“It was something my late mother had always desired” – how Obe’s Kitchen honours traditional Nigerian cuisine

Image by Rais Esat
Date: 22/11/2023

It’s no secret that many different restaurants and traders have begun to pop up since the less hopeful days of Covid and the lockdowns, all serving up their unique twists and styles that collectively seem to encompass every corner of the world’s individual cuisine.

Liverpool is no exception to this rule. However, nailing down a go-to West-African spot has become somewhat of a complicated dealing, what with local places being overshadowed by quick eats at chain restaurants and aesthetically Instagrammable dining.

Barber-turned-restauranter Obe, a Liverpudlian in nature and spirit since moving from southwestern Nigeria at a young age, wanted his prospective kitchen to be something more. Something that would dearly honour the memory of his late mother, the main reason he began his venture into the culinary industry.

By working with his partner, Obe saw an opportunity to shift the market’s perspective on authentic Nigerian cooking.

Image courtesy of Obe's Kitchen

Their grand opening on Smithdown Road in April saw Obe’s Kitchen epitomise the authentic ‘mum’s cooking’ feeling with traditional Nigerian dishes that rival their booming Asian-style counterparts we can’t seem to get enough of in today’s foodie climate.

We headed down to speak with Obe about his upbringing surrounded by the cuisine he adores, and what he believes he can bring to an already-saturated location for eating, drinking and everything in between.

Why did you choose Liverpool to be the place to open an independent restaurant?

“Ever since my father brought my brother and I to Liverpool at a young age, I grew up here, went to school and college here, as well as working in the community. I have made lots of friends, and I also have family here in Liverpool.

“I chose to open a restaurant here in Liverpool as Liverpool is close to my heart, having built a living in the community for over 20 years, I have seen the changes in the city, and noted that the city needed more than what we had.

Image courtesy of Obe's Kitchen

Former pro boxer Tony Bellew, a long-time friend of Obe who regularly gets his hair cut by him, stopped by at the opening of Obe’s Kitchen

“When we won the Capital of Culture in 2008, food for me was missing and with many different types of cuisines on Smithdown Road, I saw a gap and took the opportunity to fill it. I wanted to embrace my culture by sharing Obe’s Kitchen.”

What are your experiences with Nigerian food before opening this business in Liverpool?

“I am born and raised in Nigeria, before I came to the UK at a young age. So eating Nigerian food was the norm for me.

“Back home, we had a restaurant ran by my aunty. I was always at the restaurant and enjoyed the food my aunty was cooking. After attending school and college in the UK, my passion was to become an entrepreneur. At the time I did not know what in.”

What is your very first memory of Nigerian food?

“As a child my favourite dish was Afang, which is a traditional vegetable soup in the Cross River State of southwestern Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom State of southwestern Nigeria, where I am from.”

What is special about Nigerian food compared to other cuisines?

“Nigerian food, like many other West-African cuisines, has authentic flavours and style in making our dishes.

“This is often the difference in the way in which food is tasted. The food we serve here at Obe’s Kitchen is specifically from the Akwa Ibom State.”

Image by Rais Esat

(Image: Rais Esat)

Who is the woman painted on the wall next to the counter and why is she painted there?

“Obe’s Kitchen is more than just a Nigerian restaurant. The meaning behind the restaurant was something my late mother had always desired, and this was something I really wanted to give back to my mum.

“The picture on the wall and logo is my late mum who recently passed way and never got to see the end result of what I had done for her. I hope I have done her proud.”

Image by Rais Esat

(Image: Rais Esat)

What has the support from local customers been like?

“Incredible. I have the most amazing partner who has supported me throughout the whole journey from the planning to the opening and beyond. The local community have also positively embraced the cuisine where many have long waited for a restaurant as such to open on Smithdown Road.”

Have you faced any challenges since opening the business?

“Obe’s Kitchen has benefited from highs and lows, which is expected in a business, especially as a new style of business, and a different cuisine to what many people may be used to.”

What’s next, anything planned for the future of Obe’s Kitchen?

“Wait and see…”

  • Find Obe’s Kitchen at 387 Smithdown Road, L15 3JJ. Open from Mon-Wed: 1pm-10pm. Thurs-Fri: 1pm-11pm, Sat: 1pm-11:30pm, closed on Sundays
  • Images courtesy of Obe’s Kitchen