Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Venus





Women may be from Venus, and this is where you’ll probably find me on a Friday night. It’s been around for a minute, and in the ephemeral night scene in Accra, that’s an eon. At the corner of 6th st. off Oxford Street, for those who don’t know it, it’s hiding in plain sight. Total, Citizen Kofi, Supreme even firefly have become landmarks for an establishment that preceded them. Venus is far from pretentious and dressed up or dressed down, you’re good to go. It offers a variety of dishes including a Lebanese menu, drinks and Shisha. You find a range of people (teens to people way over the hill) chilling on the patio watching cars go buy sipping on hot or cold beverages, smoking hookah, and utilizing the complimentary wifi. Almost nothing is out of place, a girl reading the hunger games on an ipad, a young entrepreneur working busily on a Mac while having his dinner or a group of debutants excited about their first taste of alcohol. Couples on first or last dates, rowdy boys arguing about nothing or singles waiting to meet up with friends in town.


When they make a Mojito, they make a Mojito, I’ll give them that, but like most good things in Gh, you’ll almost never get it again. The chocolate heaven will have you in heaven and after pouting about the “shortage of mint in the system” you’ll probably have either that or the daiquiris. Otherwise, Long Island, no long tin, or a shot of somethin. When it comes to drinks here, it’s no frills…in a good way.The food is pretty good, the basic hummus platter that comes with the standard pita and a side of veges is the best I’ve had in town, and you can get anything from Khebab to pasta…technically


 The anteroom has a bar and a tv, so u can watch say…the opening ceremony of the Olympics, large high hard wood tables for you to drink, eat or do some shisha on, unlike the inner room which is totally       different, with couches and low tables where you’re surprisingly not allowed to use a hookah pipe! There’s also a secret garden that you can sit in, if you really want to be incognito.


On a good night, there’ll probably be a queue to use the restroom, but you really can’t complain, it’s almost always clean and the hand dryer always works! The staff are friendly and you can become a “regular” on first name basis with them on your 2nd visit J The proprietor is also almost always there, so make sure you say hi when you swing by.

Chez Clarise



 My review of places would not be complete without showing love to ma chérie Clarise. I almost want to keep it a secret, so if you start to abuse this knowledge I’m sharing, I’ll be forced to ban you. Yes…it is that serious. This joint has the best food ever. The grilled Tilapia and attiéke is to die for…and I won’t try to convince you any further, the truth is in the poisson. I had it once and was sold…addicted…I’m talking intervention ish…twice a week, can’t wait for the weekend.

I’ve learnt to control my urge now…but that food though….*licks lips, fingers…* you get my drift.
When people ask how I found this gem, I literally have to tell them a funny story. 3 of us with directions to 2 apparently different places end up at the same spot, known by different names and I had to wait over an hour for my food and it was worth it. Initially behind the old MTN plot, now “consar”, was a grill and some plastic chairs…and I’m assuming the plastic chairs belonged to the drinking spot that operated out of the ground floor of the proprietor’s home. Standard procedure was to get drinks from the spot (what was it called?!!??) then place your order with one of the sassy Ivorian waitress/cooks. And from that grill came succulent, deliciously spiced Tilapia or chicken with a side of attieke or banku and 2 sauces. It took an average of an hour to get you food, so ordering ahead was highly encouraged, and really hasn’t changed since Clarise moved to her new spot near the old American Embassy. The old spot still serves food and I’m told it’s still as good, but this write up is about Chez Clarise.

Now, if a taxi driver asks if you’re sure about where you’re going when you alight…u need to know you’re in a very shady spot…and due to the construction, Chez Clarise can literally be described as being in a hole in the war of a very shady corner. It’s actually pretty close to Epo’s and the old American embassy just up the road opposite the new Bata store on the CTK side of 6th street, off Oxford st. Initially, there was sand for an interesting beach feel, but I guess people complained so now it’s cemented and tiled. It’s still plastic tables and chairs and you might have to wait and hour for your food, but you’ll have a roof over your head. An old school band used to play sometimes and an improv reggae duo passed through the last time, so I guess it full of surprises. The menu is the same and now she serves her own drinks; your basic coke, sprite, star etc, and surprisingly wine in keeping with the francophone-ness of it all. Bowls of water and soap are provided for you to wash your hands before and after and you can get some cutlery if you ask for it. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, anything goes, but don’t try to outdress Clarise…’cos you’ll fail. You will definitely be satisfied and planning your next trip there before the end of the meal.
The music is usually francophone (zouk) but don’t be surprised to hear either Azonto or Whitney Houston, the staff are really sweet and it might be a little frustrating to get over the language barrier but let’s look at it this way…you know how one of your friends is always on about "FranÇais" this "comment allez vous" that…well, a good dose of Chez Clarise is what this doctor is ordering. He or She will either come through and make for a smooth dinning process or…you’ll have something to laugh about for life.
*If you’re wondering why I haven’t spoken about the washroom facilities…it’s because I haven’t been…so lets just leave that there.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Lexington

Just in-case you’ve been under a rock for the past couple of months, Champs is no more and Lexington has taken its place. Long gone is the relaxed sports bar we’ve grown to love with karaoke on Friday nights and all-you-can-drink Saturdays and let’s not forget trivia night…*sigh* memories. 

