If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll be aware of the excitement levels that get cranked up to def-con 5 when I find somewhere that I really like…
…well hold onto something sturdy and batten down the freakin’ hatches because here comes one of those posts. Yep, we’re only three months into a new year and London is absolutely smashing it out of the park right now when it comes to eating out. So far, 2017 has seen me go loco for tacos at Corazon, fall head over heels for the Italian gnocchi in Palatino and flirt outrageously with that sexiest of breakfast dishes, porridge, at 26 Grains; now folks, the time has come to slobber all over the deliciousness that is Indian-small-plate-inspired Kricket.
Starting life in a pint sized shipping container in Brixton, Kricket is a love affair with Mumbai told through the fragrant flavours of India and the seasonal ingredients of Britain. In a world that’s growing alarmingly obsessed with borders and distinctions of origin, this is a perfect example of blurring the lines between what comes from where and focusing instead on what lovely outcomes there can be from the marrying together of two different cultures.
Weeks before Kricket opened, I had already lost a little piece of my heart to the blush pink stools which border a bar curving around gently in the window, each one monogrammed on the back with a delightfully curly K. The metallic mesh nets that encircle oversized bulbs, the brick walls and the muted metallic colour scheme all helped my crush spread its wings and take flight.
The menu might be smaller than some of the other Indian behemoths in London but don’t be fooled – everything I ate, I loved. Everything I ate, I wanted again. Everything I ate this time only served to make me want to try everything I didn’t eat next time.
Kulcha topped with ceps and bone marrow was light in texture and heavy with umami flavours; the stronger the better as far as I’m concerned so the pungent fragrance that rolled towards us in deeply savoury waves was head-noddingly appreciated. Large chunks of dark skinned pumpkin sat in the deep end of a heavily spiced makhani pool while hazelnut crumble, wild puffed rice and creamy nuggets of fresh paneer speckled the vivid terracotta sauce with dots of contrasting colour.
Not long ago, a good friend made me my first homemade bhel puri. One forkful in and I’d have given said friend my firstborn child if he wanted. There’s something about the mixed textures and sweet-into-savoury flavours of this traditional snack that I can’t get enough of and Kricket’s version is a blinder. Easily my favourite dish of the night, the puffed rice and heavily spiced onions were painted the most gorgeous shade of herby green while the tangy tamarind, sweet mango, cool yoghurt and crispy strands of deep fried gram flour dolloped on top made every mouthful better than the last. Is this a dish for sharing? Sure – but you better make damn sure you like the person you’re with is all I can say.
Already steeped in London Instagram lore, the duck leg kathi roll is something of a stunner and deservedly so because it’s mighty, meaty & full of flavour in a flaky bread blanket but next to the peanut chutney it was served with, it almost became the funny best friend. A paragraph back I was ready to sell my (currently imaginary you’ll be pleased to hear) children for spiced puffed rice, now I’m about to unashamedly trade the good friend I was dining with for an unlimited supply of that thick, chunky, nutty sauce. Like Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter, this nod to peanut butter shows what happens when something grows up and blossoms into something really rather beautiful.
Fried chicken arrived generously, gorgeously gnarly and in the shadow of a fabulously fluorescent curry leaf mayonnaise; this may well be the only dip in London that you’ll want more of despite the fact that it looks like the love child of a pair of 1997 glow sticks.
There’s a nice wine list and a set of cocktails that both tempt – the Old Narangi’s cardamom bourbon, marmalade & orange ingredients list gets a thumbs up from me – and terrify – I feel like the absinthe laced Yellow Fairy would seriously kick the ass of my lightweight drinking stomach – but for me, Indian food goes with beer like Jack goes with Karen, like Mike goes with Eleven, like Frank Underwood goes with, well, murder & corruption to be honest but you get me. Brixton Brewery Reliance Pale Ale washed everything down with a clean, light, citrus kiss and left just enough room for the dessert stomach to be opened and a portion of pistachio, rose & pomegranate misti doi to be ushered in. Made from sweetened, fermented yoghurt, this did nothing to dispel the notion that Indian puddings cater exclusively for a sweet tooth but one tiny, jewel speckled spoonful after another was a gorgeous way to end the parade of savoury delights that had sashayed before us all night.
It’s always about the food. Yes, I know that’s probably what’ll end up on my headstone but really it is and it’s no different here…but it’s also about the awesome staff – total eyebrow envy of the lovely blonde on the door FYI – and the open plan kitchen and the whole modern, casual, intimate, relaxed vibe. Perfect for a date night of the boy-boy, boy-girl, girl-girl varieties, it’s also a killer place for a solo escape from the madness that is nearby Piccadilly Circus and never mind all those dedicated benches round the capital for people who loved the views they looked out on; this gal’s on a mission to get a curly A on the back of one of those bar stools as a person who looked out on and loved the bhel.