I have visited Azmera, a restaurant that can be described as a “buffet of indigenous Ghanaian dishes” at the heart of Accra 3 times in the last two weeks—because it offers extensive variety of delicacies alongside the usual popular Ghanaian dishes.
Azmera, obviously over-priced when considered within the spirit of what buffets are, attempts to soothing patrons with its upscale outlook without losing touch of its traditional set up.
The live bands that play at Azmera sort of remind you not to complain about the bill—because you are not only paying for the dishes that you cannot really eat much as you are also paying for the ambience, presentation and the refreshing authentic Ghanaian music.
Azmera charges about 200 per head. For everything you get, that is a reasonable price except that it’s still a buffet and no matter how much you try, you can’t eat as much as you want to compensate for what you are paying for. How many balls of Kenkey or OmoTuo can one person eat to merit paying 200 GHS?
But there is an obvious business decision, perhaps purposely intended to to serve as a bulwark between the Ghanaian elites and the masses. The cost per head of about 200 cedis for a local buffet in Accra automatically cuts a large percentage of the population out of patronage—because you can buy similar authentic Kenkey, Waakye, Banku and TZ for about 100 cedis from various local places. So why would a local resident regularly spend 200 cedis on this?
For a lunch with 3 others, I left with a bill of about 1,200 GHS—which came to £145.72. That’s not cheap by any measure.
The above explains the sort of chi-chi restaurant experience Azmera seeks to offer. The price per head is not extensively attractive yet it succeeds in attracting those whose pockets can’t be depleted by such expense on food.
The taste of the dishes on offer can’t be complained about. Considering the price, if the various dishes were not worth it, I am certain Azmera would have been out of business by now. Even the elite Ghanaian wouldn’t be allowed to be cheated on both price and taste.
On the other stretch of the price scale in the same Accra sits Lucky Lawson’s ala carte Mango Ase restaurant, strategically located at the now almost fully commercialized East Legon.
Mango Ase has local dishes going for about 40 GHS and the affordable nature of its dishes seems to be working for its own good and bad at the same time.
When I visited for lunch, the place was packed and a queue was building up at the entrance. It looked exactly like the last time I mistakenly tried to get a seat at Nandos inside Stratford’s Westfield in London. No chicken and fries are worth queuing for several minutes for in the world of kitchens.
Mango Ase looked overwhelmed by the attendance—what I saw is almost befitting the word “chaotic” if I were to employ a hyperbole.
Business must definitely be booming. But the slight disorder in seating and the long waiting time, taking about an hour or more to get your food–irrespective of the deliciousness of it, lives a sour taste in your mouth and makes you wonder if anyone would regularly return.
This is what I experienced.
Probably, the festive season has tripled up Mango Ase’s patronage in a manner the restaurant’s management did not anticipate. Hence, the long wait and the ‘seating chaos’ I witnessed.
But then, if you want some good Ghanaian food at a popular restaurant in East Legon on almost a local chop bar budget, you should probably expect this standard of service—and also expect to be seated among offensively loud patrons dressed as if they just stopped by from a skimpy party. Maybe, these were the foreigners who have taken over the capital because of the holiday season.
The food at Mango Ase was worth the money but I can’t boldly say any local food, if you are starving, is worth an hour wait in Accra.
A lunch with 3 others at Mango Ase came with a bill of about 350 GHS (about £42).
Mango Ase is located at East Legon—opposite Del Hospital and Azmera is located at Roman Ridge Shopping Arcade.