What makes you want to go back to a restaurant? It may be because it’s convenient for where you live or work. The food certainly has to be good but I think the most important factor is the warmth of the welcome - whether you feel at home there.
Ravinder Bhogal’s new restaurant Jikoni has warmth in spades. it’s a simple, cosy place if you can call anywhere in pricey Marylebone simple with decor that’s more like an upmarket tea room than a smart West End restaurant. You could be in Ravinder’s home
If she’s not on your radar, Ravinder - aka Cook in Boots - is a fabulously pretty young British chef, food writer and TV presenter who shot to TV fame when she appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word although her subsequent billing as the new Fannie Craddock couldn’t be wider of the mark.
Her style of food is clever and witty, bringing an Indian touch to British and American classics without doing anything as clumsy as fusion food. One of the highlights of the menu, for instance, is a range of tiny Scotch eggs made from quail eggs (below) of which the prawn toast scotch eggs are particularly wonderful.
Other highlights (between 5 of us we managed to eat our way through pretty well the entire menu) were an addictively crunchy sweet potato bhel, an absolutely gorgeous lobster ‘khichdee’ a fragrant lobster curry with coconut milk and a saffron and prawn fish pie which makes you wonder if you ever want ordinary fish pie again. About the only dish that didn’t do it for me was the mutton keema sloppy joe but then I’m not mad about the original. Ravinder, I suspect, is more of a fish than a meat gal.
Leave room, if you can, for the kheer crème brulée and the outrageously good banana cake with miso butterscotch, an Anglo-Indian-Japanese spin on sticky toffee pudding.
The short but imaginative wine list compiled by restaurant manager Pierre Malouf includes an attractive prosecco - and I don’t often use those words in the same sentence - from Cantina Binardi and one of my favourite South African whites, Force Majeure Mother Rock Chenin Blanc from Swartland. We also cracked open a bottle of P.U.R Beaujolais Villages which was perfect with the gently spiced food.
The final bill was about £50 a head which is more than fair for the quality of the food and this part of town. And you could probably spend less if you didn't pig out to the extent that we did.
Frankly I can’t wait to get back to Jikoni and I don’t often say that.
Jikoni is at 19-21 Blandford Street and is open for dinner 7 days a week, for lunch from Tuesday to Friday and for Sunday brunch. Ravinder’s book Cook in Boots seems to be out of print at the time of writing but second hand copies are available on Amazon