When I’d first heard about Ravinder Bhogal’s first foray into the restaurant world I was eager to experience Jikoni. A British chef, food writer and TV personality, she rose to fame when Gordon Ramsay famously named her his new Fanny Craddock on the ‘F Word’.
Hints of her Kenyan heritage can be seen throughout the mismatched yet homely interiors. It reminded me of my grandmas house with scattered cushions, beautiful hand printed tablecloths and a token huge cheese plant (a feature in every British Indian household circa 1980’s).
The name Jikoni actually means ‘kitchen’ in Swahili which mirrors the cosy and inviting space that greets you on entry.
The menu is Asian comfort food served with British, African and Middle Eastern twists. Some of the names on the menu put a smile of my face as they harked back to my childhood. My mum was born and raised in East Africa and our Gujarati is littered with Swahili words.
We began our evening in style with a Dawa made from vodka, jaggery and lime. And a pretty looking Gulabo’s Martini with vodka, rose syrup, maraschino egg white. Perfectly sweet with a smooth finish, my tastebuds were abuzz.
Our culinary adventure began with cauliflower popcorn. Essentially tempura sprinkled with spring onion, chilli and garlic. The chinese style soy sauce dipping sauce gave the florets the extra zing they required.
The sweet potato bhel, with raw mango and pomegranate certainly raised the bar on the traditional street food bhel. It was tangy, sweet, crispy, sour and moreish. The huge chunks of sweet potato hidden underneath the colourful dish were a huge hit.
My veggie main of pan-fried halloumi on a bed of freekeh pilaf, pickled lemon and dukkah was so comforting. The nutty and slightly chewy lentils worked wonders with the Egyptian blend of herbs and spices.
Sobia, my partner in crime this evening adored her mutton keema sloppy joe with pickled onion, mint and mango chutney. A spiced shepherds pie in a toasted brioche bun, it came with a portion of delicious looking fried padrons. Being more than a little partial to the green peppers, I couldn’t help but have a try. Believe me these need to be a side dish in their own right, totally yummy.
The one side we couldn’t resist and picked off the menu before even our mains were the caramel chips. I’ll be honest I was intrigued because it sounds so wrong. Sweet chips? Really?
Yes really! The sweet, sticky caramel sauce drizzled over the chips had a warming hint of cinnamon and were a real treat.
By the time dessert came around there was only really one contender – banana cake with miso butterscotch, peanut brittle and a side of Ovaltine kulfi. We decided to share the decadent dessert. The gooey, spongey cake was similar to a sticky toffee pudding. The Ovaltine kulfi instantly transported me back to my childhood. What a joy!
And there was no way we were leaving without a steaming cup of hot Kenyan chai, which perfectly ended our evening.
From the friendly staff to the homely decor and enticing comfort food, Jikoni is a fantastic addition to the affluent streets of Marylebone. I for one can’t wait to go back and try the new brunch menu. I suggest you add it to your foodie list too.
Do you have a dish that takes you back to your childhood? Let me know in the comments box below.
Jikoni | 19-21 Blandford Street| London | W1U 3DH
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