top of page
  • Writer's pictureSpiced Cranachan

Return to Jikoni

Six years ago I visited a restaurant nestled quietly in London's Marylebone district. We were both fairly new to the culinary game, the restaurant only a year old and I writing one of my first blog articles.

I returned to Jikoni this week eager to sample the new menu. No doubt time had changed us both since my last visit - and I was keen to see how.

Scorched Peaches, Lime Leaf Gremolata and Tofu with Peanut Brittle

The self-described "no borders kitchen" employs a "mixed-heritage" approach to cooking, boasting flavours and styles from Asia, East Africa, the Middle East and Britain. An ambitious endeavour, to say the least.

My curiosity piqued and my stomach growling from the scents drifting from the kitchen, I reached for the menu.

It offered starters and desserts, as well as a range of small and large plates. We opted for a selection of each to share across the table; this way, we could sample as much food as possible.

Burrata, Heritage Tomato and Lime Leaf Salad
Scorched Peaches, Lime Leaf Gremolata, Tofu and Peanut Brittle

The first to arrive was the burrata, which I didn't expect much from: it isn't an uncommon starter. The freshness of the cheese and tomatoes was as predicted, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fragrance of the lime leaf. There was also something else, almost undetectable, which added a small shiver of spice - a much needed twist on this classic dish.

Another welcome surprise was the scorched peaches, which I assumed would be soft and warm, but offered a crisp texture that echoed a salad course - albeit a far more exotic and enterprising salad than I am used to. The gremolata offered a warmth to the dish that lifted it so that it didn't feel like a repeat of the burrata. And I am not a fan of peanut brittle typically, but the sweetness was refreshing alongside the thin strips of red pepper.

Not bad for round one. I eagerly awaited round two.

Crisp Kale Chaat with Yoghurt, Date & Tamarind Chutney and Sev
Soy Keema Bun, Pink Pickled Onions and Lime Pickle Butter
Prawn Toast Scotch Egg with Banana Ketchup

The crispy kale chaat was easily my favourite dish of the evening, and was the closest to the flavours I grew up with. It was topped with sev and the kale had a satisfying bite to it. My only regret was that I didn't eat more of it. The keema was also a nostalgic dish. Granted, my mother never made this with picked onions and lime butter, but the spices hidden inside the bun instantly took me to my family's dinner table.

The scotch egg was interesting, but somewhat of a disappointment. Prawn replaced the signature pork encasing and a quail egg stared up at me from between seeds and salad leaves. It tasted great by all accounts and the banana ketchup added a sharp tang to the plate, but it didn't quite reach my expectations. For me, a scotch egg is supposed to be hearty and flavoursome, and any spin on this classic should add to the dish. But this rendition was light and a little flat - not entirely what I look for when ordering a fusion take on a pub classic. Nevertheless, it was delicious.

Kuku Paka, Sukuma Wiki and Saffron Rice
Okra Fries
Crispy Aubergine with Sichuan Caramel and Sticky Garlic Rice

The chicken brought some much needed heartiness to the evening. While the egg may not have been wholly necessary, it was cooked to perfection. I could have happily feasted on this for the rest of the meal. The okra fries, on the other hand, were less enjoyable. I usually love these whenever I have them, but here they were heavy and over-battered - instead of a light and crispy bite, each mouthful required more effort than it should have, almost as if it were slightly overcooked.

However, all of this was forgotten the second I bit into the aubergine. This was the shining star of the entire meal. Each chunk was crisp on the outside and impossibly soft within, with a sauce that was somehow both sweet and savoury. I would easily choose this vegan dish over all of the meat courses any day of the week.

Fig Leaf Panna Cotta with Gin Macerated Blackberries
Paan Madeleines
Banana Cake with Miso Butterscotch, Peanut Brittle and Ovaltine Kulfi

Even after all that, I found room for dessert!

The panna cotta was delightfully smooth, with a creaminess balanced well against the light flavouring and sharp berries. I don't often order panna cotta, but in this case it was definitely the correct choice.

The paan madeleines suffered a similar fate to the scotch egg, I'm afraid; tasty enough but not entirely meeting my expectations. The paan was difficult to pinpoint, overwhelmed by the fragrance of the fennel seed topping.

The banana cake was the highlight of the final course. The miso butterscotch was a welcome warmth, golden goodness dripping down the cake's sides. I was wary of the ovaltine kulfi but it quickly won me over, with an almost airy flavour beside the heavier cake. It had a thick, moreish texture and was impossibly smooth. It was the perfect dish to end the evening on.

Beautiful artwork adorned the walls, the exotic birds echoing the cover of chef Ravinder Bhogal's new book

I cannot deny that the food was delicious, and impressive beyond my expectations. It had topped my last meal here and this was the ultimate test I was subconsciously looking for it to pass.

However, I do find the notion of "maternal cooking... at the centre of many family oriented cultures" to be a slight exaggeration. Most of the restaurant's atmosphere and indeed its advertising was centered around home-cooked meals passed down generation to generation, with dishes closer to a family dinner table than professional restaurant.

No one can deny that the food was delicious. But I believe you would be hard-pressed to find any family - regardless of maternal instincts and the closeness of the family - eating anything close to the fine dining I experienced here. Perhaps it's my less refined lifestyle, but it certainly is a far cry from what my parents placed in front of me at the dinner table.

A notable criticism, but a small one. Indeed, I had to waddle my way back to the underground where I believe the train ran slower than usual for its newfound heavy load, so I certainly enjoyed my dinner. But a restaurant which demands such high expectations will always fall under heavy scrutiny. I encourage anyone with a craving for fusion food to visit and form their own opinion - I am but one reviewer among hundreds, and everyone's tastes are different. I would be greatly interested to hear others' experiences in the comments below.

Perhaps I will return again, although I hope it isn't another six years before I taste this fusion cooking again. Until next time, Jikoni.


bottom of page