In my capacity as “professional plus one”, it’s been my distinct pleasure to dine at some of the Capital’s bastions of culinary art – and some of its new rising stars. It’s a rare commodity to be pleasantly surprised by a new take on an old experience, let alone encounter one that leaves you brimming with pampered contentment, the likes of which usually end with the words “lovely meal, Mum” as you doze off in your favourite familial armchair. Fitzrovia’s Calcutta Street leaves you feeling exactly that; it’s not a new take on an old experience at all, it’s authenticity itself! We’re so used to the anglicised experience that has become the “traditional” London Indian restaurant meal, that it’s all too easy to forget that the usual offerings of Rogan Josh, Korma, Massala et al have, in too many cases, been diluted time and again to suit our western palate. But this certainly distinguishes itself as a cut above the norm. In this case, “Mum” is Shrimoyee Chakraborty, and her home cooking ethos shines in every dish we sample at this charming Indian restaurant.
On entering, we’re eased into the authentic experience through the simple yet colourful colonial-styled décor, with every piece of hanging art, and objet originating from Calcutta itself. This, the friendly staff, and the petite nature of the venue create a convivial atmosphere. While waiting to be seated amongst the happy diners, I sample the Indian Amrut Fusion whisky and my partner, the Bengali Rose cocktail – both of which were highly enjoyable.
For starters we have the Phuchka, crispy semolina balls filled with spiced potato, which comes with a mouthwatering tamarind and mint dip, the Alur Bhaja – Calcuttan shoestring fries, and the Beguni, which is sliced Aubergine fried in delicate chickpea flour batter. All simply delicious! We know then that what’s to follow will be a delight. We’ve been ogling our fellow diners’ choices as discretely as possible but we’re still hard-put to decide which mains to order, as it all looks so damn good. My partner and I always like to share dishes and this usually works a treat for us, with the exception of seafood… Right now, the tiger prawns are calling me. Stymied again!
I am however, delighted when the lovely staff indulge us (me) with a little separate taster of Prawn Malai Kari, which is to die for with its thick coconut sauce. This means we can enjoy (without incident), the Macher Paturi and the Kosha Mangsho. The former is steamed sea bream in mustard and coconut – succulent and tasty. The latter is a lamb dish, which is billed as Calcutta’s answer to a Sunday roast. This is sublime, and the subtlety and depth of spice and flavour, along with the tenderness of the meat, leave us wanting to thank “Mum” personally, then ruminate cosily over our next chapter of “great restaurants we have slept in” – a work currently in progress. We “struggle” on to sample the dessert menu.
The Mishti Aam Doi resembles a crème brulé but is served cold to room temperature, and the crisp caramalised sugar coating gives way to thick creamy yogurt, which works very well with the accompanying mango. The star of the third act, though is the Pithe. While some desserts appear deceivingly simple on a menu, and pleasantly surprise you upon arrival, others should simply be underlined and come with the instruction “Stop! Do not pass by. Go directly to the waitress and order me!” This generous portion of “Bengali rice flower pancakes, coconut, and jaggery” rounded off a theme perfectly, was ours to lovingly share, and would, frankly, be a contender for the dish to greet you at the pearly gates of comfort food heaven! I’ve said enough… Now where’s that armchair?
29 Tottenham Street, W1T 4RU