It is the practice of this column to bring to our readers exciting developments in the lifestyle space when this writer encounters or experiences them. As we always emphasise, knowledge is everything…
It started with a telephone call and then the black invitation by email. “A Voltaire Event – Celebrating Art, Food and Wine.” It seemed too intriguing to pass by and so on the weeknight, I made my way to Victoria Island early, and installed myself to wait at a favourite spot, so that I would beat the traffic that both the rain and rush hour conspire to create. It proved to have been worth the effort.
Soon enough it was time to abandon the easy listening traditional jazz and head to the venue. Turning off from the terrible traffic with relief, I encountered the first of a number of social and security barriers which funnelled well heeled guests into the venue. Name on the guest list; check. Car scan; check. Obviously, none of the last minute arrangements which we so love in these parts would be possible here. Off to the car park, elevator, and another check before we beheld the first floor venue.
Smart, attractive and attentive hostesses ushered guests to the open air deck for the pre-dinner champagne. And what a champagne! Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé is a king of wines. The palate unleashing beautiful wild strawberry fruit flavours, super fresh, fleshy and pure. A wine exhibiting great balance and depth. This aperitif for a special evening was served with crab, chicken and tender beef canapés on a salad bed. All enjoyed on the first floor deck of an equally spectacular venue on the Victoria Island shore with breath-taking views across the Five Cowries Creek…
The rain had forced some delay but the wait was not unpleasant as a mature and distinguished list of guests enjoyed the drinks and canapés as well as the inspiration of spectacular views. The humidity was softened by chilled, seemingly non-stop glasses of the critically acclaimed aperitif while some young fellow named Folabi who sang like John Legend, charged the atmosphere.
In an evening of stories the first would be about the champagne itself, a grande marque, which is a flagship of one of the few remaining family owned French champagne houses established in 1818. The second presaged the promise of post dinner cigars with the story of Arturo Fuente and the Don Carlos Belicoso, one of the smokes most sought after by cigar cognoscenti world over.
As dinner was announced, the carefully curated guests were led to tables with place cards and seating designed to encourage the convivial conversation that took place through the evening. The menu cards headlined a culinary tale, which would be told by extraordinary dishes produced by an amazing chef and carefully paired with exciting sounding wines. The featured chef and the guest sommelier offered short introductions to the feast that was to be delivered. Meanwhile Folabi, the John Legend sounding chap continued to thrill, now backed with a band.
The culinary journey part of the evening now got started. The chef du jour was Chef Benedict Okuzu, a professionally trained Italian chef, and the menu of Italian food with Nigerian influences commenced with a Nigerian Caprese Salad paired with Bortoluzzi Collio Friulano. The wine is straw yellow with green reflections; a gentle nose, featuring bitter almond with hints of exotic and citrus fruits; warm, dry and full-bodied on the palate, it has a pleasantly bittersweet finish. It complemented the Nigerian Caprese Salad excellently. By now, we were being serenaded by the sultry notes of Debbie Romeo.
The first main chosen by the writer was the Handmade Lobster and Crab Stuffed Beggars Purse Pasta on a bed of Basil and Ricotta cream. Personally recommended to the writer by the Chef, it did not disappoint and it was consumed with relish and great speed. The accompanying Canevel Prosecco Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry DOCG seemed to have been created for this dish. Not only did it match the dish perfectly, it cleansed the palate for the second main dish — braised, deboned beef short rib that basically dissolved in the mouth. Equally excellent was the accompanying wine, Damilano Barbera d’Asti DOCG. This is a red wine with intense purple tones and a fruit nose with light spice notes. The sweet tones of Debbie Romeo had by this time given way to the explosive visual display of spritely models displaying Ituen Basi’s “Unapologetically Nigerian” collection which was received with great aplomb by the select guests.
Enter Falana, a female vocalist and stage performer with such engaging entertainment ability that brought some of the guests — this writer included, to the dance floor!
To round off the menu, dessert was Pistachio Sticky Toffee Pudding paired with Damilano Moscato D’Asti. Moscato was of course the ideal partner for such a sweet pudding.
And then, of course, Arturo Fuente Don Carlos was a promise kept for cigar lovers to round off the evening – An evening for which careful thought had clearly been given. From the choice of aperitif, to the design of the menu and accompanying wines, it was evident that an appreciation for, and knowledge of the best that cultures have to offer was at play. During this event, the art was to be found in the food, wine, fashion, and the musical talent that provided the entertainment for the evening. Apart from Falana who is relatively well known, Folabi and Debbie Romeo are gems that were scouted by the curators of the event.
Responsible for this very enjoyable curated event is Voltaire, which was founded in 2016 by people who decided that it was time to provide a haven for the Cultural Elite in Lagos, who have a relationship or interest — whether professional or amateur — with the Arts & Culture generally.
The name Voltaire was the pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet, a French writer, playwright, and poet. He was a leading figure of what was known as the enlightenment which is what the Club named after him seeks to bring to its members with interests in the full spectrum of the Arts and culture vibe, including visual and performing arts, fashion, film, literature, music, photography, history, philosophy, etc, to name a few. Voltaire is a hub for creative thinkers and entrepreneurial patrons to come together to meet, exchange ideas, wine, dine and participate in varied events, with Voltaire taking pride of place at the heart of contemporary cultural life in Lagos.
Behind the vision for Voltaire is Olatowun Candide-Johnson, a lawyer and a person of fine taste who demands the highest standards in everything she does. After many years in corporate and commercial law practice, Olatowun decided that it was time for her to fulfil her passion which was to open an exclusive space in a secure and serene part of Lagos, where people of like mind could meet to enjoy all things “cultural,” with a specific emphasis on the Arts as described above. The name Voltaire gives history and culture by itself to the vision of a cultural elite housed in a sure-to-be-tasteful city retreat in the character of a “London Private Members Club.” wearevoltaire.com