“This is our kitchen,” says Helen Eyefia.

She has an apron over her clothes and a big metal spoon in one hand. In a corner, fish crackles and fries in a vat. There are five big silver pots cooking on the stove.

Around the kitchen are boxes of ingredients. Spices. Sauces. A bag of yellow, orangey-red and green scotch bonnet peppers.

It’s early evening at Only One Nana Restaurant, where the chefs cook up dishes from a spread of African countries.

At the moment it’s quiet.

Achille Didier says it gets busier later in the evening – and, he hopes, as word spreads, more will stop by to try the food they have here, or even make use of the space for their own events.

“Our vision is to make it posh, very clean, so people who like African cuisine can come and taste the nice food also,” said Didier, last Wednesday.

In years past, this triangular standalone building at 482B North Circular Road was a barber’s shop. Later, it housed a different African restaurant.

The Only One Nana Restaurant opened here nine weeks back. It’s not their first business, says Didier, who runs the place with his wife Nana, and his sister-in-law Eyefia.

They’ve a beauty salon on Parnell Street – closed at the moment for renovations. “At the back, we were selling some African foods,” he said.

They’ve dishes from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Congo, among other countries. Some customers asked for more, he says. “There was demand,” he said. “Why can’t you open a proper restaurant?”

When they learnt this building was free, they got a loan from a family member in the United States, and invested some of the revenue from the Parnell Street shop, too, he says.

As a sole trader, finding the cash was tough. “You know it’s very difficult to get financing,” he said.

His wife provided the energy to keep going, he says. “She’s the one that is actually, let’s start this.”

Midway through the conversation, a guy walks in and pulls up a chair. He looks around the room and nods – he wants to organise a party, he says.

The room has silver swirly wallpaper. To one side, there are colourful ceiling lights that flash blue and green.

People book the restaurant for birthdays, christenings and other gatherings, says Didier. “It’s actually also a meeting place,” he said.

“People who come from the same area in Africa, they meet every month – and they want a place where they can sit and have food,” he says.

Eyefia points to a tower of tubs of different flours in the kitchen.

One has powdered yam, another has a flour ground from unripe black plantain, sometimes called amala. A third tub down holds semolina.

“This last one, this is garri,” she says. “That one is made of cassava.”

It’s what happens if you peel the cassava, wash it well, dry it in the sun and grind it into powder.

Here though, she just buys the powder. “Because there is no sun in this country,” she says.

Over by the stove, Eyefia peels back a sheet of tinfoil to reveal wrapped parcels of red beans, crayfish, and egg – also known as moi moi.

That’s one dish on a long menu, one made easier to navigate by the pricing: everything is €10. There’s also the goat pepper soup, a deep flavoursome broth with hunks of on-the-bone goat’s meat spiced with Scotch bonnet peppers. There’s tangy jollof rice and chicken. The portions are filling.

“People call up for the fish,” says Didier. A whole fish roasted in special spices.

The suya beef is a treat, too. It’s beef roasted on charcoal, rubbed in a ground mixture of ground nuts, hot peppers, and more. “That one is tasteful,” says Eyefia.

Food is cooked fresh and they do special requests and extra for those who call up in advance, if they can, says Didier. “You can order, made to order.”

People pop in as they pass, he says. A couple of guys came from Ballymun the other day, and they came back again a few days later, he said.

“We always talk about Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, but why not African cuisine?” says Didier.

If all goes well here in North Circular Road, Didier says he would love to open another.

He has had his eyes on a bigger place still. “Just down the hill,” he says. “That’s our aim.”

For now, though, they want to bring more people through the doors, he says. “It’s just a nine-weeks-old business.”

UPDATE: This story was updated at 10:54am on 3 May 2019 to include the street address of the restaurant.

Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's editor and general-assignment reporter. Want to share a comment or a tip with her? Send an email to her at lois@dublininquirer.com.

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