A Closer Look At Jikoni, The No Borders Kitchen Making Waves In Marylebone
Playfully paying homage to mixed-heritage, cross-cultural cooking, Jikoni is the unique culinary experience and restaurant you need to add to your dining bucket list. Born from the mind of chef and food writer Ravinder Bhogal, the concept draws upon the diversity of immigrant cuisine, hopscotching between flavours and cultures spanning South Asia, the Far East, the Middle East, East Africa and Britain.
Bhogal was naturally drawn to the maternal and instinctive style of cooking that is integral to many of these family-orientated cultures. Born in Kenya to Indian parents and raised in London, it’s natural that the chef would draw upon her upbringing to deliver eclectic cuisine that she describes as “proudly inauthentic”. This familial style of cooking permeates all aspects of the restaurant, with cooks using ingenious methods passed down from generations prior – skills that don’t often find their way into professional kitchens.
"Our food is what happens when those two powerful things are reconciled. It also represents the maternal kitchen – the food of the marginalised women who taught me to cook but never got to cook as a profession."
We asked Ravinder Bhogal three questions to learn more about the magic of Jikoni and the hybrid cuisine that has won the heart of so many diners that long for the feel of an authentic, homely culinary experience.
What’s the inspiration behind the menu?
We are a neighbourhood restaurant – I sometimes like to say an “unrestaurant” because Jikoni is so special. It’s a place where friends and strangers gather to eat food that is an expression of the immigrant experience – a longing for what we left behind and the wonder for our new landscape. Our food is what happens when those two powerful things are reconciled. It also represents the maternal kitchen – the food of the marginalised women who taught me to cook but never got to cook as a profession.
What dish would you recommend for first-time visitors?
It would have to be the prawn toast scotch egg with banana ketchup and pickled cucumbers. It’s a signature, and we send one to almost every table. It takes two perennial favourites – a British scotch egg and a Chinese prawn toast – and brings them together to create something wonderful and new. It’s an emblem of our political views that bringing cultures together makes something richer and better than the sum of their parts.
What do you love most about the restaurant’s surrounding neighbourhood?
It really is a village-like community here in Marylebone. Beyond the fancy shops selling covetable knick-knacks, the neighbourhood is a hospitable place where people can come from anywhere and thrive. It’s a beautifully stitched patchwork of characters full of stories and anecdotes. It’s an escape from the cheek to jowl people-traffic of Oxford Street that’s just a hop and a skip away. Also, some of my favourite things in London are here: Daunt Books which is my sanctuary, Fischer’s for excellent Sachertorte and hospitality, St Marylebone Parish church where I got married, and Trunk and The Conran shop where I buy gifts for the people I adore.
It’s not just the cuisine at Jikoni that exudes the feel of a home-away-from-home. The interior design, with its bursts of colours and motifs, really feel as though you’ve been welcomed into someone’s abode. Far from the minimalist decor of ‘Haute dining’ establishments, Jikoni amalgamates traditional and contemporary design elements for a uniquely attractive feel. Tablecloths emblazoned with multicoloured floral prints complement geometric printed cushion covers; wooden bistro-style chairs sit across from banquet seating, and framed illustrations adorn the walls.
“Far from the minimalist decor of ‘Haute dining’ establishments, Jikoni amalgamates traditional and contemporary design elements for a uniquely attractive feel.”
True to Jikoni’s community spirit, Bhogal is hosting the third series of the restaurant’s ‘Civilised Sundays’: an event that welcomes guest speakers from the world of food, literature, music and the arts to speak, whilst Ravinder serves a feast that celebrates her guest with a dedicated menu whilst they discuss their backgrounds, careers and heritage. The upcoming line-up comprises broadcaster and author Anita Rani (19th September), food writer Claudia Roden (10th October) and composer, sitarist and activist Anoushka Shankar (13th November).
“Jikoni has always been a maternal space, so it’s fitting to have a season that celebrates these exceptional female cultural leaders who share Jikoni’s values of pluralism and diversity,” says Ravinder. “I am so immensely proud and excited to be hosting each one of them.”
Whether you choose to take a seat at the restaurant counter or try your hand at Ravinder’s recipes in her award-winning cookbook, there’s an undeniable, overwhelming feeling that accompanies all of Jikoni’s offerings: an authentic, comforting and intuitive feeling of home.
Find out more about Jikoni, and book your table today by clicking here.