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The Abuse of the Word "Fine Dining"

Nigerians are a very interesting group of humans. We have always been attracted to the finer things in life. From drinking the best top shelf alcohol brands to achieving the top job titles in any profession, we are truly market grabbers. Now when it comes to attracting a Nigerian customer, we feel we must feed to our ego. No one loves to be 'washed' or associated with luxury life more than a Nigerian customer (irregardless of tax bracket).

This has caused many businesses to enter a frenzy of using key words to market their brands. We have seen the words "premium", "luxury" and "exclusive" used in too many promotions that we wonder how so many brands can position themselves just by word association. In the culinary world we have hit a new plague, "fine dining".

What is a Fine Dining Restaurant?

Cole Cooks by Chef Vee

A fine dining restaurant is an establishment that prides itself on quality dishes using the top sourced ingredients whilst providing a distinct and impressionable culinary experience. An expensive bill usually comes with eating at one of these restaurants as you pay for an array of different factors. If you call yourself a fine dining restaurant or wish to become on, you must self evaluate the following;


First and foremost, quality food is needed to be called a fine dining restaurant. Where your ingredients are sourced and the reason behind that is an intricately thought out process with many restauranteurs in this segment. Working with the freshest ingredients allows the chef to highlight the region and the authentic taste without washing it out with pepper sauce. For example, a strawberry that has just ripened from the farms of Jos will be a seasonal staple in a fine dining establishment. Apart from the sourcing of food, the team behind the kitchen is a huge contribution to the execution of a dish.Quality ingredients have to be mastered by a quality team. A fine dining kitchen is almost military-like. With a larger team than accessible restaurants, you will find a minimum of 4 chefs per kitchen line (meats, fish, pastry, sides, garnish etc). Each chef will have its function it perfects rather than working on a whole dish from start to finish. Quality food takes TIME to source ingredients and multiple stages of recipe development. This cannot be rushed!


A well thought out menu is always accompanied with excellent design. Design incorporates all things from crockery, menu template, art and special effects. All these elements must be harmonious in offering to create a coherent and synchronised experience. The restauranteur will look at sourcing plates from specific pottery houses that show the dishes in its best light. The dishes may then be brought to the table with effects such a smoke or dry ice, however these effects are never used sporadically but more so to intensify the main ingredient or theme of the dish. Design on its own can seem minimal, but when incorporated effectively, it can leave a long lasting impression.


For a customer to be satisfied with paying an expensive bill, the restaurant must go through lengths to ensure the guest feels truly valued. Guest experience has become a true art in the game, with many restaurants using technology to take the edge. From knowing repeat customers to providing individual experiences, the guest should leave the restaurant feeling identified and nurtured.


Ambience comes with creating a mood that amplifies the theme of the restaurant. Similar to decor, the ambience has to be coherent and driven in a unified direction. Lighting, seating arrangement and colour scheme are important factors that a fine dining establishment will think about. How do you want the customer to feel when they walk in?

Is there Room for Fine Dining in Nigeria?

There is always room for "fresh" concepts in Nigeria and we are seeing a few restaurants bring the right light into this market. Itan Test Kitchen is the first to truly take this market and show Nigerians the meaning of the term Fine Dining. Burgundy by Chef Stone is the latest. However, many restaurants are still confusing guests by claiming to be in this field without understanding the different elements one must provide to be respected. Being a fine dining restaurant in Nigeria is not easy. In fact it is the exact opposite. It take passion over profit; being ok with spending money on staff, procurement and design. It means spending time mastering your craft and edge and not rushing in opening. It means loving and valuing your customer and going above and beyond to make them feel like family. These things I have mentioned are not natural to many restauranteurs here. We are too quick to take the name but do not wish to pay the price it comes with. We wish to skip all the categories as if fine dining comes directly after fast food. There is nothing wrong with establishing yourself as a gourmet restaurant if that is realistically what you end up positioning yourself as. Even gourmet restaurants have certain standards.

Gras Lagos

I recently visited new restaurant Gras in Lagos; a restaurant with some of the most expensive menu items in the city. The decor was exceptional and the service on point, the food was good yet the menu direction and details in it still needed so much refinement. I spoke to a member of the management team and he expressed his frustrations on the ownership rushing the opening. The recipe development, training and tastings were happening at the same time of the launch!. The saddest part was meeting a team who had greater ambition for excellence than the owners; such places rarely survive! I was so upset hearing this because this is a restaurant with so much potential to being a legitimate fine dining spot if they took a couple months to curate sustainable excellence. But such actions leave customers being exposed to errors and a lot of unnecessary criticism.

This is seen in other sectors such as real estate or hospitality. We need to slow down and assess what we truly want to be as businesses. Lets not rush the process and make things look great on the outside yet reek of corruption and short cuts.

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Jun 20, 2023

This is such a beautiful write-up!!!

Tarragon Restaurant by Chef Tiyan was one of the pioneers of fine-dining in Lagos. It was located in Ikoyi at the time, and harboured Culinary Academy, the school I trained in. The students worked in the restaurant as the staff, which enabled us understand the concept of fine-dining, as well as its target audience and positioning in the Nigerian dining (restaurant) sector. It however shut down during COVID.


Jun 20, 2023

Nigerian restaurateurs really need to kill the spirit of “rush rush.” Excellence takes time, focus and thorough commitment to the process.


A beautifully written piece that educates as well 👏👏


Jun 19, 2023

This is beautifully written. As a chef who's had the priviledge to work in fine dining spaces I can resonate with your points. I believe owners need to do more research and understand the intricacies of venturing into these spaces. Doing it right is better than rushing, it will always tell.

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