I made a joke in a blog post recently that invitations to south of the river are, for North Londoners at least, akin to a summons from Mordor. It’s not a very original joke, and, actually, it isn’t really that much of a joke, period. All Londoners are capable of being a bit twattish when it comes to traveling around town – myself included – so I did huff a bit when I was invited by Rosie to visit Kricket at POP Brixton.
My grounds for grumbling didn’t really hold up though, because Rosie actually lives even further from Brixton and had already been to Kricket five times before. POP Brixton is effectively a pile of shipping containers piled on top of each other so it’s all very low-key, but, I discovered, still worth travelling for.
As usual, I arrived late. The other two – Rosie, and our PR friend Louise – were already sucking down the very little cocktail list, including the peculiar Yellow Fairy (£8.00), a potent blend of gin and absinthe, made frothy with egg white and curried up with a pinch of turmeric. They were finishing up a bowl of Samphire Pakoras (£5.00), a muddle of greens haphazardly battered in salty clumps designed for dipping in the accompanying dishes of homemade garlic mayo and date & tamarind chutney. Kricket is big on dips and sauces, so I found the owners’ mysterious aversion to rice and bread both heartbreaking and infuriating. Come on, lads, I get that you don’t want people over-ordering on filler, but I know you’ve got it in you to do a fancy naan fusion thing.
As we were three, we ordered one of everything. And the special. And a bottle of red wine, which was £19.00 and ten times better than the similarly priced plonk we had an another Pop vendor afterwards. The restaurant is tiny, effectively a shipping container with one long bench and an exposed kitchen the size of a fair to middling-sized wardrobe, and the dishes were soon coming thick and fast. I felt bad for the washing-up person.
First came a silky pool of very smokey aubergine studded with pomegranate seeds and papdi (micro poppadoms). It came with a generous dollop of cool labneh sprinkled with peanut crumble, so the savvy scooper could fill their face with a poppadomful of hot and cold, smoky, silky, nutty, crumbly magic. The flavours and textures worked together on the palate with an exquisite harmony that set the bar sky-high for the rest of the meal.
Just as well, then, that almost everything that followed was as good. My favourites included the Hake with Malai Sauce, Roasted Poha and Samphire (£8.00), a big slab of well-cooked, flaky white fish jutting out from a sea of thick and creamy coconut sauce, complex with the myriad of subtly layered spice that so characterises Indian cuisine. Also, the Keralan Fried Chicken (£6.00), which I very much resented having to share between three; you really need a bowl of these tender little chook nubbins per person to avoid arguments and hurt feelings.
The Bombay butter garlic crab was very, very garlicky, but then I am the kind of person who would eat the stuff raw if it didn’t cause such widespread offence, so probably can’t be trusted. I thought it was great; Louise a little too overpowering. (Jay feels similarly about truffles and likes to bang on about how there’s such thing as ‘too much’, but he is wrong. I have never sat in front of a truffly or garlicky dish and not immediately thought ‘MOARRRRRRRR’. Mmmm.)
We ordered two game birds: pigeon and partridge. The clove smoked wood pigeon with garlic pickle, burnt grelot, onion raita and Kadai spiced girolles (£6.00) was a bit of a disappointment. It certainly wasn’t bad, and if I hadn’t been spoiled by smoked aubergine and friends above I’d probably have been delighted, but it lacked the punch of the other dishes.
The green spiced partridge and pears with Goan sausage and curried yoghurt (£7.00) was, by contrast, amazing: if you’re feeling a fowl when you go, the partridge is the one to go for.
The Bhel Puri (£4.00) at first failed to impress – it’s a bitty blend of raw mango, tamarind, yogurt and sev. Sev is a traditional Indian snack food of crunchy chickpea noodlettes, so the whole thing was a cold hodge-podge of fruity Bombay mix…but it did grow on me. It wasn’t the passionate, fleeting love affair of the aubergine or the chicken or the crab; it was the spotty boy-next-door one begrudgingly goes on a date with and discovers is actually Not That Bad. (Though certainly not The One, like that sexy stud of a hake. Oooh!)
I caught hold of one of the waiters – who also happened to be a co-owner – and demanded he tell me when there’ll be a Kricket in my neck of the woods. The good news is a branch is planned for East London soon, where it’ll be pitted against reigning champion Dishoom, whose curried fingers have not yet spread south of the river. I have no doubt it can hold its own; the food is tastier, more creative and better value. All it needs is a proper home and some better-looking crockery. And (sorry) some naan.
Kricket, Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Rd, London, SW9 8PQ
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.