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South Eatery & Social House: New Orleans in Lagos

On Younis Bashorun, we missed the building the first time. Somewhere between the number of jeeps parked in front, blocking the entrance, and the black colour of the building, we had glazed over it. We found it the second time around, after slowing down and counting numbers. There wasn’t a lot of parking available but it is Lagos after all.

My date and I strolled in on a Wednesday afternoon, so it’s understandable – though disappointing – that we didn’t meet the ‘Social House’ part of South’s name.

I do plan to return on a Friday night (if only to end the argument my date and I had about whether Lagosians willingly sit at the bar of a restaurant when there are dining seats available). The good thing about visiting on a Wednesday afternoon though, is that you get an unobstructed view of the décor.

Walking into South reminded me of some of Cape Town’s cooler restaurants. All of the wood, and the metallic black and that gorgeous gorgeous bar with a great vibe. Whoever designed this space paid attention to every corner that your eye would inevitably be drawn to. The restaurant/gastro-pub/beer concept is said to be New Orleans-inspired, but having never visited NOLA, there’s only so much I can say to their commitment to theme. There’s outdoor swing seating, individual tables and chairs on the ground and first floor. The outdoor space is perfect for small intimate birthday party gatherings.

For starters, I had the Bacon Bean Fritters (₦2,500) which is really akara stuffed with bacon and mozzarella cheese. What happens when akara visits France New Orleans? You get Bacon Bean Fritters, so of course I was curious! I suspect that it was baked, not fried like akara is – the consistent shape through the six pieces was proof. It came with a pepper sauce dip, and though I did not taste the bacon, I enjoyed hitting the gooey cheese center. I really enjoyed these fritters and it took about fifteen minutes to hit our table (which is faster than I can say for most places).

Something that made our visit really good was the waiting staff. Yes, they looked good in their denim uniforms (complete with leather aprons), but they were super friendly. And it was not the kind of friendly that someone has been warned into – you get that “Oh, I’m just doing my job and my boss is standing over there” vibe a lot in Lagos. Not here. I had good conversations with the waiters who interacted with me and I promise customer service takes a restaurant from a 7 to a 9.

For the main, I was the typical boring Nigerian who ordered rice. What really pulled me in though, was the Shrimp sauce – I’m a shrimp fanatic, plus what do they say about a restaurant who can do something as basic as rice well? It’s called New Orleans Shrimp (₦7,500) – I was just trying to get as close to Solange as possible. Fresh shrimp in a creole sauce, it was okay – not spicy enough and I’d forgotten the taste immediately the meal was over. I should have gone with my gut and gotten a burger. Next time. I’ve heard many raves about the burgers.

My date had the Herb Roasted Chicken (₦5,500) which turned out to be infinitely better than my safe bet. The meal was herb-marinated oven-baked chicken with potatoes and vegetables. The chicken was amazing and very well-seasoned, tender. Yes, it was slightly dry on the inside but the sauce took my mind off that immediately. Creamy sauce with no overpowering flavours – just a nice smooth herby rhythm going on. The potatoes fell apart nicely and the skin added texture.

It felt like a nice Sunday roast and your grandma’s bosom. I’d go to South again in a heartbeat. Maybe not a heartbeat because the prices aren’t exactly drop-by-everyday friendly. But the ambience is definitely worth every Kobo that left my card. It’s a beautiful detailed space (rumour has it that it took over a year of renovation to become this) and I’d like the number of the designer, please.

Good food, warm vibes. I guess that’s as New Orleans as New Orleans in Lagos gets.