My first thought when I heard, was why would anyone sell a niche well established sports bar like Champs and turn it into a lounge, after all there are more than enough of those in Accra and they seem to have a very short life expectancy, every other day a new place opens up and another shuts down, it all seemed like a very bad business move. Then I went to The Lexington.

It all seemed normal till the big neon sign hits you…or rather, you hit it, from there, former Champs patron might get woozy because it’s like the twilight zone, gone are the dark wood Oktoberfest-esque tables and booths, gone are the jerseys and pool tables, welcome to the Lexington, well deserving of the definite article, it’s a definition of an upscale bar-restaurant-lounge. White walls, with circus murals circa the 1700s (citation needed), plush cushions and leather, a DJ booth, 2 bars, a dance floor and quaint tables for serious dining. The lighting behind the main bar attracts you like a…firefly ;) and you’ll be mesmerised by the sheer logistics (a cocktail strainer? a metal muddler? Is that Estrella Damm? How Über chic!) and if that doesn’t get you, the bar tenders showmanship will. Champs already had a strong expatriate following but that was nothing compared to Lexington’s and the music choices are fresh, hip and international. 

Their website which conveniently has their menu, does a very good job of describing its themes and multi faceted set up. The food offerings are very cosmopolitan, delicious and as pricey as the drinks, whether its business or pleasure, the Lex promises to impress. It passes the Mojito test and they even make a mint julep as well as, surprisingly, everything else on their menu. The quesadillas are to die for and the service is surprisingly quick.  It’s definitely the place to treat yourself or someone else. And if your looking for that high street experience…I mean swanky metropolitan watering hole…this is a really really cheap way to get that fix.

The Republic Bar & Grill


 Conveniently located on 3rd lane (according to Google maps) off oxford street (between Frankies and “consar” aka awkward mall-to-be, The Republic is incredibly easy to find. Depending on the day and the time of day, the atmosphere varies from a quaint after work secret chill out spot, to a bustling parking headache on weekends. Walking into the establishment actually feels like going back to 1st July 1960. 

The décor is refreshingly vintage and the attention to detail is commendable, with basic hard wood round tables and stools that fit perfectly to make a long bench if you so wish and period magazine and newspaper cut outs on the walls, the inside of The Republic is quirky and definitely for the grown-and sexy. Casement windows with stained glass detail, classic records other antiques show up in all corners of the bar and you have a choice of making small talk at the bar, huddling in the many dark indoor corners, chilling on the patio or simply sitting around the ever popular round plastic table outside on the veranda, spilling onto the road on a very good night.





 A bar is not a bar unless it has mojitos and anyplace that serves alcohol need to have a good place of convenience. The newspaper cut-out theme is still present in the washrooms however the fixtures are all surprisingly avant garde, the only downside being only 1 cubicle for women, and everyone knows women use and need to use a restroom far more often than men! The Republic not everyone’s cup of tea though, you do have to get the concept; they only serve Ghanaian drinks, with a few “African” ones namely South African wine and Savannah dry, the menus are clean and simple: to drink and to eat and if a never ending list of cocktails you’ve never heard of is what you’re looking for, this really isn’t the place for you. There are only 3 cocktails on their menu; the mojito, a coco batida and the signature drink “the Republica” which is basically a caipirinha, so you won’t spend 15 minutes looking at the menu pretending to consider the options before you settle for your regular Long Island Ice Tea. 
The main ingredient in their cocktails and shots is cane rum made in Ghana with fresh fruits they marinate themselves for the flavoured shots. The rest of the drinks menu consists of all the other Ghanaian alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks on the market (no Club Gold though) 




The food menu will bring a smile to your face with colourful names like yeye goat, momo( pork dumplings), afro cuts and Osu favourite domedo. Home grown rice, cassava and bread serve as sides and there’s even 2 vegetarian dishes…well, kind of vegetarian…the eggalitarian contains eggs and the green revolution has tuna, and if the coco batida isn’t enough of a dessert for you, you can get some yucca slices or a ‘kofi rich man’. The crowd is very interesting and you never know who you’ll meet, I don’t know how long they can resist “azonto bug” but the music you’ll hear ranges from classic highlife to son, is probably the 1 thing I’d change about the place, but wait, did I forget to mention the 5ghs cocktails and soon-to-come happy hour? With very friendly staff, the only thing missing is spontaneous live music, singing and dancing to complete this throw back to the golden era but somehow, I don’t see where they’d find the space.