For the last couple of years I’ve fantasised about living in a shipping container converted into an apartment. They look cool, one would be about the size of a small studio flat, and you’d have thought that they’d be quite cheap. Maybe these are the solution to the housing crisis?
So far the closest I’ve come is going to retail ‘popups’ like Boxpark Shoreditch and Pop Brixton, the latter of which is really rather nice, feeling like a set from a post-collapse science fiction TV show. The ‘street food’ there is also quite impressive – Miss P’s Barbecue making a decent stab at beef brisket and pulled pork, and Koi Ramen doing a remarkably good tonkotsu broth (so good, in fact, that I ordered a bowl after already eating a whole pizza, just to enjoy the flavour).
Kricket is one of the more upmarket places here, having its own container with tables and seats to eat indoors. It’s small and cute and surprisingly spaceous indoors, though still only looked as if it could seat sixteen, though they did have space outside as well. I guess they plans to move if and when it hits it big, because even though we had no trouble getting a table at Saturday lunchtime I can’t imagine that’s the case in the evenings.
Kricket do little plates of food meant for sharing (four or five between two people, they told me), so between four of us we ordered one of everything on the menu.
Bhel Puri was a bowl of puffed rice with spices, yoghurt and mango sauce, and even though it reminded me a little bit too much of a bowl of savoury Rice Krispies its vaguely ‘Indian’ aroma and the pleasantly crunchy rice were a nice opener to the meal.
Samphire pakoras (samphire being a sort of weed with fleshy stalks that grows by the sea) were impressively light and crispy – it was more like tempura than most pakoras I’ve had – and came with a sweet chutney on top and very mild creamy sauce on the side. The sauce was, perhaps, a little too mildly flavoured.
Smoked aubergine was surprisingly flavoursome though its cold chutneyish presentation was not at all what I’d expected. Like many of the dishes here it came with a yoghurt on the side which balanced with the spiced smoky sweetness off the aubergine nicely.
One of the two best dishes of the lot was the goat. Now, I love goat. It’s flavoursome, rich, exotic and has a lovely tough stringy texture that I gather I’m not supposed to enjoy in meat but I do. And I loved this goat – it was cooked beautifully, with a slightly crispy edge and most of the fat rendered off. It was presented more or less on its own, a brave but correct call because it tasted good enough solo. I was annoyed that I had to share it and perhaps I will order two bowls of it next time.
Both the fried chicken and wood pigeon were forgettable – the fried chicken was competently done in a light batter, but the curry leaf mayonnaise it came with didn’t taste of anything. The wood pigeon was just dull, although the girolle mushrooms it came on top of were cute.
‘Bombay butter garlic crab’ is a slightly grandiose name for what was really just a big bowl of sweet crab meat with some poppadums on the side. I suppose, looking back, the butter helped make it richer and creamier than crab meat would otherwise be, and indeed it was quite delicious. I believe this was Ben’s favourite dish of the meal, and certainly if you like crab you’d like this. If not, I guess you wouldn’t order it in the first place.
The posh kedgeree (or ‘kichri’) had a warm heat and subtle curry flavour mixing nicely with some quite nutty-tasting rice. It was flecked with smoked haddock and, brilliantly, little bits of pickled cauliflower, and the raw egg yolk on top (which we stirred into it) gave it a lush creaminess. Funnily enough, the bites I had with some of the parsley on top were the best, and there should probably be a bit more parsley so those bites are the rule, not the exception.
It feels strange to write about the dessert because I almost never bother with desserts (why would you, when a bag of Haribo is usually a fifth of the price?), and Indian food is, I think, not exactly renowned for its desserts. Well, let me tell you, the gulab jamums deserve to change that reputation.
These were little balls of cake soaked in syrup (yes, I know that sounds disgusting) served with ice cream and ground up carom seeds. The carom seeds made the dish – they taste a little bit like cardamom, and a little bit like thyme, and offset the sweetness of the cake perfectly. This was so good that we ordered a second plate so that each of the four of us could have the equivalent to one ball each. One ball is probably all you need, though.
£83.60 for lunch for four is hardly cheap (although that does include two beers and a cocktail – I was a bit hungover), and I did not leave the meal feeling particularly stuffed. But that’s not really the point of Kricket – as Ben said, we were having the equivalent of a good tasting menu for a third of the price.
And the food here certainly is worth tasting, much more so than Dishoom, which is similar in concept if not execution. My main complaint is that they sometimes erred a little too much on the side of ‘subtlety’: while never bland, some of the dishes could have used a little extra oomph.
But that’s a minor quibble – there’s no shortage of brutally overflavoured ‘street food’ out there, and it’s impressive when gently-seasoned dishes like the samphire, crab and goat end up so well. So, at least until I manage to find a shipping container to move into, Pop Brixton and Kricket itself will keep me coming back.
Score: 〶 – one medal. (For explanation of our scoring system, see here.)