Jollof Box: Dalston’s new family-run restaurant keeps it local
- Credit: Jollof Box
A mother and son who worked for seven years to open their own restaurant are on a mission to get more people in Hackney tasting the African cuisine they love.
Jollof Box owners Sade and Matthew Omeye-Howell, whose Dalston shop is now open just beside the Kingsland Shopping Centre, say they want to give back to a community that has helped them build their business - by hiring local and buying local.
They told the Gazette they source their ingredients from Ridley Road Market, which is literally just around the corner, or local vendors. And they offer discounts to local workers, students and over-60s.
The business first made a name for itself at Spitalfields Market a couple of miles down the road.
Matthew said it was important to hire people from the local area - particularly young people - to give something back.
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"We're totally new," he said, "and here to be part of the community."
He believes "food is the doorway to culture" and wants to shatter a perception that frustrates him - that African food is for African people only.
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Matthew, who is British-Nigerian, told the Gazette: "If you don't open up your food and cuisine to the outside world you're losing out on so much that could benefit your country and continent."
He is proud of the food they offer, which includes vegan and halal options. His mother cooks and gave up her job as a nanny to stars like Vin Diesel to help her son. "Without her there wouldn't be a business," he said.
Matthew is grateful for support from the local community since the business moved to Hackney. "People who taste the food and [experience] the brand and service want to invest, if not money [then] time and skills," he said. "People help - with our trademark or art on the walls - and that's the beauty of Hackney."
Jollof Box, he says, offers authentic, gourmet African cuisine to "grab and go".
After appearing on TV show Dragons' Den, and not getting the investment they needed, Sade and Matthew funded the business themselves.
They worked several jobs, crowdfunded and relied on the help of a supportive family. "Theres no way you can do something like this without family - simple as that," said Matthew.