How do I even begin to describe Lagos, Nigeria? You know the stereotypes? Drug dealers, hustlers, pimps and con artists. True of nearly any city that houses 20 million plus inhabitants. If you search the forums you’ll see some very colourful comments about Lagos.
My version of Lagos: The streets are a buzz with a kinetic frenzy. Petty hawkers making sucking sounds to get your attention, Keke’s (Tuk Tuks) zig zagging in and out to make a quick buck, a nest of wires and cables all robbing power from the grid that doesn’t really work. It’s dog eat dog. Each man for himself!
This week I’ve been filming some human interest stories in and around the slums of Lagos. The humidity is 100% and the sun has been harsh. Millions of people live in mosquito infested cess pits. No running water or respite to speak of. If they are lucky they can afford to buy some yam or ground nuts to fill their aching tummies. Abject poverty. But you know the thing I love about Nigerians? No one feels sorry for themselves. Life is competitive and too hard to entertain that emotion. They just get on with surviving and building themselves up. They have no one to blame for their mess. Okay! Maybe the oil industry capital greed machine & their corrupt leader!!!.
One of the perks of being a freelance TV director is I get to travel with a corporate charge card. I sound way too important! Dick! I can afford to escape the madness of my work day reality. I have never appreciated the small comforts of life more than I have this week. Running water, chilled beer, clean sheets. A basic level of hygiene that allows me to live to an old age. I have been humbled.
In order to regain my pride of place in the world of overconsumption and wasteful spending I treated myself to two 5 star dining experiences. The slightly more “upmarket” area of Ikeja is my nightly playground. The burger has become my safe meal in a country where goat meat, snails and cat fish are staple dishes.
There are 2 good western hotels in Ikeja. The Sheraton and The Protea Hotel. The Sheraton is the grand dame. A little on the old side but nevertheless a shelter for expats and airline staff. The Protea is the newer, cool kid on the block. Smaller & modern’ish! Both these establishments welcome walk in business and you are made to feel welcome by the hotel staff. Nigerians really are friendly folk.
How do the burgers compare?
The Protea burger is a double-decker beefy treat: 2 grilled patties (you could see the griddle marks!) squeezed between 3 slightly toasted sesame seed buns. The bacon really shines through in every bite but the soggy button mushrooms didn’t do much for me. The fries where faultless and so was the service. Cheese, or any dairy products for that matter, are a luxury in west Africa so the melted mature-cheddar slice was a welcome addition. As opposed to the processed slime you get elsewhere.
Protea Burger – N4500 = $14,20
For the price you really can’t complain. This is after all a 5 star hotel in Africa.
Next stop was the Sheraton Ikeja. A quick frisk from security at the door and the pool bar was all mine. I love the outside vibe here. It’s trying to be a Hawaiian tiki bar meets African boma in Jamaica? When you get over the theme and order a cold beer who really cares!
But I am here for the burger. The Signature burger. And boy did it deliver. The burger is a solid 200g monster. The flavour is like a Big Mac. Probably a combination of the pickle and ketchup make me think of this flavour profile. Whereas the Protea burger was chargrilled and crunchy, the Sheraton was less flame grilled but still crisp. A side of coleslaw clinched the deal for me. I am a big fan of this cabbage/carrot duo! All in all I prefer the Sheraton burger but when the cheque arrived I had a hard time digesting the price. But then again I am not paying!
Sheraton Burger – N6200 = $19,65
I am in Lagos for the next few days. I am heading home to leafy Johannesburg a humbled man. I return with a new appreciation for South Africa and its infrastructure. I have a philosophy when I travel.
“NOT BETTER NOT WORSE. JUST DIFFERENT.”
And boy is Lagos different!