Ogolúgo means “welcome” in Hausa and the name couldn’t be more fitting for Laugavegur’s latest culinary arrival. Since its early July opening, the team behind the restaurant have been determined to deliver a taste of Africa to 101 by offering a host of authentic dishes from attieke to domuda, all served with a generous helping of laughter and hospitality.
Filling a gap in the market
“I want it to feel like home, that was the main idea,” explains Alex Jallow, Ogolúgo’s owner, waiter, and resident TikTok superstar. “The taste of the food, the smell of the spices, the crowds of people—when you walk in you feel like you’re home, like you’re in Africa.”
Alex hails from the Gambia and Senegal region of West Africa, but grew up in the U.K. and has been living in Iceland for over ten years. “I love Iceland, but I just felt that that African touch was missing in this country, so when I was able to make it happen, it was a dream come true.”
Before taking up the role of Ogolúgo frontman, Alex worked as a chef. “I got my love for food from my mum. I was always in the kitchen, running in and stealing food from her whilst she was cooking,” he explains. “When I was 11, I would always ask to go to the market. My mum would ask me what I wanted to buy, but I just wanted to go to the market so I could get close to all the different ingredients. That’s the kind of person I’ve been ever since I was little. I’ve always loved food.”
He suddenly jumps up from the table and disappears into the kitchen, emerging with a plate of jollof rice served with crispy plantain and grilled tilapia. He also brings the rather reluctant head chef Dawda in tow. “This is West Africa’s favourite dish, but it can be found all across the continent” Dawda explains. “I have lots of favourite recipes to make and I’m always experimenting, but at the end of the day I’ll always love jollof rice.”
Service with a smile
Although the food is superb, what really stands out from a dining experience at Ogolúgo is the atmosphere, largely thanks to the overbrimming enthusiasm of the restaurant’s owner. Alex practically leaps from table to table, frequently breaking out into dance as he delivers steaming meat pies and huge bowls of okro soup. It’s this exuberance that has earnt him hundreds of thousands of views on the restaurant’s hit TikTok account—username ogolugo101—where he puts his own vivacious spin on the trends of the day, attracting a younger crowd of dedicated diners in the process. His cheerfulness is infectious; within moments of entering the restaurant, you’re grinning along with him and even agreeing to make a TikTok cameo.
“Trust me, I don’t even know where I get my energy from myself and I’m in here every single day,” he laughs. “It’s all about happiness. There’s so much positive energy in this restaurant. My customers look forward to coming here, and they love it when I’m dancing around the place. It makes me happy to make them happy so I don’t even notice that I’m running around and that time is going by. I can’t complain. I am happy, very happy.”
And there we find Ogolúgo’s secret: not only is it 101’s only African restaurant, it’s also the postcode’s most joyful dining spot. I leave the restaurant like every other diner, with a full stomach and a smile on my face, having promised a swift return.
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Visit Ogolúgo at Laugavegur 85, open 11:30-23:00 Monday-Saturday and 12:30-23:00 on Sundays.
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