“Covid gave us the time to perfect really good dishes,” says Nicki Davidson, of ‘Nicki’s Kitchen’. “We could take a whole chicken and make stock from it and experiment with preserving things. Lockdown gave us that extra hour or two and I really think it brought out the best in us.” For Nicki, lockdown gave her the impetus she needed to expand on the delivery side of her already well-established food business. Pasha Milburn spoke to her to find out more… 

Nicki of Nicki’s Kitchen

From Lunch Club to Kitchen 

Having run ‘Nicki’s Kitchen’ for ten of the sixteen years she’s lived in Hastings, Nicki has always been known more for her private catering than as a delivery and takeaway service. Nicki, who describes herself as a “big feeder”, is completely self-taught and learnt through a combination of cookbooks and TV programmes. A strong believer that the whole cooking and eating experience should be one of “pleasure, not just necessity”, an early venture of hers was ‘Nicki’s Lunch Club’ where local traders could eat a replenishing meal for a fiver in her kitchen (then in Courthouse Street). As her passion for cooking developed further, Nicki found that “watching people’s plates come back empty” made her feel like she had found “something I could admit I was actually good at!” Over the years, Nicki has catered for a multitude of supper clubs/private events along with canapés for The Old Rectory and bigger meals for a range of local pubs. 

Mango Kimchi

Lockdown Inspiration

While Nicki is skilled in cooking and loves experimenting with food from different cultures, she is particularly drawn to Korean and Southeast Asian food, having grown up with a Burmese mum who was a brilliant cook and strong influence on Nicki’s own love of cooking. One of her favourite Burmese meals is ‘Chicken Kaukswe’ – a noodle soup-based Chicken curry served with a range of flavourful accompaniments, and a dish that appears on many of her catering menus in winter. Unable to work as usual during lockdown, Nicki used the time to concoct a range of Korean and Southeast Asian-inspired small plates with her daughter and began delivering them to a select group of friends. What started out as a small WhatsApp group of four quickly doubled to eight. Spurred on by comments that her takeaways were “the best Asian food [her customers] had ever eaten”, Nicki and her team decided to hit the ground running with a public delivery service that focused specifically on Asian-influenced meals. What makes Nicki’s delivery particularly special is the option for ‘beach delivery’ – the perfect choice for these lazy summer days when one has been relaxing at the beach and going home to cook dinner is not high on the agenda!

What makes Nicki’s delivery particularly special is the option for beach delivery

A takeaway with a twist

Nicki feels that, while Hastings is a “foodie town” with an abundance of takeaway options, “decent Asian” can be harder to find. Calling her creations “Asian Tapas”, Nicki is keen to include dishes that one wouldn’t immediately think of as ‘takeaway food’, such as zingy salads and kimchi. Although Korean and Southeast Asian dishes can be heavily meat/fish focused, Nicki is keen to make sure there are options for all dietary requirements. At the moment she continues to experiment each week with different dishes that build on her ‘beach delivery’ alternative. For example, a recent addition is an Asian barbeque delivery option in the form of vacuum-packed portions of marinated meat and fish that come with cooking instructions and a disposable BBQ (should you need one).

Taiwanese Braised Pork Bowl

A bright future ahead

It can be easy to concentrate on the negative effects of COVID, but Nicki sees this moment as one that holds potential in welcoming a “shift in eating”. She acknowledges that many are still hesitant to go to restaurants/pubs and hopes that having created the option for beach deliveries and BBQ packs she can offer people a “food experience that works in a different way”. Although it’s early days for this strand of her business, Nicki’s been blown away by the constant flow of orders she’s had so far and is looking forward to an “exciting bright future” ahead. 

For further information and to place an order, find Nicki’s Kitchen on Instagram @nickis_kitchen_hastings and on Facebook @nickiscucina.
Menus are put up on Wednesday/Thursday for delivery on Friday (between 4-8pm) and Saturday (12-7.30pm). Pre-order ahead of time or order on the day. Alongside deliveries, Nicki’s Kitchen is also still available for private catering. 

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