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Dansaki to open its first Afro-Caribbean restaurant at Elwick Place

12th August 2019

The UK’s very first Dansaki Afro-Caribbean restaurant will open at Elwick Place in Ashford, bringing an exciting new food and drink concept to the town.

In a joint announcement today (12th August), Dansaki, Ashford Borough Council and Stanhope PLC confirmed that the company has chosen Ashford, one of the fastest growing towns in the South East, to unveil its exciting new restaurant brand.

It follows the news that Macknade is opening a restaurant and food hall at the council-owned town centre development, which is home to a Picturehouse cinema and Travelodge hotel. More tenants will be unveiled soon once negotiations are concluded.

Dansaki aims to serve an exquisite range of Afro-Caribbean and continental cuisine, creating a “destination restaurant” offering a fine dining experience in a cosy and welcoming atmosphere. Décor will feature bright African colours and amazing tribal patterns and artwork on the walls.

In identifying a pent-up demand for an ‘ethnic eating experience’, the menu will be a ‘complimentary mingling of traditional Afro-Caribbean and continental cuisine’. High quality food prepared with exotic flare is promised at the 2,325 sq ft restaurant in unit 6.

The people behind the brand

Dansaki’s Founder and Director is Ms Funmi Aina, a talented chef and businesswoman who runs an established and highly successful Afro-Caribbean event catering firm which serves corporate and private clients across Kent, London and the South East.      

“Afro-Caribbean food is not in the mainstream and we need to do more to bring it into the limelight. What we offer is very different and I think people in Ashford are going to enjoy visiting our restaurant and having a great time with their family and friends,” said Funmi, who is writing her first Afro-Caribbean cook book but is pushing its publication onto the back burner while she gets ready to lead the kitchen team in Ashford.

Funmi said she looks forward to delivering a range of events and special themed nights, such as an Afro-Caribbean midsummer party, BBQs, local artist’s openings, Easter dinners, and much more. Local businesses will also be encouraged to use the venue for corporate hospitality and dining events.

Isaac Enakimio, Funmi’s brother-in-law and business associate in the Dansaki enterprise, is overseeing branding, marketing, social media and website activity for the new restaurant, capitalising on his strong business connections in the area. He believes that now is the right time for a business with its roots in Nigerian culture to be a huge success here.

“In recent years there has been a massive rise in the profile and popularity of Nigerian music and culture, the arts, movies and entertainment, with Nigerian artists winning awards and making a name for themselves on the global stage. Dansaki will tap into that, we will feature the best of African music and art, with visiting artists and experiential themed events.”  

Why choose Ashford?

Funmi says family living in Ashford urged her to choose the town. More familiar with the north of the county, she visited and liked what she saw. “As someone with a keen interest in interior design, I walked into the Picturehouse and thought: ‘This feels like me!’

“We will offer a unique experience and we strongly believe that Ashford is ready for a warm and friendly place with excellent Afro-Caribbean and continental cuisine which is both sophisticated and also welcoming.”

Isaac said: “I have lived in Ashford for 15 years and I’ve seen at first-hand how much the town has grown and prospered in that time. The outlook for the future is exceptionally positive here and I think Dansaki is a perfect fit for the town as it develops.”

Dansaki at a glance…

  • Dansaki means ‘thanks to God’
  • Three venues in one – a tapas lounge, cosmopolitan bar, and full service dining.
  • Restaurant will cater for around 110 diners.
  • Staff employed will range from 10 to 25 depending on special events organised.
  • During the summer months, diners can sit outside on the patio and enjoy a special summer menu, including BBQ grills and exotic themed drinks.
  • If all goes according to plan, Dansaki will open its doors to the public in December.
  • Dansaki is already working with the hospitality team at Ashford College to offer apprenticeships to local youngsters keen on a career in the industry.

A warm welcome in Ashford

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “The entrepreneurs behind Dansaki have chosen Ashford to launch their first restaurant in the UK and that decision is a huge sign of confidence in the town. I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to them and wish them good fortune in the future.

“Securing Dansaki’s investment is a notable success for us. With an exciting new Afro-Caribbean restaurant brand coming to Ashford it sends a strong message that an increasing number of far-sighted and ambitious businesses are keen to share in the Ashford success story.”

Gary Bourne, Development Director at project partner Stanhope Plc, said: “Dansaki brings an exciting new dimension and additional choice to Ashford’s restaurant scene. A priority is to boost Ashford’s evening economy and, as a destination restaurant, Dansaki will support that by providing the local community with a vibrant new dining experience, as well as drawing visitors to the town centre from further afield.”

Elwick Place

The first phase of Elwick Place opened in December 2018, anchored by the six-screen Picturehouse boutique cinema and the 58-bedroom Travelodge hotel. The development also features nine retail / restaurant units on the ground floor and a 282 space car park.

Ashford Borough Council funded the construction of Elwick Place in partnership with Stanhope PLC. Built on the site of a former cattle market, it is part of a wider £520m of investment in Ashford town centre under construction or with construction to start soon.

For more information about Elwick Place visit www.elwickplace.com

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