Will Bowlby

After Kricket outgrew its Brixton pop-up, the chef launched a trio of modern Indian restaurants to rave reviews. He talks to Fleur Rollet-Manus about Mumbai, spices and making time for crumpets

Where did your interest in Indian food come from?

I was living in Mumbai cooking European food at Cheval and became fascinated by Indian food, particularly the history behind it. Food is everywhere there, and it was so interesting discovering how India’s cuisine has shaped various parts of the country.

Any plans to go back?

I try to go back to India twice a year to keep me inspired. I’m there again this month to allow some members of my team to experience Mumbai. We’ll go to the Sassoon Dock fish markets at 4am, soak up the chaos of Crawford Market and visit Apne Aap Women’s Collective – a charity I work with. We’ve got an event with Soho House, which will be fun, and after that I’ll take myself to Goa. It was the place I escaped to when I lived in Mumbai – the plan is to relax.

Which is the best restaurant in Mumbai?

Shree Thaker Bhojanalay – a vegetarian Gujarati restaurant in the city centre. You get 30-40 different vegetables all on one plate, each perfectly seasoned and adding something unique to the dish. It happens a lot in the UK, but chefs rarely work seasonally in India – except here. It’s my first stop when I land.

Any hotel recommendations?

That would have to be Abode Bombay. It’s a low-key, super-comfortable boutique hotel in the centre of Colaba, a really energetic part of the city.

How should we approach contemporary Indian cooking?

As long as you respect the fundamentals of Indian cooking, you can do anything with it. It sounds simple, but onions are a massive part of Indian food and the way you cook them can completely change a dish. Don’t buy spices in huge quantities, as they go stale, and store them in a cool, dry and airtight space.

What are your spice-rack must-haves?

I use black mustard seeds all the time. Likewise curry leaves. I know its technically not a spice, but we use it like one and I couldn’t cook without it. I love black cardamom, too, for its very strong, smoky flavour.

What’s on your table back home?

Crumpets covered in butter. A chef’s diet is awful, really, isn’t it? I love Chinese food, so often on a Sunday I’ll head to A.Wong’s for a tableful of dim sum or, if I’m at home in Sussex, I’ll visit the butcher for a good rib-eye. I’ve used Bishops in Uckfield since I was a kid.

Where’s the best place you’ve eaten recently?

Perilla in Stoke Newington. I’ve never had a bad meal there. Last time I ordered yesterday’s bread soaked in moules marinière. It was standout.

We’re eating at Kricket. What should we order?

You’ve got to start with the classics. Samphire pakoras and Keralan fried chicken have been on the menu since the start. For something more unusual, there’s always some form of offal dish – it takes to spices incredibly well. We also had a pig’s head vindaloo for a while and a venison korma – both were fast favourites.

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