The bistro at Azmera restaurant is bursting with flavor. This zesty and spicy dish of calamari, chicken wings, potato wedges, prawns, fried plantains and Azmera hot pepper sauce beggars belief and makes for an out-of-the-ordinary eating experience.
The recently-opened Azmera has joined the top echelons of Accra dining. It rivals in quality my favorite African-food restaurant in this country but has a more upscale, decidedly genteel atmosphere, reminiscent of a private dining room. Everything Azmera offers says quality, from the wait staff that greets you at the front door, the understated name inscribed subtly on the entrance, the finely carved wood tables, the beautifully unique but sensible wine glasses, and the fine service.
The eatery is haute Ghanaian to the hilt. The classic yet innovative Ghanaian dishes are a don’t-miss. Vegetarian dishes are also available and there are plenty of standard options available for the less adventurous.
This restaurant is innovatively decorated with modern artwork, metallic décor, colorful murals and small, ornate chandeliers. The restaurant has the air of cozy British tea rooms with their printed elegant tablecloths and color-coordinated walls in sophisticated pastel hues. There are three rooms within the restaurant: a front dining room on the right with tables, another dining room on the left with ample seating and a bar near the entrance of the restaurant. The physical space is attractive with immaculate white and beige walls punctuated by photographs of Adinkra symbols. The atmosphere is festive and sophisticated but at the same time almost homey.
The food is excellent, starting with a fascinating array of small or large appetizers that can be shared or eaten in lieu of a main course. The mains, such as the ginger roasted chicken with fried rice or the grilled tilapia, are equally delicious and well prepared. Desserts, too, are very nicely done. Azmera also has fine wine and liqueur selections.
This is no hype. The food is ethereal and reflects the unique qualities of Ghanaian cuisine. Although it would almost be an injustice to pick out special dishes for recognition with most being so scrumptious, one dish is truly incredible by any standard: banku with Azmera okro stew. The okro itself is cooked to perfection and the tuna, beef and crab that accompanied the palm-oil-free stew were the most delicious pieces I’ve ever tasted. Thejollof rice, a wonderfully savory, tomato-based pilaf with chicken stew or fried fish stew isn’t a bad choice either. Balance the flavours with ripe plantains that are fried to an unctuous, caramel sweetness and you have a perfect three-course meal. And just when you think you can’t eat any more, Azmera offers a range of special desserts, including the unique Mars Bar cake, and the caramelized atadwe milk that would make a Swiss confectionery chef swoon.
I have been to Azmera with friends three times, and everyone has always been pleased if not delighted. The food is interesting and quite good. The only exception was the fufu and light soup.
Service is professional, though the restaurant seemed somewhat understaffed as we faced some delays in getting served. Waiters are gracious and helpful when they appear and bring hot napkins to your table once you sit down. Meals were served at a leisurely pace. On my second visit we had to wait a good 15 minutes before our order was taken, not by a waiter but the manager herself. While we waited, though, we sipped on our ginger pineapple juice which was quite refreshing on a hot day. Any problems with service at Azmera are ameliorated by the polite manager who is ever-present and eager to be accommodating. She is a warm and welcoming hostess, dedicated to doing everything possible to ensure a pleasant meal.
Prices at Azmera are reasonable for the quality, though certainly not cheap. The buffet offers a broad range of delicacies including desserts.
The menu can be a bit confusing until you get the gist. One page lists Ghanaian and Nigerian soups and stews; another page has the accompaniments such as rice, eba and banku. The third page has the continental dishes on offer as well as drinks. So you are left on your own to organize your meal by matching up a choice from each section.
Azmera opens six days a week, except Sundays. It is located at the Roman Ridge Shopping Arcade and is adjacent to the Expresso head office.