A medley of flavours unite at West to West Kitchen, which has been serving up dishes from West Africa and the West Indies from an inconspicuous spot on Salam Street, not far from Abu Dhabi Mall, since 2019.
Meals from Sierra Leone, Jamaica and Trinidad — dishes the proprietors grew up eating — are expertly cooked in home-style.
What to expect and where to sit
A soothing soundtrack of lilting vocals over soft African beats sets the mood within the small space, which seats only eight.
Meals are made and served by staff who, in keeping with the theme of unity, hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and India.
The restaurant pays homage to them through collages of images on the walls and an employee of the month highlighted.
Servers passionately take you through the menu with the tempting images on the wall and are friendly and knowledgeable, explaining the dishes and helping the indecisive to pick.
The rest of the decor is well thought out, too. Posters of inspirational quotes are framed and adorn the on-trend faux stone walls and there’s a golden sink in the corner for guests, complete with Rituals handwash – a thoughtful touch in such a tiny, two-table space.
We review the restaurant’s new lunchtime menu, which offers a variety of roti and wrap meals. These come with a side salad or sweet potato fries, while the more substantial bowls come packed with rice.
There are options here to cater to everyone, with some signatures being the Jamaican jerk chicken bowl (Dh52.50) – quarter of a chicken seasoned and marinated in a jerk spice for 48 hours; and the vegan Sierra Leonean awojoh binch bowl (Dh52.50) – a meal of black-eyed beans cooked with onions and Scotch bonnet peppers. It’s served with fried sweet plantains and a fresh salad.
There’s also the Trinidadian curried shrimp roti (Dh42) and the curry goat wrap (Dh42) for more on-the-go options.
My dining companion and I go for the curry goat wrap with sweet potato fries. We also pick the West African chicken stew bowl (Dh52.50), passionately recommended by staff, and I sneak in a beef patty (Dh17.85) as a cheeky little snack to nibble on the side.
You can request how spicy you want each dish and I go for a medium to light heat. The patty is packed with an ample filling of deeply flavourful, lightly spiced meat that combines beautifully with the buttery, flaky, seasoned pastry. It’s indulgent, moreish and a real delight to eat.
The curry goat wrap offers an interesting twist on one of Jamaica’s most popular meals. In this innovative little pocket, rice is replaced with raw carrots, lettuce and cucumbers, offering great crunch to the soft texture of the gamey meat.
Our only gripe is that the goat meat is delivered as it would be in the main dish — bite-sized cubes, some with the odd bit of fat still clinging on. In a wrap, it would be so much nicer to bite into strands of shredded meat and definitely no fat.
The sweet potato fries are another unusual, but delicious, addition and make for a great lunchtime treat.
The West African bowl — quarter of a chicken seasoned for 24 hours and combined with a traditional, tomato and onion base — is a highlight. It’s served with Sierra Leonean jollof rice and is a light dish yet with a real depth of flavour. It's comforting and tastes lovingly home-made.
The meat is fall-off the bone tender and the rice doused in the rich sauce that's not too powerful and proportioned just right so as not to drown out the texture and flavours.
Spices are well-balanced, but a detectable hint of thyme and bay leaf stand out. A blessing of Scotch bonnet pepper adds heat and that classic Afro-Caribbean flavour.
Laddi Knights, the owner of the restaurant whose mother and aunt helped to devise the menu, says onions and Scotch bonnet peppers are essentials.
“They’re my favourite ingredients and they feature in some capacity in many of our West African and Caribbean dishes. Whether these are used as a base to marinate food or to add spice, we would struggle without these magic items.”
A chat with the chef
Knights's mother and aunt taught the kitchen team how to make the dishes, so everything tastes like a healthy, home-cooked meal. And there’s plenty to satisfy all palates.
For vegetarian and vegan diners, as well as the Sierra Leonean Awojoh Binch bowl, Knights recommends the Trinidadian Doubles.
“It’s a meal of channa — curried chickpeas — nestled on a soft pillow of bara, dough. It’s served with Mama J’s Hot Pepper Sauce, WtoW Chutney and grated cucumber,” Knights says.
“It’s a hugely messy and equally satisfying Trini street-food snack.”
For meat-lovers, he points to the Sierra Leonean chicken groundnut stew.
“It’s not one of our biggest sellers but was definitely one of my favourite dishes growing up, so I'm always recommending it,” he says. “It’s a seasoned quarter chicken served in a creamy and smooth peanut sauce.”
Seafood fans “should go for the Caribbean curried shrimp”, which he describes as succulent and irresistible.
And for the sweet-toothed, nothing is quite like the sticky toffee pudding.
“This is not a dish traditionally eaten in Sierra Leone, Trinidad or Jamaica. However, as a family, we love desserts, and sticky toffee pudding was always a firm favourite growing up,” Knights says.
“There was no way we were going to open a restaurant and not have sticky toffee pudding on the menu.”
Price point and contact information
Light bites start at Dh17.85, wraps and rotis are from Dh42, bowls from Dh52.50 and desserts from Dh15.75.
West to West Kitchen is on Salam Street, Najda, Abu Dhabi. Reservations can be made by calling 02 671 9119 or 050 346 4619; westtowestkitchen.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant