If there are two things the E1 dining scene certainly isn’t short on, it’s pop ups and curry houses. So when news broke that Indian street food eatery Kheera Kitchen would be setting up camp on Commercial Street for a couple of months, East Londoners could be forgiven for barely looking up from their artisanal toast.
But there’s one very important factor that sets Kheera Kitchen apart from its neighbours, and it’s not just the keralan pork (which, by all accounts, does a lot of the heavy lifting). Operating out of the Cafe from Crisis, Kheera Kitchen will be supporting the charity’s aims to end homelessness by offering training in hospitality to provide homeless and ex-offenders with a solid pathway to employment.
In short, your cardamom chicken comes with a side of conscience, as well as naan bread.
A motorcycle trip across India inspired procurement consultant David Read to make inroads into the hospitality game, after he noticed a huge disparity between the quality of food on the streets of Mumbai and Delhi and what sat in the bain maries of his beloved curry houses back in the UK.
“Over there, food is a much more sensory experience; not just about bold spices,” he says. “We wanted to bring that to the UK and create something that’s more balanced and aromatic than the heavier Indian fare that’s usually available.” As a result, Kheera Kitchen’s menu is anchored by fresh flavours, rather than heat; using all local ingredients, with the exception of spices, which are imported directly from India and ground up every day.
Dishes are divided up into small and big bowls, all designed for sharing and dipping with fresh, fluffy naan. Fans of seafood should be reeled in by a sizzling mackerel fish fry and a sea bream molee bowl, while meat lovers are well-cared for with an aromatic slow-roasted lamb. It is a slightly new flavour profile for the Cafe at Crisis, which for 12 years has been dishing up breakfast and lunch with focus on seasonal, local ingredients.
But it is one David and co-founders David Anderson and Jasper Wight hope will equate to more than just a good meal, with all rent paid for the site going directly back into the charity. “We’ve been working in the hospitality industry for decades [Jasper is founder of food retail consultancy TasteBed and salad chain Chop’d], and we felt that it was time to use our skills and knowledge to create some positive social impact,” he says.
Kheera Kitchen, 66 Commercial Street E1 6LT