A country’s culture and traditions expatriate with its people. Thus, there is a Chinatown in many major cities around the world; various versions of Little Italy can also be found in many places, as well as Irish Pubs and Turkish kebab houses.
According to the most recent census there are about 170 million Nigerians resident in the home country. Due to the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian foreign ministry and many Nigerians’ lack of trust in the system, no one knows how many Nigerians are resident in other countries. Although when the President Jonathan said he would send planes to Ukraine fly out Nigerian students, I assumed they had an idea how many Boeings they would need to hire. No one would bother to check the receipts anyway…
The various Nigerian cuisines are bountiful, enticing facets of soul-food. Although we claim Nigerians love meat more than most people, even vegans would have a wonderful experience with our food. The cliché on reaching the heart through the stomach is never truer than with a Nigerian. My European female friends, due to the emancipation and whatnot, often can’t grasp the gravity of the matter…if you don’t cook for your man, someone else will. Chikena. (I joke…maybe…not).
Knowing the important role food plays in the Nigerian culture is exactly what makes us use specific yardsticks, certain bars when appraising food made by our kinsman. This is also what makes the sole Nigerian restaurant in Warsaw (and most probably Poland) – La Mama – a perpetual disappointment.
Ever since this place was opened I have never encountered more than 3/4 customers there. A consistently empty restaurant would give a reasonable person pause for thought, don’t you think? For some reason, I have given them the benefit of the doubt a couple of times…and after each nightmarish session, I tell myself “NEVER AGAIN”.
An order of poundo yam or fufu comes with “a drop” of soup that not only has savoury inadequacies, but is just about enough to ensure you are swallowing dry balls after a few bites. The coconut rice tastes as if it was soaked in milk into which some coconut was grated. The dodo served is as dry as yam peelings, and their chicken probably died a thousand deaths.
My last visit there was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the goat’s legs and the ostrich’s neck. The restaurant did not have yam nor plantain that day, and the kitchen did not see fit to inform customers till the dishes appeared on the table – with two-thirds of the bloody dish missing. TWO THIRDS. The explanation – “Sorry, we haven’t ordered plantain and yam from our suppliers.”
Wouldn’t it have made more sense to inform your customers that you can NOT provide the ordered dish, and ask them if they would like to change their order? Why would you assume the customer would be fine with whatever you throw on the table? Food is food is food sey?
It’s probably not their fault that their POS machine bills the customer’s card twice, but such a problem should be fixed ASAP. Kudos to the waiter for informing us card payment had been an issue for a while rather than playing Black Jack with our cards, although you would do better to put a sign on your door stating – “Cash Payment Only”. No one enjoys having to search for an ATM AFTER the meal. The till was also faulty…but that could have also been the staff doing a “Cocomo” on me.
I’m pretty sure that the poor service was partly, or wholly, due to the fact that the staff were busy chatting with friends the whole time. It is difficult to know how to offer your customers proper service when you hardly get any customers to practise the skill.
Last but not least – one point that really baffles me about this restaurant is the price range of the mediocre food – specifically the frequency at which they increase their prices. I understand a monopoly can fix prices as it sees fit. Being the only Nigerian restaurant in the city, they know anyone interested in Nigerian dishes has but 2 options:
i) go to La Mama and pay exorbitant prices for food which doesn’t knock you off your feet
ii) go to the Nigerian store next door, Afro-Euro, buy some groceries and go home to make a better meal for yourself
…and I also understand prices have to be raised when there are no customers. No one likes being in the red. But pray tell, dear Loyal Reader, shouldn’t 3-4 star restaurant prices go hand-in-hand with 3-4 star dishes? If your food can’t be splendid, at least make it cheap so those who go to Indian, Vietnamese or Chinese restaurants would also pay you a visit once in a while. There’s a market out there for you – where’s the business acumen? What do I know sef.
Although some dishes at La Mama are good enough, I would not recommend the restaurant to anyone. It is quite unfortunate that there is practically nothing to show for Nigerian culture in this part of the globe. However, if you want to have foodgasm with Naija food, I suggest searching for some recipes or asking a Nigerian for cooking tips – visit the shop on Andersa (Warsaw) and go make someone happy. Remember – “Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared.” ― Jesse Browner