LDNReview

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A variety of dishes from Kokum on an oval shaped granite table, set against a blue painted brick wall.
8.1

Kokum

Indian

East Dulwich

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsBirthdaysCasual Weeknight DinnerCatching Up With MatesDinner with the Parents
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Kokum is right up there with the best Indian restaurants in the city. The food is excellent and the service rivals the tender beef nihari for warmth. This East Dulwich spot is firmly in our rotation of places to go when we want to be equal parts spoiled with delicate pani puri and comforted with naans glistening with ghee.

The sunken dining area at Kokum. It is lit by hanging pendant lamps. People sit at tables surrounded by leather booth seating. In the foreground a person is seen sitting at the bar on the upper level.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A person sitting at a round table looks at the menu while waiting for the rest of her party to arrive at Kokum.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The exterior of Kokum at night with people strolling by.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The sunken dining area at Kokum. It is lit by hanging pendant lamps. People sit at tables surrounded by leather booth seating. In the foreground a person is seen sitting at the bar on the upper level.
A person sitting at a round table looks at the menu while waiting for the rest of her party to arrive at Kokum.
The exterior of Kokum at night with people strolling by.

During the week, the atmosphere can be a little sleepy. But peaceful is what the couples—sitting in companionable silence, occasionally nodding their head and letting out satisfied “mmhhm” noises—are looking for. Ditto the post-work friends in full fluorescent lycra, sweating over a tadka makhani sauce with no fear of side-eye. Come the weekend, there’s a gear shift and rounds of slightly smoky, cayenne pepper-infused cosmos are dispatched to a group of indie film director types celebrating a big birthday. The best seats in the house are towards the back where it’s a little moodier and you feel in the thick of things.

A variety of dishes from Kokum served on organically shaped ceramic dishware.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A person cuts tandoori roast cauliflower with a fork and knife.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

An organically shaped ceramic plate of sticky pork ribs.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

the hyderabadi lamb biryani with the pastry top in tact.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The hyderabadi lamb biryani from kokum with the pastry top flipped back.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A variety of dishes from Kokum served on organically shaped ceramic dishware.
A person cuts tandoori roast cauliflower with a fork and knife.
An organically shaped ceramic plate of sticky pork ribs.
the hyderabadi lamb biryani with the pastry top in tact.
The hyderabadi lamb biryani from kokum with the pastry top flipped back.

Whatever night you visit, the common thread is the warm staff buzzing between everyone: anticipating the extra portion of ribs you’ll want, clearing plates before you knew the table was getting crowded, and gently suggesting a refreshing cider after catching you fanning your mouth like you’re on an episode of Hot Ones.

Even on a slow night, the food makes Kokum worth a visit. A portion of sweet, sticky, glazed pork ribs is a dish we immediately send photos of to friends with the amount of exclamation marks usually reserved for an SOS. The same goes for a spicy, fragrant biryani, loaded with lamb that's barely able to cling to a fork. Its pastry lid is pried off for you, tableside, with a level of care you come to expect from Kokum. 

Food Rundown

tandoori roast cauliflower in a pool of tadka makhani sauce.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Tandoori Roast Cauliflower

Reaching parts of our sinuses that no Olbas stick has previously touched, the pool of tadka makhani sauce that these perfectly charred florets sit in is ferocious. In a good way. The mild nuttiness of the cauliflower was made infinitely more interesting by it.

person holding a sticky pork rib up from a plate of others.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Sticky Pork Ribs

In the battle of small handheld things on a bone, these ribs beat the butter chicken wings. There’s more meat on them and that meat is perfectly soft and covered in a glaze that’s equal parts spicy, sweet, and sticky.

Raan Uthappam served in a marbled bowl.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Raan Uthappam

Our circle of trust is this golden-edged, thin uttapam holding a hefty portion of meltingly soft 12-hour-cooked lamb. The lamb is well-spiced and wrapped up in an earthy, thick sauce that doesn’t escape the edges of the dosa. We could eat a lot of these.

Person dipping naan into a blue slate bowl of butter chicken.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Butter Chicken

This butter chicken has been a bit hit and miss when we’ve ordered it—ranging from bland to creamy and rich. Either way, there are more consistently great curries on the menu that deserve your attention instead.

The short rib beef nihari at Kokum in East Dulwich.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Short Rib Nihari

The deep, dark brown of this curry is a clue as to the earthy, slightly smoky, slightly bitter flavour. And the meat is so soft that the short rib bone is completely bare after a few gentle nudges with a fork. No notes.

the hyderabadi lamb biryani with the top folded back and a spoon digging into the dish.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani

The crispy pastry top keeps the rice moist inside and is unveiled with the kind of theatre we never achieved in our school drama production. The filling is heavy on lamb and spice—a combination we’re fans of. This is an excellent biryani and one of our favourite things to order.

a person rips apart a piece of peshwari naan. There is a silver bowl of two more pieces below.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Peshwari Naan

To be clear, the naans here are shimmering triangles of delight. They are slathered in ghee, and have blistered air pockets and soft, fluffy centres. The perfect vehicle for chasing leftover sauces around your plate. But this peshwari naan is too sweet, even for a peshwari naan. We’d stick to the others.

Kokum image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Channa Masala

We usually like a looser channa masala, but the thicker sauce that coats the chickpeas here is delicious—just know it’s not the best for dunking naan in. There’s a lovely balance of tomato and garlic with cumin and ginger, and we liked the crunch and sharpness of the diced raw red onion on top too.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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