Food & Drink

Viral Afro-Caribbean restaurant Sweet1ne opens in Lewisham

Viral Afro-Caribbean restaurant Sweet1ne Cuisine has relocated from Ilford to its new home in Lewisham.

Sweet1ne serves authentic Fusion Soul Food in London, offering a wide range of traditional Nigerian, Caribbean, American and seafood dishes.

Co-owner Tolu Babalola who owns the restaurant alongside his partner Stephanie Ezukwo has been running the restaurant for four years, and in recent months the restaurant has received attention from food bloggers, with videos on social media amassing millions of views.

Babalola expressed how busy the restaurant has been since its opening as relayed how they’re booked until April.

Babalola added: “Coming to Lewisham has been an eye opener because we didn’t expect demand to be this high.”

ALL SMILES FROM THE CUSTOMERS: Customers enjoying the Sweet1ne experience (credit Tolu Babalola)
ALL SMILES FROM THE PATRONS: Customers enjoy the Sweet1ne experience (credit Tolu Babalola)

In their Ilford location, the bulk of their customers (80-90%) came via social media.

Conversely, Babalola expressed how the naturally increased footfall at the Lewisham location has attracted more customers from the community.

Babalola said: ”Here, the community can walk past and see us, and we love that aspect”.

Babalola expressed how despite his clientele from East London being disappointed in his relocation, being able to serve a large demographic of Afro-Caribbean people in Lewisham has meant so much to him.

With over 35,000 followers across their social media platforms, social media has also paid a vital role in the restaurant’s increased popularity, as Babalola and Ezukwo have successfully showcased the authentic Sweet1ne experience and continued to drive demand.

When speaking to first time customers, they expressed their delight at the food and promised to return for the Sweet1ne experience.

To Babalola, the experience the customer receives is of utmost importance and he wants to ensure the experience is magical.

Babalola said: “The last thing you want is to not be able to get your food.

“We make sure that you’re getting all the food you want.

“The food is always available.”

A MAGICAL EXPERIENCE: The Sweet1ne experience isn't solely about the food (credit Tolu Babalola)
A MAGICAL EXPERIENCE: The Sweet1ne experience isn’t solely about the food (credit Tolu Babalola)

Head chef Alvaro Francisco added: “Customers arrive expecting good food, but they get the showman craft, presentations and attentive waiters.

“A unique and special private dining experience in a public area, where you’re the centre of attention.”

“I would describe the food like a carnival or festival of exciting ingredients, taste, flavour and vibrancy, all dancing on your pallet, creating a very colourful fun affair.

“The most amazing party you can have but just in your mouth”.

On dealing with the increased demand, Francisco added: “I’m a gamer so I look at the demand as a challenge.

“I accept the challenge, remain determined to beat this challenge and reach the next level.”

TWO IN ONE: Sweet1ne operate a takeaway as well as a restaurant
TWO IN ONE: Sweet1ne operate a takeaway as well as a restaurant

Babalola loved to cook when he was younger and liked seeing the pleasure people derived from eating his food.

Whilst working his full time job, Babalola started the restaurant in 2019, serving food from his home.

The demand for his food led to him renting a one bed house, three days a week to serve food.

Babalola said: “I sacrificed my house deposit to buy a restaurant in Ilford on a 3-year lease”.

Babalola is here to stay in Lewisham, as his new restaurant comes with a 50-year lease.

The name Sweet1ne came about after Babalola tasted Ezukwo’s special oxtail recipe and described his feeling as a sweet one.

BUILDING A FOOD DYNASTY: Co-owners Babalola and Ezukwo have lofty aspirations for Sweet1ne (credit: Adebayo Yusuf)
BUILDING A FOOD DYNASTY: Co-owners Babalola and Ezukwo have lofty aspirations for Sweet1ne (credit: Adebayo Yusuf)

Babalola has lofty aspirations to expand the franchise on a multinational level.

He said“I left my 100k 9-5 job in aviation finance in 2022 to focus on the restaurant, so this has to work”.

Babalola aims to continue to plan to provide top quality food Afro-Caribbean cuisine made with passion and love to the people of Lewisham and beyond.

You can find Sweet1ne at 2 Loampit Hill, London, SE13 7SW.

Join the discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles