Socialising in Lagos can be, if you let it, a full time occupation requiring hours of grooming, a large financial investment in fashion and a military-like approach to scheduling. There are people here, normal people who put their trousers on one leg at a time, who have schedules so packed they don’t have a free weekend until Spring 2016. I’ve only got about 3 more months of Lagos living, so lately I’ve been trying to get a piece of the action.
I’m determinedly single* at the moment, so I’ve been going on a lot of friend dates. First, to 1415 at Eko Signature, a low-lit, elegant expanse of a restaurant serving up some of the best food I’ve had in Nigeria, ever. I mean it guys- every bite was like a fond memory and the service was impeccable. I went with my dearest S, and we both got obscenely dressed up, as is required in Lagos (she, in a burnt orange two piece with Sergio Rossi heels and a Saint Laurent clutch, and I in a DVF wrap dress with Gucci sandals and my favourite little Prada chain purse). Not that there was a huge audience to appreciate our sartorial skills as 1415 was empty save for couple out celebrating a birthday. S and I shamelessly eavesdropped on them all evening. The stage was set perfectly for a proposal so at every pivotal moment- the cake reveal, the popping of the champagne cork, his weirdly dramatic exit to the loo- we three hung on the edge of our seats, in a pulse of anticipation. The girlfriend checked her manicure at least 2-3 times while S and I speculated as to whether he’d kneel or not (“He’s definitely a kneeler.” “You think? But his trousers look tight o.”) and I can’t tell you who was more disappointed when a proposal didn’t come, the girlfriend or S and I.
Next was RSVP, again with S plus our other Necessary, M who was in town for the weekend. RSVP boasts chic, modern decor reminiscent of London’s Ping Pong and serves particularly good cocktails. S gave us a black dress with a Jolie- thigh split, Louboutin So Kate’s (AKA the most uncomfortable shoes known to man) and a Givenchy clutch , while M channelled Parisian chic in a sea green top and skirt, and a Fendi clutch and heels.) This time I braved a crop top- a terrible idea considering the greasy goodness of the food we ordered at RSVP- palazzo pants and a vintage YSL purse. Whilst not as grand as 1415, the food is rather good and we had a smiling, friendly waitress who didn’t judge us for the amount of booze we put away. We did tequila shots before (and during) every course and reminded ourselves why we’ve been friends for 12 years, despite marriages and kids (for them), relentless wanderlust and soul-searching (for me). If you live in Lagos, you will find that RSVP attracts a very familiar crowd; there’s a lot of air-kissing and ‘we should hang out! It’s been so long!’ going on, so it’s not the sort of place you’ll want for a quiet, low-key night. Having said that, if you’re up for bumping into people, and being part of the constant see-and-be-seen that gives Lagos its special glow, this is the place for you.
Then, BLD- which I gave a go with my new Lagos friend, AA. BLD- Breakfast Lunch Dinner- is a new restaurant in Lekki Phase 1, spread over two floors. It disappointed on the service but managed edible nibbles and produced a respectable Tom Collins to order for AA. After waiting an age for our chicken popcorn, AA and I gave up on them and drove a few minutes to Bay Lounge, an outdoor restaurant-cum-bar by the Lagoon. He hadn’t been before, but I had, so I confidently ordered from the unpretentious menu and we spent a solidly fun evening with shisha, comfort food and probably too many gin and tonics for me. Bay Lounge gets a lot of breeze off the water, which feels lovely, but played havoc with my red and black wrap dress. AA found my regular wardrobe malfunctions to be hilarious, but I forgave him because I convinced myself it was so dark no-one could see anything. At least, I consoled myself, I’m wearing nice underwear. I’m a fan of Bay Lounge, even though I’m told the clientèle is a bit seedy. It’s a shame BLD isn’t better, as it’s owned by a great bunch of people and it’s really the only option for those of us who call Lekki Phase 1 home . It’s new, so one hopes it will improve, however despite my complaints I went again for post-work drinks just the other day last week. This time, we kept to a liquid diet on the rooftop bar where we were well attended by a heavy-handed bar man and therefore had zero complaints.
Last Wednesday, I herded a group of my friends to Bottles. I’d never been, and asked around about it before hand. My brother-in-law was concise: “You’ll like Bottles. It’s your kind of crowd.” When I walked in and found a sea of expats, I felt, as the Americans say “some type of way”. But he was right- I did like it. Unpretentious decor, a large outdoor seating area, live band, and lethal frozen margaritas- it was exactly what the doctor ordered. We all got very drunk, attended by “horny boys”, an ex-boyfriend, a shy beau, awkward school friends, scuffed Louboutins, raucous laughter, a stolen table, a scandalised driver, and 3 impolite beggars. Never have I been more grateful for my no-hangover superpowers than when I made it to work the next day before 8am.
I’ve also hit up a couple of Lagos weddings at the infamous Ruby Gardens, an event centre in Lekki. It’s basically a large white marquee that lends itself excellently to the increasingly stupefying talents of Lagos event decorators. It looks different every time I go, though I suppose the crowd remains generally the same. I find weddings to be great fun when I’m not a bridesmaid, and a Lagos wedding is a gleefully riotous, chaotic beast of a thing. I love the droves of young men in pristine white ‘trad’, the terrifyingly stylish women, the music, the food, the unashamedly celebratory air, the joyous expanse of the whole affair. Again, I have to give all the glory to DVF wrap dresses- they work for every occasion and despite, at the time, feeling decadent and silly for buying 4 during my last reckless shopping spree, they’ve served as my uniform for the last 2 Lagos weddings I’ve been to. I will love them forever.
What else? Ah yes. The bar at the chic little boutique hotel, Maison Fahrenheit, the other day with a bunch of excellent people followed by, shockingly, an actual nightclub in the form of Sip. I tried out a waist trainer, to give my boyish body some curves in the Zara minidress I wore and, pleasing silhouette notwithstanding, I regret everything. Guys, don’t wear waist trainers. They’re terribly uncomfortable, give you a weird mid-body ache, and make all your dance moves look like the robot. I think I’ll leave organ squashing beauty to the Kardashians and go forth into the world with my natural waist line, unassisted.
What with all of the above, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it, that I’ve still managed regular escapes to Abuja for a few hours with old friends? Well, I have, because I’m hopeless. Abuja never fails to deliver on its own brand of fun- most recently, a pub/bar crawl to celebrate the very sad exit of one of my closest friends in the Buj. Drew’s Nigerian posting was up and he was heading off to his next in Washington DC. He decided, as you do, to hire Abuja’s only double decker bus and haul us all from pub to bar to lounge, eventually ending up in Play. We all had to wear all-white, for God knows what reason, and I had such secret joy that I was able to wear white shorts and a white t-shirt and, wait for it, flip flops, on a night out. By the time we got to Play I was tuckered out, but managed to stay long enough to bask in how lovely and small the Abuja social circle is. Abuja can never compare with Lagos for things to do, or people to see, but it has heart, warmth and a comfortingly low key attitude to socialising that I can’t wait to return to in a few months. Whilst enormously fun, and endlessly busy, Lagos is quite simply too fast paced and ‘shiny’ for me, and besides, I’m running out of DVF wrap dresses!
*By this I mean that Lagos guys have ‘shown me pepper’, a Nigerianism which I think is entirely self-explanatory.