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Food + Drink

The Chef's Table: Ravinder Bhogal Of Jikoni

Born in Kenya, to Indian parents, Ravinder Bhogal’s food is inspired by her mixed heritage “and the rich, shared flavours and cultures across parts of South Asia and the Far East, the Middle East, East Africa and Britain.”

“Great, modern British food is so intertwined with different cultures, different races. I love that it’s always evolving; that recipes are like stories, human stories. They tell us about people’s narratives.” Jikoni, Ravinder’s W1 eatery, is a colourful amalgam celebrating precisely this.

Here, the award-winning food writer and restaurateur shares her fondest childhood food memories, her go-to cookbooks, as well as the food that makes her happiest (and why).


­How did you first get into cooking?

My mother had a very Victorian attitude of her daughters needing to be fully trained in the “domestic arts” – cooking, sewing, cleaning etc so she hoicked me off my tricycle when I was about five years old and led me to the kitchen…

What are some of your childhood food memories?

The incredible produce in Kenya – the volcanic earth is benevolent. Also the communal spirit of women cooking together – there were special dishes that just took many hands to make.

Who most influenced your cooking?

My grandfather. He ate with the sort of brow-mopping, belt loosening fervour and joy – the memory of which still makes me smile today.

 

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The food that makes you happiest and why?

The simple food cooked by my mother – dhal, rice, and her special lemon Achaar makes me feel the most content.

Favourite cooking gadget?

My Thermomix – it’s such a powerful and versatile piece of kit.

Favourite cookbook(s)?

How to Eat by Nigella Lawson; my collection of Diana Henry books, especially How to Eat a Peach; and Eastern Vegetarian Cookery by Madhur Jaffrey.

What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?

Fresh curry leaves – there is no substitute for their fragrant, citrus flavour.

Where are the best places to shop for produce in London?

So many, but I will shout out La Fromagerie and Marylebone Farmers’ Market because they are in my restaurant neighbourhood and I use them most frequently. I love to buy the truffle Brie at La Fromagerie and stop by for a chat with Patricia who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of food and it’s provenance. I really admire her and her work ethic.

How does travel influence your cooking?

I am always searching for new flavours and cooking techniques, so travel is the perfect way to explore new food cultures.

Where are your favourite places to dine in London?

Bocca di Lupo for date nights and The Wolseley for impeccable hospitality.

What do you always avoid ordering on a menu?

Crab – sadly I am allergic to it.

By contrast, must-order items on the menu at Jikoni include…

Oh, so many, but my favourite, at the moment, is the charred peaches with tofu, limeleaf gremolata and peanut brittle. We send one to almost every table.

 

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Why do you think it’s important to gather round the table to eat?

Because eating isn’t just about the gluttony –  it’s about culture, connection, and conversation too.

What is your go-to meal at home when you’re low on time?

Any kind of pasta with alio olio – I also add lemon zest for zing, and of course lots of good Parmesan.

Do you find cooking therapeutic?

Yes. The kitchen for me is meditative, especially when I am developing dishes on my own – then, it’s a space of quiet luxury.

Advice for women thinking about starting up a business in the food or restaurant industry?

Find your purpose and always put hospitality and generosity to your guests and team above anything else.

 

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