Growing up in Kenya, everything would centre around the Jikoni in a home, which means Kitchen in Swahili, and you would spend a lot of time here, watching as your mum prepared food while you chatted away.
Sitting at the Chef’s table, while Ravinder Bhogal, and her fellow chefs prepared the dishes was just amazing and just like a touch of home. In fact the entire experience had us in a happy state. Most of us, par 2 other halves, had grown up in Kenya and we all knew each other from childhood. It is always great fun to catch up with Kenyan friends as you pick up exactly where you left off.
The beautiful setting, with East African touches, and complete with lots of tupperware filled with various spices, herbs and ingredients, was such a lovely, relaxed space within the restaurant to dine.
This is Ravinder’s first restaurant venture and as you walk into the gorgeous restaurant, it really feels like you have walked into someone’s house. The african print cushions, the decor and even the music is all just so lovely and you feel instantly relaxed.
The cuisine is multicultural, with hints of Kenyan, as it is influenced by her mixed cultural heritages, which is similar to ours, as well as aspects from her travels. It is primarily fusion food and just amazing!
PS: Kenyans please don’t walk in and expect Kenyan food but hints of it, and trust me you won’t be disappointed but instead in awe. Jikoni is not trying to be a Kenyan restaurant 🙂
We were brought an instant hit of Nostalgia as we chatted to Ravinder about the famous Shera Damji cakes in Mombasa. All of us had grown up with these cakes right from our first birthdays and there is no forgetting those chocolate cakes covered with those delicious roses. It turns out Ravinder’s other half is related to Shera Damji, and we got to meet the lovely Nadeem later too.
For drinks, the majority of us went for Dawas because why not? These are the best cocktails for sundowners in Kenya and if you are ever visiting Kenya you must have this as you watch the sun set. Ravinder’s version was equally delicious!
The great thing about going for dinner in a big group is you get to try lots of different dishes. From the Kazuri section of the menu, we tried the Carom Seed Mathis with Apple Achaar (pictured below), which were lovely, crunchy and full of flavour, and the Pondicherry Prawn Puffs.
The prawn puffs caused another bout of nostalgia with J saying that it reminded her of a dish that ASN’s grandmother used to make. It was just delicious and one of the highlights of the meal.
From the small plates section, we started with the Sweet Potato Bhel was fabulous, and a nice upgrade from the usual bhel, with tangy, sweet, sour and fruity notes, and raw mango, which I absolutely love and grate on to everything!
The Chargrilled Concertina Squid with Jerusalem Artichoke and Chorizo Crumb was delicious, but not my favourite from the dishes. It was however, full of flavour and the chorizo crumb was novel and a great touch.
The Cauliflower Popcorn with Chilli, Spring Onion and Garlic was just utterly divine and addictive. I loved the crispy exterior and the soft interior and the dipping sauce that it came with.
The final choice from the small plates was the Beetroot and Shanklish Croquetas, which was just outstanding. The crisp exterior had a coating of spices, and you could get the aroma of cumin seeds, one which intoxicates me. The interior was soft, liquid like beetroot which amazed us, and we wanted to know how she had managed to perfect that! It was just delicious and a must order dish.
For the Big Plates, we decided to each get our own. ASN and I were torn between the Mutton Keema Sloppy Joe with Pickled Onion, Mint & Mango Chutney, Toasted Brioche and Fried Padrons as well as the Lobster Khichdee with Moilee Broth and Coconut Chutney. We decided to share so we could try both.
The Mutton Keema Sloppy Joe (pictured below) was just so delicious. So much flavour and I would love to eat this as comfort food as it just made me so happy. Loved the fried padrons alongside it and the brioche was wonderfully soft and went with the spiced keema perfectly.
The Lobster Khichdee was equally as tantalising and the broth was rather addictive. I love Lobster generally and I would come back for this dish!
Other mains our party ordered included the Arabian Nights Poussin with Heritage Tomato & Lavash Salad, Sumac, and the Mackerel Rojak with Green Mango and Macadamia. These plates were all fully wiped clean so am guessing that they loved these dishes too.
From the sides we ordered the Green Bean and Cashew Nut Thoran (pictured below), which was really enjoyable.
Caramel Chips were just indulgent and tasty too! I know we ordered a lot of food but we got through all of it and still had space for dessert! We were laughing, catching up on memories and planning new ones, and time just went by.
We all miraculously had space for dessert and we started off with some Kenyan Chai. Another wave of nostalgia hit, as the soothing spices made us reminisce of your mums giving us hot cups of chai whenever we felt low. These cups of chai made us smile, which was just amazing.
The majority went with the Banana Cake with Miso Butterscotch, Ovaltine Kulfi, and Peanut Brittle, which was quite frankly, out of this world. I will be back for this dessert too!
A went for the Paan Madeleines, which came with its own glass of Kenyan chai, and he loved it. Paan is a popular choice after a meal as it is like a digestive and mouth freshener. Loved the novel idea of infusing Madeleines with the flavour!
If you haven’t been you need to make your way to Jikoni as the food is just fantastic. If you are going in a big group, the chef’s table (if available) is great fun.
They have started doing weekend brunch too, so if you are looking for somewhere new to brunch this is a fantastic option.
For more information go to: http://www.jikonilondon.com