I arrived early to meet Lou and Rosie for dinner at Jikoni, ravenously hungry and riddled with the saddle sores I’d acquired from my new cycling regime. After nearly three months of living in Stratford I’ve finally got back into the routine of getting in to work under my own steam, though I’m still in the process of breaking in my delicate undercarriage. Fifteen miles a day with an out-of-condition bum is no joke.
(Horrifyingly, Lou thought the correct response to this news was to tell me about the time she literally tore herself a new arsehole riding camels in the Middle East, and it speaks volumes of how starving I was that it didn’t dampen my appetite. Cycling is hungry work.)
We were all giddy as pigeons to try Jikoni, Ravinder Bhogal’s first proper restaurant, which has been on the receiving end of many, many glowing reviews. I arrived first on my bike, chafing slightly, and found myself sat in a restaurant awash with pretty printed floral tablecloths and silk-screened cushions. It was cosy and cheerful and lovely all at once, like an Asian take on a chintzy tearoom.
Unfortunately for us, the Jikoni experience was one of style over substance, with the exception of a truly delicious plate of Sweet Potato Bhel (£9.00), and a Matunda Fizz (£7.00) – a fiery mocktail that, for all its fizz and zip, was bloody expensive for a ginger beer and cranberry juice with a hat on. Rosie, who was getting the tube home and didn’t have to worry about such trivial matters as getting sucked under a bus, had the Cucumber and Gin Lassi (£9.00), which cemented my hitherto unarticulated opinion that yogurt and alcohol should never meet in the same cup.
With glasses of Malbec (£32.00/bottle) in hand (just a small one for me), the hideous yogurt concoction was soon forgotten. We were particularly looking forward to the Scotch eggs, for which Jikoni is quite famous. We ordered one of each – prawn, pumpkin and venison – and dug in.
Now, when I pay £7.00 for a Scotch egg I have great expectations. I want a thick, succulent, mantle. I want a light, crispy crust. And I want an eggy nucleus from a properly sized bird, not some pissy little lightweight, like a quail. The champion of this year’s Scotch egg challenge sold its winning recipe afterwards for about a fiver, and it was enormous, so there’s really no excuse.
Nor is there any excuse for banana ketchup, which overpowered the delicate and juicy flesh of the toast-less ‘Prawn Toast’ Scotch egg. Banana ketchup, in my view, should be thrown into the same volcano as boozy yogurt.
Mains arrived. We’d chosen three big plates to share, of which the Mutton Keema Sloppy Joe (£12.50) was the best, though it was very heavy in its brioche bun and I couldn’t have eaten the whole thing by myself. Finely ground mince was enveloped in a well-balanced blend of fragrant spices, though you certainly don’t expect to find rogue cardamom pods lurking in your dinner at the restaurant of one of Gordon Ramsay’s protégés. Highlight: the accompanying deep-fried padron peppers. They were marvellous.
The Lobster Khichdee (£24) was underwhelming, with a soupy, coconut sauce that tasted a little off and about three good mouthfuls of admittedly very nicely cooked lobster tail between us. The Duck Leg Rendang (£16.00) was a disaster. It was cooked terribly; the meat dry, and the fat not properly rendered. As Rosie (the chef) remarked, duck should either be pink in the middle or falling of the bone. This was neither.
There were other mildly disappointing dishes; the side of Green Bean & Cashew Nut Thoran (£5.00) that just didn’t work for me, and the Pondicherry Prawn Puffs (£5.00) that had the kind of prawn to puff ratio I’d expect at the birthday party of a shellfish-intolerant air steward.
I wanted to love Jikoni. I really did. The restaurant was so pretty and the staff were so lovely and the dishes looked so appetising, but these things mean very little when the food isn’t good. That said, I seem to be in the minority, so perhaps they were having an off day, or the chef had her day off. In any case, I’ll be getting my Scotch eggs elsewhere.
Jikoni, 19-21 Blandford Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 3DH
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 East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.