I have always been a fan of Vanilla Restaurant and its rich, varied menu. It’s one of those restaurants where you can eat anything from local ofada rice to exotic pasta with prawns and cream sauce. So when I had a chance to dine at their new location in Maitama, I was quite excited! It was a party, so we had quite an extensive range to sample from. First up were the starters, and we were served with prawn and mayonnaise spring rolls, vegetable spring rolls, sesame chicken and jalapeño poppers. The starters looked good, and we all tucked in. However, the jalapeño poppers tasted like aloe vera rolls. They were… awful! Not nice at all! If anyone has ever tried eating a fresh aloe vera leaf, just imagine that as a starter. Thankfully, the other starters were much nicer, and soon the awful aftertaste of the jalapeño peppers was a distant memory. The starters were served with an array of sauces and some chicken salad. In my opinion, the chicken salad had a bit too much lettuce in it, but otherwise it was fine. Next up was an array of main courses: grilled pepper chicken, Jamaican jerk chicken and Cantonese chicken. The grilled pepper chicken was ok – it was very well done, making it easy to eat. The jerk chicken was also quite authentic. At a point, I had the grilled chicken mixed up with the jerk, so I was confused for a moment, wondering why the grilled chicken tasted like jerk chicken. I was quite relieved to eventually discover that I had mixed them up, and that the actual jerk chicken did in fact taste like jerk chicken, and the same went for the grilled chicken. In addition to the chicken dishes, there was also prawn curry, which looked delicious. I didn’t have space left to sample the prawn curry, but I would like to believe that it tasted as good as it looked. All in all, the food was not bad at all, and I quite enjoyed my dining experience. However, I do think I prefer the ambience of Vanilla’s former location. Perhaps it was the lighting, or someone in the room who tripped a couple of times… I don’t know. Also, I wasn’t very pleased that there was no clear-cut distinction between the ladies and the gents. However, this new location has much more potential on the whole, because in addition to the restaurant, it has a lounge as well as an outdoor sitting area. Kudos to the restaurant manager, who was on her feet throughout the dinner service. One word of advice: please smile more. A pretty manager who smiles at the diners can do no wrong in their eyes. Vanilla… I wasn’t completely blown away, but I will definitely be back! Vanilla The Lounge, The Restaurant, The Garden Bar & Grill is located at 28 Pope John Paul II Street, Maitama, Abuja


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