I have been eagerly awaiting the launch of Calcutta Street like a child waiting for Christmas pressies. It gives me particular pleasure and pride to write this blog as I tap into my inner Bengali roots and write about the food I grew up with and love. I can honestly say that it is Bengali food that developed my palate and shaped the foodie that I am today! The meal I had at Calcutta Street was truly an emotional one and a taste of home away from home.
The interior design of the restaurant is minimalist, with subtle details inspired from the heritage and art of Bengal.
Shades of blue and green compliment the white shutter doors and dark wooden furniture creating a contemporary palette, while indoor palm trees give a nod to Bengal’s coastal connections.
Most impressive of it all are the chandeliers and lamps made up of traditional hand fans or ‘haath – paakha’ bringing a touch of rustic Bengal to the place – very clever!
The restaurant was heaving when we arrived, and for some guests it was their second or third visit – proving its immense popularity in only its first week of launch!
I ordered a Prosecco (served in an impressive cut-glass goblet) to kick off the evening while I carefully perused the attractively designed menus.
It even came with a description of Bengali Home Dining, introducing us to Kolkata’s culture and social customs!
We were offered complimentary ‘Jhaal Muri’ to begin with – a popular Bengali snack made with spicy puffed rice, potatoes, red onions, chilies, crispy bites, spices and lashings of mustard oil. It is one of the most popular Bengali street foods and the BBC even published an article about it recently.
Calcutta Street’s version was scrumptious and flavourful but perhaps slightly mild to what I am used to. I appreciate that their chefs would have to tone it down to suit Western palates but I would have preferred mine with a wee bit more kick. Having said that, it was hugely reminiscent of my childhood days and the many evenings spent quietly savouring this roadside snack.
Our meal at Calcutta Street was off to a promising start and I couldn’t wait to try their food.
Skipping the small bites, we dived straight into the mains – starting with some ‘Kosha Mangsho’. This is traditional, slow-cooked, Bengali-style lamb curry. The slowly simmering process gives the dish its signature depth, flavour and richness.
Calcutta Street’s rendition of this Bengali staple was absolutely spot on! The taste was very authentic (I use this word wisely) and cooked like one would expect from a home cooked version. The meat was tender and fell off the bone quite easily. The whole spices and fragrant, fresh coriander blessed this dish with its splendid aromas. Husband couldn’t stop drooling and we practically fought over the last piece of meat!
We also ordered another Bengali delicacy – ‘Prawn Malai Kari’ – tiger prawns cooked in a creamy coconut sauce. The prawns were the biggest and the juiciest I have ever eaten in London. This dish was a firm favourite of the evening and especially reminded me of ‘Golda Chingri Malaikari’ from back home.
On enquiry, we were informed that all the seafood in the restaurant was sourced daily from Devon and cooked to order, which explains why everything was so fresh and succulent.
Alongside our mains, we also ordered some sides: ‘Musurir Daal’ and crispy shoe-string potatoes fries or ‘Alur Bhaaja’.
The Daal was very typical Bengali – very different to the ‘Tadka Daal’ you find in the many curry houses of London. This one is much thinner in consistency – subtly flavoured with turmeric, green chilies and lemon. The result: a fresh, hot, steaming bowl of wholesome, nourishing goodness, almost soup like in texture and taste. I could happily have bowlfuls of that any day.
A key thing to point out here: the lemon used in the daal was not just any ordinary supermarket lemon but one that was especially flown in from India. My fellow Bengalis reading this blog would recognise the name – ‘Gondhoraaj Lebu’ or ‘Aroma King Lemon’. Not many people outside of Bengal would know about this subtle touch, which further reinforces the authenticity and sincerity of Calcutta Street’s dishes.
The crispy fried potatoes were a great accompaniment to the Daal, adding texture to its soupy consistency. Heaven!
Another dish that looked equally tempting and definitely on my list of must-try-next-time was the ‘Macher Paturi’ – fish steamed inside banana leaves. I remember my aunt prepare this as a special dish for guests and spotting it on the menu of a London restaurant was surreal! Calcutta Street’s version is made of sea bass, with lots of mustard and coconut.
And for all seafood and shellfish lovers, look out for that crab kari or ‘Kankrar Jhal’ – you definitely want some of that!
For dessert, I was again gobsmacked to see ‘Malpua’ feature on their menu.
These are Bengali-style soft, fluffy pancakes soaked in syrup. It reminded me of how much I adored ‘malpuas’ made by my grandmother as a kid! This one came sticky and sweet from the underlying syrup and the subtle flavour of the banana gave it a smooth finish.
A very pleasant mouthful when you take a bite – my only recommendation would be to serve it with a dollop of ice cream which will make this complete.
I cannot end this blog without mentioning its founder. Calcutta Street is the brainchild of Shrimoyee Chakraborty. One can truly appreciate and applaud her passion and vision for this place. She brings an infectious exuberance while feeding her diners. Respect.
Kudos to her for bringing authentic and hearty Bengali cuisine to the heart of London’s Fitzrovia.
I would highly recommend visiting this newest little gem to stir up feelings of nostalgia (if you are a fellow Bengali like me) or to sample a relatively lesser known but nevertheless refined regional cuisine. Calcutta Street will surely leave an impression on you!