In Nigeria, one’s relationship with food and the ingredients used to make those foods are taken for granted. Food is sustenance, thus the relationship is one of survival, not appreciation. Ona challenges that concept by taking familiar ingredients, reinventing them and creating something incredible. Chef Obehi, the Executive Chef and Co-owner of Ona, is rewriting the story of locally sourced ingredients, refashioning them to represent something unique.
Ona is aptly named after Chef Obehi’s late father. He was a very special and larger than life character who impacted everyone he met. His philosophy was that if you loved Nigeria, it would love you back. That is the same philosophy Chef Obehi has adopted. They celebrate all that makes Nigeria special. Everything at Ona has been painstakingly sourced from around Nigeria, from the placemats, decoration and plates, to almost all the ingredients. If it’s not in season, it will not be on the menu.
All the plateware used to beautifully present the food were made by a pottery master in Atamora Village in Osun State. All the glassware is locally blown by Igo Glass. The planters are recycled wood from the Apapa Port docks. The leather placemats and chair covers are all from a tannery in Kano. The ingredients are carefully sourced from local farmers to ensure everything is fresh and in season. Their menu changes according to the season in order to ensure this freshness.
The space is beautifully designed with neutral desert-coloured tones. The burnt orange leather cushions stand out against the white-washed walls with built-in shelves that highlight the simple, yet delicate Nigerian pottery. The organic design of the space is the perfect backdrop for the rich, complex dishes. The outdoor space is a seamless extension of the indoors, with romantic string lights strewn across the courtyard.
The food at Ona, like its namesake, is larger than life. Local ingredients are remastered into works of art. Chef Obehi is not only an artist but also a scientist. She has experimented with local produce to use it in unusual ways, refining it for the sophisticated palate. Their short, yet very sweet menu is split into four sections: Bar, Small Plates, Large Plates and Sweets. The descriptions for the dishes are deceptive, as they don’t reveal how incredible each and every dish is.
Their bar menu includes their famous Bao selections with three different filling options, as well as a perfect Tripe Empanada made with a goat cheese sauce and a Pork Belly Suya, unlike any suya you will have ever had.
Their Small Plates includes their take on the infamous Nigerian snails. The snails are served in shells, like the French escargot, on top of decorative little shells in a beautiful blue glass bowl. The snails are cut into tender little pieces, smoked in Chef Obehi’s famous smoker and cooked in a lovely, slightly sweet, garlic cream sauce, topped with a delicate tapioca crisp. The Pao de Queijo, a Brazilian dish that has its origins in Africa, is a lovely dessert-like dish made with a cassava choux, magnificently sweet egusi praline and whipped blue cheese.
Among the Large Plates is a mouthwatering shoyu-braised Pork Belly, with a shoko leaf mash and a seaweed crisp. The Native Risotto is cooked in traditional stock fish and a seaweed jus, topped with brie.
The Sweets are just as creative as the rest of the menu, with usually savoury ingredients reimagined into delicate pastry fillings, such as their decadent Mille-Feuille, made of starch and egusi, layered with chocolate and uyayak crème patisserie.
The Nigerian ingredients shine at Ona and are even used in cocktails and creating their own carbonated drinks. From okra in a cocktail to whipped Ehuru, Chef Obehi has dared to challenge the status quo, while bringing an exciting new culinary experience to Lagos. She and her team have elevated overlooked, understated ingredients into beautifully complex dishes that would impress even the most discerning gourmets.
Ona Lagos, 1701 Violet Yough Close, off Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos
In Nigeria, one’s relationship with food and the ingredients used to make those foods are taken...