September 6 2020

Pig Guide review: Bikano’s

They’re all over Twitter, and Instagram, and TikBook, and TokFace, and SnapPin. You know who (and where) they are, you know what’s on the menu, you know how many tables are available for this evening’s service; heck, you probably even know what shoes the bar staff are wearing. But y’know, not every restaurant-based coming out party is based around what’s hip, or which backdrop if the most glitzy, or which Social Media Manager has shouted the loudest in order to grab our attention.

For sure, most of us are celebrating a return to eating out again, leaving kitchens that we’ve become way too over-familiar with behind for an evening of indulgence, bonhomie and sheer escapism. But as we hurtle back into the work, rest and play cycle faster than most of us can say “don’t-forget-your-face-mask!”, we’re also settling back into the comfortably familiar routines that we waved a temporary farewell to at the start of March – and “let’s just go around the corner” for dinner is one of the biggies.

Now I’m not saying for one moment that Bikano’s (Widcombe) is all and only about simply offering a quick fix when you just can’t be bothered to cook – there’s far, far more to it than that. But this cheerful little Indian restaurant ticks all the classic neighbourhood bistro boxes: friendly service, exceedingly wallet-friendly prices and super-fresh food based on a classic Indian cross-continent motif. Sound familiar? Yes! And thank goodness for that. It’s the kind of place that lures you in on a whim if you happen to be having a pint at one of the lovely watering holes on Widcombe Parade (bearing in mind the current modus operandi based around limited space, so booking strongly advised) but it also offers broad appeal for all manner of get-togethers; on the evening we visited, the couple on the next(ish) table to us were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, while a table further down were doing the family birthday thing.

The starter array offers all the classic Indian bistro fave raves you crave: Bhajis, Chats and Pakoras; Kebabs, Tikkas and Tandoori Chicken Wings. There are Dosas too, and both fish- and meat-based sharing platters for those who can’t make their minds up. We, however, made our minds up pretty darn quick. The result? The freshest – in terms of both crispy batter and huge, succulent slabs of fish within – Fish Pakoras imaginable, and Salt and Pepper Paneer (pictured) that hit all the perfect crispy/creamy/spicy high notes, both starters served on two very nicely presented plates. Talking of presentation, even the Pappadoms (simply – and authentically – called Papad here, which is nice to see) are pretty: crispy little non-oily shards of delight served with a lovely little array of super-fresh chutneys and a minty-creamy dip.

For the mains event, I couldn’t describe the Home Style Chicken Curry better than Bikano’s describe it on their menu… so here we go: “tender chicken thigh cooked lovingly just the way grandpa would make it. This is an every day Indian meal at it very best.” In my own words, grandpa certainly knew his stuff – this is the kind of deeply satisfying, multi-textured dish that Rick Stein would have swooned over when he travelled across India in search of the perfect curry… if, that is, he hadn’t halted his search when he came across the grass roots incarnation of Bikano’s soft, velvety and just-tingly-hot-enough Lamb Chettinad.

To accompany the mains shebang, we had a side of Daal Makhani that was richly satisfying enough to make it a main course superstar in its own right; fluffy, cumin-infused mushroom rice; a fragrant, oven-fresh Peshwari naan.. and Masala Chips. Masala Chips? Oh stop it, you know you want them too.

But the thing that most delighted me about what was, overall, a properly delightful experience is that it’s clear from the off that attention to detail is paramount to the whole Bikano’s team, from Front of House to backstage – and their hard work does not go unnoticed. If you’ve yet to notice Bikano’s, you’re seriously missing out; it may not be on TikBook or TokFace or SnapPin, but thankfully it’s on our doorstep.

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