Zoë Perrett finds Nepalese to please at Soho’s Sun & 13 Cantons pub courtesy of its latest kitchen resident, Rajiv KC
It’s strange to be waited on at Rajiv’s Kitchen, given that the last time I saw the eponymous Nepalese chef – to paraphrase a popular 80s hit – I was working as a waitress in his pop-up supperclub.
That was way back in 2014, which, given the many events that have manhandled the world less gently than a ham-fisted toddler with a lump of Playdoh in the interim, feels like decades if not lifetimes ago.
Time has been kind, though, to Rajiv Kc’s culinary skills. He’s always had a solid command of the flavours and techniques of his heritage cuisine, but now he’s also a passed master when it comes to evolving traditional dishes into Londoner-friendly fare enjoyed by both the mouth and – crucially – the eye when served up on the ‘gram.
Highlights at the RK residency at The Sun & 13 Cantons come in the form of mouthfuls of deep-fried, deeply savoury battered pork belly; a slice of brûléed, black-salt-sprinkled watermelon paddling in a pool of zingy green chutney – its flavours plucked off a Nepalese street and dressed up for dinner; and momo dumplings fried up with onions, peppers both chilli and bell, and a sticky, tomatoey glaze with a lively umami undercurrent: the sauce Heinz ketchup’s girlfriend told him not to worry about.
Then there’s the chicken pickle croquette: a dish that’s not only metaphorically fit for a Queen but also perhaps apt as a modern tribute to England’s late monarch.
Appearing as a crisp-coated cannonball that’s landed splat in the middle of a puddle of mango-yogurt sauce, it doesn’t resemble Coronation chicken in the slightest; but I’ll wager you’ll find the flavours not-too dissimilar to the dish invented in Her Maj’s honour in 1953.
Blackened fenugreek seeds – my favourite Nepali hack for adding instant umami to a dish – do a star turn here, adding oodles of savour to the flavour that might just leave you wishing that massive croquette was larger still.
In a city where it’s increasingly unacceptable to be anything less than fully fluent in the nuances of regional Indian or Thai cuisines, Nepalese food remains largely off-radar – so Rajiv’s Soho pub residency should probably be the place you acquaint yourself with it before your know-it-all mates beat you to the table.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
- Rajiv’s Kitchen at The Sun & 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney Street, London, W1F 9NG
- Find @rajivskitchen on Instagram