I’ve discovered a favourite new London restaurant. Found not in the swanky environs of St James’s, the frenetic backstreets of Soho or the hipster hovels of Shoreditch; but in a re-cycled shipping container plonked on the second floor deck of some sort of community centre pop-up in Brixton, South London. Yup, a simple shipping container, which can hold about twenty people, seated along a refectory table. Kricket’s the name. Serving, as their simple website announces, ‘Indian Small Plates & Cocktails’.
I took Mrs Aitch there on a rainy, languid, Friday afternoon in August. Nobody there, apart from two cooks working away down one end of an organised micro kitchen and a svelte waitress with a ring in her nose, which suited me just dandy; but I gather after lights out, the joint’s buzzing with creatures of the night, and as there’s (understandably) no booking and the word has spread, you might have quite a long wait before eating. But my God, it’s worth it. The food is divine.
The menu says ‘Indian’, but it ain’t like any Indian I’ve ever tasted, although I’m guessing there’s a nod to the tangy, salty, sweet and sour taste of Southern India and Goa going on in there. I’m not a fan, normally, of fusion food; in the hands of an amateur it can be scarily pretentious and if it’s going to work- and often this is a big ‘if’, it needs a cook with the tastebuds of a Brillat-Savarin in the making. But here it works beautifully. Creative, enterprising and fun.
We ordered most of the bowls off the simple typed menu. First up was the Crab Meen Moilee (£8), Kricket’s take on a Keralan fish curry: radicchio leaves and crab tossed in a sweet creamy, lightly spiced coconut sauce, topped with crushed peanuts. Next up was Torched Mackerel with puffed brown rice, cucumber pickle and gooseberry chutney (£7). Fabulous. Deep flavour, masses of tang and crispy crunch. Then came a Smoked Sweet Potato, with gunpowder, crispy onion and labneh (£6), Lansooni Scallops, with wild garlic, poha and seaweed (£4) and Grilled Hispi Thoran with pickled carrot, coconut and curry leaf (£6). All dandy. Lovely simple presentation too, if that sort of thing bothers you. It bothers me, but then as a dealer in art and antiques, I suppose it would.
In case you’re wondering, ’Gunpowder’ is Kricket’s own spice mix, ‘labneh’ is a tangy cheese made by draining yoghurt over-night and ‘poha’ is a de-husked rice, flattened into dry flakes. We finished off with their Grilled Lamb with black stone flower, smoked paprika raita and coriander and mint chutney (£9.50). The lamb was beautifully soft, as by now you might have expected. Black Stone Flower is "an edible lichen flora, which grows on trees, rocks and stones. Botanically, it belongs to the Parmelia perlata family and it is referred to as ‘foliose’ meaning that each flower is vaguely similar to foliage or leaves and florae.” But then you knew that.
Kricket is the baby of entreprenur Rik Campbell and chef, Will Bowlby, the latter a former employee of Vivek Singh’s Cinammon Kitchen, which, I suspect, has had a benign influence. The Greasy Spoon’s signature dish is kedgeree (I can bore you to tears with a long and winding discource on kedgeree, the origins, history and development of), so I was especially interested in Kricket’s take on the dish (which sadly wasn’t on the menu when we visited). If ever there was a fusion dish, this has to be it: originally khichdi was a combination of lentils and rice, to which the British added smoked fish and eggs. Kricket’s version consists of a lightly curried dal combined with smoked haddock, pickled cauliflower (thinly sliced), a raw egg and sprigs of parsley, or quite possibly coriander. Vivek Singh makes a ‘Bengali Kedgeree’ with yellow mung beans, turmeric, green chili, cumin seeds, cream, tomato and coriander.
It’s all terribly exciting. We went home and it suddenly struck me quite how dull my own culinary attempts can be- stuck in a molasse of retro Cordon Bleu, Elizabeth David and the Harry’s Bar Cookbook. But that’s for now. I will probably change my mind tomorrow.
Kricket, Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, London SW9 8PQ (No Reservations)