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19-21 Blandford Street
It has been a rollercoaster six years for Ravinder Bhogal. Since Gordon Ramsay dubbed her the ‘new Fanny Craddock’ on his TV show The F Word she has launched award-winning cookbooks, TV shows and supper clubs. But Jikoni, her first restaurant, is her crowning glory. It’s a cosy little site, furnished with floral tablecloths, scatter cushions and fabric lampshades, kept on the formal side of kitsch by a smart marble bar and white walls. Jikoni means ‘kitchen’ in Swahili, and Bhogal’s east African-cum-Indian-cum-British heritage is reflected in a menu that infuses comforting Brit classics with exotic spices. Witness her three takes on the Scotch egg – our favourite saw soft, gooey quail’s egg wrapped in a prawn toast mix, served with banana ketchup. Elsewhere, crunchy, battered ‘popcorn’ cauliflower scattered with chilli and garlic, and soft-shell crab on a spicy relish, were standout small plates. Best main course was a half-lobster in a spicy coconut moilee curry sauce, topped with more shredded, creamed coconut (£24). But Bhogal can also deliver on a budget: a shepherd’s pie made with big chunks of scrag-end and infused with gentle spices was also top-drawer, and generously portioned for £14. There were only two let-downs – an uninspiring tapioca and mango jelly pudding, and a watery gin and cucumber lassi. Yet, with polished staff who buy-in to the ‘dinner at an insanely talented friend’s house’ vibe, and a fan-base injecting a real buzz, Bhogal has opened a wonderfully unique little restaurant.
Best Restaurants in Marylebone
SquareMeal 2 Stars
19-21 Blandford Street
020 7034 1988
Bond Street Tube Station 520m
Baker Street Tube Station 553m
The Wallace Collection 109m
Dorset Street 253m
Mon-Sat 12N-3pm 5.30pm-10.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
The appetite for the new and the slightly different seems almost insatiable when it comes to restaurant openings. And so onto the scene comes Jikoni, which could arguably claim to be London’s first restaurant that is Swahili-influenced. Indeed, the restaurant takes its name from the local word used in the Great Lakes area of Africa for ‘kitchen.’ However, chef Ravinder Bhogal has done a very clever thing. She has taken two much-loved cuisines – British and Indian – and breathed a new breath of life into them, by infusing them with East African influences. And it works. Certainly, when a comrade and I visited for dinner on a recent weekday night, there was not a table free. I was, of course, happy to perch at the bar until our reserved place became free to sample one of the house cocktails – a chilli-infused Gin Martini, which packed the kick of alcohol with a twist of spice and an undertone of sweetness provided by the addition of orange and ginger marmalade. It also gave me the chance to survey the scene. Ms. Bhogal has certainly done an excellent job in creating a sense of homeliness, a slightly kitsch version of cool with an appropriately eclectic musical soundtrack to accompany. The menu is simple, comprising just four small plates and six mains. We opted to share ‘cauliflower popcorn’ and a ‘chargrilled concertina squid’ to start. Both arrived full of visual flair and a broad canvas of flavours. To find squid in a non-battered form was a quasi-revelation and the choice to pair it with artichoke and crumbed chorizo was a bold master-stroke that paid off. Similar plaudits to the mains of pan-fried Haloumi and a mutton Keema. I normally avoid Haloumi, finding it to be a bland offering, generally served as an after-thought to appease vegetarians. Here, however, it took on a new form, its texture integrating yet contrasting with the pilaf of freekeh, while the overall dimension of the dish was enhanced by pickled lemon (a stalwart in the Ottolenghi kitchen) and the use of dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend). Had we been a larger group, then I certainly would have been keen to see if this standard could have been maintained across all the dishes on offer – perhaps this was the chef’s logic in keeping the menu tight and focused. Certainly, seemed to push more culinary boundaries than its predecessor on the site, Roganic. However, Jikoni should not rest on its laurels. Service was distinctly lacking – hard to get waiters’ attention and irregular pouring of our wine stood out as failings. The wine list too bordered on the incomprehensible and probably needs some work. These qualms aside, the potential is here. The Swahili kitchen has arrived.
Food + drink: 3
Things you can do in 45 minutes: (1) watch a full half of football; (2) watch a full half of rugby AND have time to get a pint; (3) watch a couple of innings of baseball and need several pints; or (4) wait for your brunch to arrive at Jikoni with just a glass of water for company.
Things you can do in five minutes: (1) well obviously that; (2) drink a pint before going back to the second half of the football, rugby or (if you REALLY insist) baseball; (3) complete the Daily Mail crossword/Guardian Sudoku; or (4) eat the brunch that you waited 45 minutes to get at Jikoni.
The restaurant looks like somebody's front room. Somebody who likes chintz and big cushions. Lots of big cushions. That is about the only thing big though, as the portions are wee. Tasty, but tiny. A "sloppy joe" burger, all dripping and spicy meat, was nicely cooked and nicely spiced, but at £11.50, is about a fiver overpriced. The kikapu chicken too was gorgeous; crispy and hot, with a nice tang and moist meat, but two pieces of fried chicken for £12.50 is a touch on the rich side, even for the fifty-something Harley Street rhinoplasty consultants who, according to the lamentable Ms Dent, seem to be the only people who now inhabit Marylebone.
Jikoni is a pretty spot to wait for your overpriced morsel but, after 40 minutes of no food arriving, we asked what was going on, to be told that they were a man ("or rather a woman") down in the kitchen. You know; if you'd told me that up front I might have decided to wait, or might have left. If I'd left, I would have come back. Now I know I never will.
Food + drink: 5
Fantastic new taste experience. Love in every mouthful. Great team & hospitality. Should become a Marylebone institution.
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