I seem to be eating Indian food out a lot of late. Take Jikoni, for example, on which see my thoughts here. I’m not quite sure how this has happened. Perhaps my intrigue of novel takes on age-old recipes and dates (both of the tamarind chutney kind and the other kind – which is why the photos are minimal!). Next on my hit list was the much-lauded Kricket and when I managed to secure a couple of bar stools here at 7pm just a few days after Christmas, I couldn’t resist. It also helped give me a sense of purpose to this awkward limbo in-between Christmas and New Years where nobody really knows what’s going on and what to do with themselves. Whilst my companion and I only had a couple of small plates and cocktails to share, and so whether this merits my review is questionable, given the hype surrounding this place, I’m just going to share a quick sum of my thoughts.
Kricket first opened its doors as a pop-up in the shipping containers of Pop Brixton, before establishing a bricks-and-mortar site in the Piccadilly end of Soho with the financial backing of White Rabbit. The ethos of Kricket is adventurous small plates, bringing the concept of tapas to Indian food, much more so than Dishoom, but in line with Jikoni and Flavour Bastard (on which, see here). Ideal for sharing a bite or two, the restaurant is designed around a large L-shaped counter – where my companion and I sat – opposite an open kitchen which offers prime seating atop of velvet pink stools, putting you right ahead of the action.
Our show for the evening was the preparation of the epic-looking Bhel puri (£5.50), served with a raw mango, sev, a very generous drizzle of tamarind and a dollop or three of yogurt. Whilst we didn’t order this bowl – probably because I’d the same for my Christmas menu over the last few days a la casa – I’m going to having to return to sample it. The rice base was vividly green and the lashings of sauces and chutneys looked mouth-watering.
Whilst we decided which dishes to order, I had a browse of their classy cocktail list. It certainly beats Dishoom’s novel but mediocre Chai-jito. I enjoyed two cocktails this evening: the Samphire Margerita (£9) which was vividly green, and Lucky Neem (£9), an oriental spiced gin with cucumber, curry leaf, and lime. Both were herby, well-spiced, and not overly fruity or sweet: exactly how I like a drink.
And so to the food. In keeping with my own Christmas Day mains, I couldn’t resist Kricket’s take on Indian spiced pumpkin and so we ordered Pumpkin (£8) with makhani sauce, fresh, paneer, hazelnut crumble, and puffed wild rice. The tomato-based makhani sauce was deliciously creamy, probably featuring a spoon of cream. The pumpkin wedges had been ingeniously both roasted and chargrilled, lending a chewy depth of flavour. The concept of pumpkin in Indian foods is a winner for me: its sweetness makes it very well suited to the aromas of some spicy seasoning.
To go with the pumpkin and its saucy makhani, we also ordered the Masala Naan (£3.50), cooked in their tandoor oven. Whilst it was very fresh, it could probably have done a little longer cooking time to give it a good amount of charcoally depth and bite. Meanwhile, the diners next to us ordered the cheesey Green chilli, garlic and Berkswell (£4) naan which reminded me of pizetta a la Polpo. The idea of Pumpkin and cheesy naan to mop sounds utterly indulgent!
We also ordered the addictively crisp and crunchy Sammphire pakoras, served with date and tamarind chutney and a chilli garlic mayonnaise (£6). A messy tangle, naturally salty, and served with a sticky, spicy chutney, they were addictive. Although certainly deep-fired, I didn’t care; it had been expertly prepared and were only lightly dotted with patches of batter. The level and consistency of crispness was top-notch and the salty tickle of the garlicy mayo on the side was totally moreish. I ended up dipping a tear or two of our naan in the mayo. These kinds of dips, chutneys and aiolis make all the difference to a meal for me.
Eating at Kricket reminded me of how I never tire of Indian food. I could probably happily live on it, breakfast, lunch, dinner…and everything in-between. Gajar halwa anyone?! Whilst I’m still generally reluctant to eat Indian out, the occasional bite at a Jikoni or a Kricket now and again just reminds me how the spices and foods of the Indian subcontinent (and drinks) can be continuously reinvented and reimagined – both when eating in and eating out. It’s exciting to reinvent what’s so close to home. I did leave with prangs of FOMO for not having tried their bhel; I’m probably going to have to return to sample it so watch this space…
Kricket, 12 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HH