I’m not sure when exactly it happened but sometime within these last 5 years, the meat pie at Mr Bigg’s, which in my opinion was the best meat pie in Nigeria went to shit. I thought it was just at the branch at Gbagada where I used to live. Then I tried the one at the start of Bode Thomas which is now closed. And then the one in Ikeja City Mall, whose prices are higher than other Mr Bigg’s outlets for some reason I could go on and on but you get where this is going.
Anyone who points me in the direction of a Mr Bigg’s outlet whose meat pie still tastes the way it did 5 years ago gets to see me eat a hat.
As I mourned the death of Mr Bigg’s legendary meat pie something unbelievable happened. I came across a little cafe on the first day of a 5-day trip to Jos that arguably…scratch that, definitely was the best meat pie I had ever tasted. Including Mr Bigg’s in its prime.
I shared the good news with the friends I was travelling with – Omesham and Deyo who refused to believe me. Nowhere in Nigeria sold better meat pie than Mr Bigg’s in its prime. Given that one of them had been to nineteen out of our thirty-six states, I would have been inclined to believe. But I had seen the light and I remained adamant. I declared I would give each of them 5,000 naira each if they didn’t think the meat pie was the best they had ever tasted.
And so bright and early on the 2nd day of our trip we hurdled into a Keke and headed to the cafe. When we were 5 minutes away I began to doubt myself. ‘What if the chef messed it up today?’ ‘What if it wasn’t even that great and I was just really hungry?’ ‘What do I do if they don’t like it?’.
We get to the cafe and I offer to buy the meat pies. My first peace offering in case they didn’t like it, because I certainly didn’t have 5k to give out for no reason in the year of Buhari. Omesham takes a little nibble out of her own pie and says nothing. Deyo breaks it in half to inspect its contents before taking a bite. They are both quiet for a minute as they eat, then they Deyo breaks the silence. ‘It’s good but certainly not the best I’ve ever had’. I start to argue with her when Omesham interrupts us. ‘I really wanted you to be wrong, but you are right. It’s the best I’ve ever had’. I tell Deyo 2 out of 3 votes is all the proof I need.
Days later as we prepared to leave Jos, Deyo finally admitted she also thought the meat pie was the best she had ever had. She just couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to swindle me out of 5,000 naira.
For the rest of our stay, we showed up at that little cafe every day without fail. We’d grab breakfast in the morning before heading out to do touristy things. Stop by for lunch or dinner when we were done and head back to our hotel. We never ate at the hotel’s restaurant.
Here’s the thing about the cafe. It wasn’t just the meat pie that was perfect, everything was. In all my years of restaurant hopping, I had finally stumbled on a place with the perfect menu and it wasn’t in Lagos, the fine dining capital of Nigeria. And it wasn’t just because the most expensive thing on the menu was 2000 naira which was the cost of a whole pizza. They used fresh food to make absolutely everything. My biggest grouse with Lagos has always been all the frozen food being passed off as fresh I keep getting served in restaurants.
The owner, a small white woman who had relocated to Jos decades ago took pride in letting us know that everything on the menu was made from scratch. From some of the cheesiest lasagna I had ever had to pizza made on the thinnest most delicious crust.
For several months after my visit, I harboured fantasies about moving to Jos. Where I could eat at my little cafe every day, and buy fresh fruit juice at every corner.
If you ever find yourself in Jos, stop by The Net Cafe, 25 Ahmadu Bello Way for the best meat pie in Nigeria.