“In which year did Fela Kuti die?”, the host asks as the third question in the quiz he leads from the front. There are prizes to be won from bottles of prosecco to beard cream, so this is serious business. Murmurs of speculation from the audience rises in volume. “What do you mean who’s Fela Kuti?”, the host is eventually forced to ask, in mock outrage! Similar events ensue when the host goes on to ask who won the last African cup of nations. Giving up on African related questions, he turns his topic of focus to science, asking that the audience write down their understanding of what phlebotomist is.
The hilarious 13 question quiz concludes. Fela, the pioneer of Afrobeat music, died in 1997. The Democratic Republic of Congo won the last African Cup of Nations. A phlebotomist draws blood from a patient. Clearly, aside from offering good food, great music and a vibrant atmosphere within which cool people from the African diaspora can socialise, The Social Bloc also promises to greatly improve your general knowledge.
After a warm up of chin chin to whet appetites, a good three course meal was served. Starters ranged from beef and pork sausage served with chickpeas and sun dried tomatoes, to sardines with green salsa and chilli jam for the more pescatarian leaning. The third option, haloumi salad with olives and pomegranate, was colourful and well presented to the extent that it could entice even the most primally carnivorous. For mains, we bypassed both the cod with coconut rice and the roasted portobello mushroom with couscous, opting instead for the exceptionally flavoured chicken, which was served with chilli flakes and okra, a mainstay of various dishes across the continent.
The orange in the chocolate brownie that followed as dessert contributed towards a deliciously hybrid and unique flavour; the substance of the brownie itself was compact yet delicate in texture. This brownie was not distastefully rich, as some can be – the vanilla ice cream it was served with also helped in this regard . Our second dessert was a thing of sublime contrasts: the kick of the cinnamon and ginger complemented the naturally sweet flavour of the banana, which had been heated to perfect softness and encased beneath a mildly crunchy, ginger crust. By way of beverages, what stood out by far was the self titled ‘The Social Bloc’: an exotic mashup of raspberry, tropical juice and vodka.
The great music was delivered by a band playing live and lively renditions of African songs such as D’banj’s ‘You Don Make me Fall in Love’ and Davido’s ‘Dami Duro’, older classics like Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’, and contemporary R&B, such as ‘One in a Million’, ‘Say my Name’, and Musiq Soulchild’s ‘Just Friends’. (It is up for debate as to whether they were playing either the original ‘Another in Day in Paradise’ by Phil Collins, or the later, more soulful version by Brandy and the dubious character Ray J.) People shuffled rhythmically, clearly compelled to dance even if British conservatism meant that they did so only in their seat in the first instance.
The atmosphere, finally, was one of vibrance! There were retailers such as Alexandra Arts, selling beautiful African prints, as pictured below. ÁNCo sold t shirts, sewn from West African fabrics, while KUBA sold similar head wraps, demonstrating the ever so complicated process of tying one – an art in and of itself. Staff were hospitable, and as a thank you for coming, attendees were given branded goodie bags. Most definitely worth a visit, so watch out for their subsequent events!