Eat Here: Rajiv’s Nepalese Kitchen Pop-Up at The Crooked WellBy Jake Hawkes
When it comes to South London, Camberwell is known as a hotspot of great food. Whether it’s Zeret Kitchen’s Ethiopian platters, Silk Road’s famous noodles, or Nandine’s Kurdish classics, there’s a lot of variety and a very high bar in this pocket of zone two.
The Crooked Well, just off of Camberwell’s main road, has been adding to this culinary mix for a while with its consistently high-quality pop-up partnerships, and Rajiv’s Kitchen, run by Nepalese chef Rajiv KC, is no exception.
Centred around sharing plates, Rajiv’s Kitchen is a medley of bold flavours and masterful combinations – we’re not sure we’ve ever seen savoury watermelon on the same menu as spiced lamb meatballs before, but every single thing we ordered was delicious. The kaakro – parcels of beetroot and spiced walnut wrapped in cucumber – are almost palate-cleansing in how fresh they are, perfectly pairing with the delicate spice of the choyela, a plate of pulled chicken marinated in timmur and lime juice, studded with pomegranate seeds.
The bheda, a lamb meatball served with roasted aubergine, hemp sauce, green chutney, and yoghurt, is so big it could qualify as a burger in most restaurants. It’s also absolutely delicious, the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the aubergine perfectly pairing with the ever-so-slightly crispy crust of the lamb.
The kharbuja caught our eye as one of the more unusual items on the menu: a huge wedge of caramelised watermelon in a green chutney sauce, topped with whipped tofu. The most surprising thing is how well it works, with the watermelon’s unique texture acting together with the creamy whip of each tofu dollop. It might be a leap of faith to order melon as part of a main meal, but trust us, it’s a leap worth taking.
Saving the best for last: the momos. If you’re in Camberwell, even if you aren’t planning to have dinner there, we demand you walk into The Crooked Well and order a plate of momos – you absolutely will not regret it. Steamed Nepalese dumplings stuffed with either chicken or vegetables, they’re a gelatinous delight. The chilli version is everything a dumpling should be, with a manageable but ever-building spice level offset by an incredible depth and range of flavour. After a few of these, you’ll be reaching for the cooling Kharbuja, then straight back over for another dumpling.
Desserts are of similarly high quality. Both the mango cheesecake and the lemon curd tart were just fruity enough to be memorable, without being overpowering. It’s gratifying to see a dessert menu which follows on from the rest of the meal, rather than just bolting on a chocolate brownie or a sticky toffee pudding as an afterthought.
Overall Rajiv’s Kitchen knocks it out of the park on all fronts. Camberwell’s food scene may be a crowded market, but our only real regret on leaving The Crooked Well is that this incredible menu is just a pop-up, rather than a permanent fixture. Get your momos in quickly, because they’re not sticking around forever.
Rajiv’s Kitchen at the Crooked Well, 16 Grove Lane, Camberwell, London, SE5 8SY. Pop-up running until August 2023.
For further information, see here.