Saturday, 12 March 2016

Kricket, Brixton

My first experience of Brixton was 15 years ago, when as a grungy teenager I went to Brixton Academy to see Korn and basically got beaten up in the mosh pit. It was the best night ever. On the way home, we saw a homeless man smoking a pipe and I thought "well that's quite old fashioned of him" until upon closer, hurried inspection it was actually a crack pipe. That sort of thing doesn't happen so much in the open in Brixton anymore, at least not that I've seen - Brixton has officially Up and Come. 

For better or for worse remains to be seen, but with it has brought Pop Brixton, a set of shipping containers built around a covered yard, complete with bouncer on the door, housing restaurants and bars. The idea was to provide a platform for local businesses and traders who couldn't afford the extortionate rent in town to be given a chance to make a go of it on the cheap. 

All timber and beams, walking around Pop you'd be forgiven for missing Kricket entirely, if it weren't for the giant red K painted on the wall to direct you upstairs. Inside, a long trestle table holds around 20 people, all crammed up, jostling for cutlery and jugs of water flavoured with mint. 

Then menu, made of up 'Indian small plates' is incredibly appealing, with no dishes above the £10 mark. So appealing in fact, that when my companion asked whether we should just order the whole menu, our server warned us it might be a bit much for two. We gave it a good go. 

Bhel Puri (£4) was a portion big enough to serve between four. Crunchy, herby rice puffs draped with yoghurt and tamarind was a flavoursome mouthful, and a joy in texture. Samphire pakoras were less successful for me, being that the flavour and juicy crunch of the samphire got rather lost in amongst the batter. 

Keralan fried chicken (£7 opening picture) was as fine an example of any fried chicken I've had. The curry leaf mayonnaise, sunshine-yellow and silken, was so good we asked for extra and then positively slathered it on. Pickled mooli, thinly shaven into ribbons, provided that palette cleanser often needed with fried chicken. 

Hyderabad baby aubergine and coconut (£6) was such a pretty dish. I loved all the crockery they use at Kricket; it makes such a difference to the presentation. Here, the baby aubergines were quartered still on the stem. The rich coconut sauce was mildly spiced, with a shower of toasted coconut on top. It was at this point that I wished for some a buttery, flaky paratha to scoop it all up with. 

The hake in malai sauce was a little too similar in flavour profile to the aubergines for me, though such is the danger of ordering almost all of the menu. Had we ordered the venison with pumpkin pickle instead, I'm sure that gripe would be redundant. Malai means 'creamy' in Hindi, and the fish was crisp skinned and cooked perfectly, so the flakes of fish came away at the fork. I love their use of in-season ingredients, like monks beard here, to garnish the dishes. 

This 'kichri' (£8) is yellow moong lentils cooked with smoked haddock, pickled cauliflower and egg yolk. It's a real beauty; comfortingly spiced, with the just-sharp cauliflower giving a lovely crunchy contrast to what is essentially a reworked kedgeree. Wikipedia tells me Kichri originally inspired the kedgeree, and if it had been Kricket's version I'm not sure any kedgeree would be an improvement. I loved this, and would return in an instant to have it again. 

They have one dessert; gulab jamum, which is a sticky, incredibly sweet sponge with clotted ice cream and pistachios. They gave us an extra sponge ball - hurrah! - and it was the ideal sharing portion. The soft, soaked sponge had floral hints which worked beautifully with the carom seed crumble and nuts. 

Kricket has some properly brilliant cooking. I've seen much of their Sunday brunch Goan sausage roll, which I'll have to return for, with a side of that kichri too. The acoustics inside the container are terrible, and when it's really busy it can be a little uncomfortable, but given the high levels of cooking, I'll take it. Everyone is super friendly and didn't bat an eyelid for me being a whole hour late to meet my friend. It's great value, at around £25 a head for a lot of food without booze. Their cocktail list looks incredible too, though having had a teetotal lunch (I KNOW!) I can't tell you for sure. 

Pop Brixton
49 Brixton Station Road
London SW9 8PQ

Kricket Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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