, Emeka’s Helene’s instantly provoked curiosity and longing in Lamide and the other course participants days before our date. Tension, fuelled by the excitement I had unwittingly nurtured in others, starting to build as I worried about recommending a place I’d never even been to.
But the day came…. And go we did. Whew!!!
Helene’s Food Co’s location is interesting; in a Mall I’d describe as nondescript. And with the elevator not working on that first visit, walking up to the 3rd floor with two bad knees and finding out that day that one of our party was coming with an infant in a buggy… I prayed the food and ambience would be a hit!! The afternoon was off to a shaky start. Anyway, we got there. I was breathless and as nervous as a mail-order bride wondering if she shouldn’t have met the groom at least once before agreeing to get hitched.
Then the doors opened and I realised i’d been holding my breath all the while!! The light streaming in from the windows overlooking the street below bathed all surfaces with a warm pale yellow glow. And the colors and accents: bistro style comfort and fine dining table settings… I’m drooling at the memory. Yeah…ambiences get my kicker going in anticipation. Sue me. Hehe ?
Ok. Let’s talk food before I derail my own narrative. So, in addition to a monthly menu, Helene’s offers a set Sunday platter which consists of minis of various dishes.
Each identical order came in little bowls or dishes on a carved wooden platter. At some point the Head Chef (Emeka) joined in serving out table and answered questions (why waste a presence by not asking, eh?).
Sunday Platter: A platter consisted of small portions of Sunday faves…mango chutney wings, chicken burgers, battered prawns, jollof rice, pancakes and strawberry jam, red cabbage apple slaw, beef kebabs, roast potatoes. Everything was near perfect. Portions were as described..small but totally filling.
The jollof rice was nice. And the prawns were pretty tasty and the batter just light and flavoured enough to not detract from the prawns they carried like a secret. The wings were intense. Crispy tips, firm but tender meat, perfectly done without going to the ‘am I eating my knee’ texture ? ! The cherry tomatoes at the tips of the beef kebabs were just perfect in taste, and firm.
Dessert: This was cake slices and Ice cream. The ice-cream had a sugar wafer creation on it. The caramelised sugar wafer had a very subtle bitter edge which made up for the combined sweet overdrive of sugar and ice-cream and the cake slices were each a different experience in taste, flavour and texture.
Drinks: Our party was about almost 100% teetotal so we went with the House recommendation: a zobo (hibiscus flower) creation which was sweetened with honey. That gave it a distinctly different kinda kick. Intense, as zobo can be, it was still light enough to not war with the various tastes from the variety of dished. We also had a lemonade and you can get yours sans sugar, if you ask. I like mine without sugar, with a heavy dose of mint, and with some ginger juice (I may be teetotal, but I like to experiment. ? ). Other drinks were sodas (coke) and water. The water was on the house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wallet dent: Less than 8k per person, full bellies
Overall: I really enjoyed visiting this place and I know it will become a family and friends favorite. Chef Emeka the Le Cordon Bleu chef who runs it, is extremely pleasant and attentive and so was every person who attended to us. On that and subsequent visits.
Address: B003 Kado Mall, Jahi. Almost Opposite NAF Conference Centre, Jahi, Abuja
Thoughts? Lemme know what you think and I promise I’ll review one new place. Just for you cos, well, I’m trying to collect points for a new halo. The old one fell when I went bungee jumping ? .
Anyways, later. ?