Jikoni is a new, modern restaurant in Marylebone serving dishes influenced by Britain, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It is the debut restaurant from award-winning food writer and cook Ravinder Bhogal and the food chronicles her journey from Kenya to London. I have been hearing rave reviews about this place from various sources: foodie friends to fellow food bloggers. So when the opportunity came to visit with a couple of friends for brunch on a cold, wintry Sunday, I couldn’t resist.
The interior design is a celebration of colours and patterns. Casual, new and fresh, with pastel walls and dark bent wood chairs. The whole scheme bursts open with pops of colour in the form of little treasures and kitsch knick-knacks such as block printed napkins and tablecloths, vintage furniture and colourful, patterned cushions. It has hubs of neat, personal touches that is evocative of the labour of love that this place represents.
We kicked off with some Bombay Tots (potato croquettes) accompanied by a Chilli and Garlic dip (£5.5). The Tots were crispy and golden; they had a subtle crunch on the outside, but were soft and piping hot on the inside. The flavours from the zingy herbs gave it a spicy kick so we didn’t really require the dip to make it any hotter. It was chowed down in seconds.
We also ordered a couple of portions of the daily Cheela with Pickle and Salted Yoghurt (£6.5). Cheela is a thin, savoury pancake made of gram flavour, spices and herbs. We happily grazed on this whilst checking the menu for the mains.
I would say that our brunch was off to a promising start and we were quite looking forward to the rest of the menu, but it is precisely at this juncture where the initial euphoria seemed to nosedive a little.
To begin with, there wasn’t much of a selection for my two friends who are vegetarians. The first of the only two vegetarian dishes on the menu, the Bombay Sandwich (mature cheddar, Bombay Potatoes and Green chutney; £7.5) came slapped on a plate and slightly over-cooked. There wasn’t any other inspiring element to this dish besides it being a filled, toasted sandwich. So in hindsight, thumbs up for originality but no marks for presentation or creativity.
The second vegetarian dish was the Corn Bread with Chilli Creamed Corn, Fried Egg and Jalapeno relish.
It was a beautifully presented plate of food but as far as my friend was concerned, whilst the cornbread was well-cooked and had all the right textures, there wasn’t enough excitement from the accompanying ingredients that would make this a show stopper.
For my own main, I ordered the Spicy Fishcake, Poached Egg and Curried Hollandaise (£12.5).
It was absolutely delicious, with a fragrant, lightly spiced fishcake, perfectly oozing poached egg and the curried hollandaise adding a creamy and spicy punch, bringing it all together. However, I was hoping Jikoni could have been a bit more ambitious and innovative with this dish.
Things livened up with the arrival of dessert. We all tried the Pina Colada Pancakes with Coconut Ice-cream and Caramelised Pineapple (£8). It was exactly what I was hoping the rest of the menu would be: fun, interesting and original with a slight twist. It was a definite winner and as unanimously agreed, a great dessert.
The service was very friendly and suitably paced so no complaints there!
When asked by our waiter what Jikoni means, I was told that it means kitchen in Swahili. With such a distinctive name, I was expecting some very distinctive food. Unfortunately, we thought the brunch menu was slightly limited. Barring a few original and exciting sounding dishes (The Sloppy Joe and the Kikapu chicken) that stood out, every thing else seemed a bit uninspired. From the reviews and the hype surrounding the restaurant, I came to it with high expectations and was left feeling slightly underwhelmed.
I am hoping that their regular menu will have more of a multicultural representation of the Anglo-Asian-African dishes that it promises on the pack.
More information can be found here.
N.B. All opinions and views expressed in this blog are my own. The photographs used have been taken by me. I review anonymously and pay for my meals.