Little Kolkata Turns One
by Laura Evans - Sunday October 13, 2019 5:10 pm
To celebrate, the centrally-located Bengali canteen is dishing up a bespoke 7-course tasting extravaganza
Entering to the lyrics of Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl being belted out by an accomplished singer, we’re seated by an enthusiastic server and take in our surroundings.
Comprised of several areas, vintage monochrome tiles line the capacious space, and framed family pics dot the multi-coloured walls. “It’s such a higgledy, piggledy city that combines old and new,” says co-owner Biswajit Deb Das. “That’s what we want here.”
Inspired by Calcutta and its cuisine, the small plates menu features the likes of street hawker-style fuchka (crispy semolina filled with spiced potato) and jhal muri (puffed rice, green mango, peanuts, and Bombay mix), kucho maach (whitebait with masala and kaffir lime), and keema khichuri (minced lamb with basmati, lentils, and seasonal veg).
And they’ve recently launched a thali offering consisting of two choices: at a penny short of a tenner there’s the regular, and the grand is yours for just a few additional pounds.
Both include the daal of the day, beetroot and mixed vegetable fritters, kachumbari salad, curry, papad, and chutney. Fancy sipping on a glass of fizz? That’ll add a mere £4 onto the bill.
The team caught their break after hosting a series of supper clubs in 2015. Things grew dramatically from serving 10 pals, and they decided to take the next step and find a permanent premises.
And this month will see the gang “go back to their roots with a two-day anniversary pop-up,” says Biswajit.
As the band entertain with an eclectic set ranging from Ed Sheeran and Amy Winehouse to Rhianna, proceedings begin.
Do start with a cocktail: we recommend their chokher bali, a heady blend of white rum, passion fruit puree, and vanilla sugar.
And definitely go for the matching wine pairing – a generous selection including a smooth but dry Prosecco, a tropical off-dry New Zealand Riesling, and a fruit-packed Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon.
First up, we dig into attractively plated tokri chaat, where an expertly created crisp nest encases a mixture of potato, cucumber, tomato, red onion, mint, pomegranate, coriander, and chilli.
Super fresh and textural, it’s a flavoursome start. With veg and meat options available for each remaining item, we can’t resist choosing one of each, and are presented with stir-fried Indo-Chinese chicken and broccoli – both glazed in spring onion and pepper sauce – succulent jumbo king prawn surrounded by a pool of coconut cream that has a pleasing kick, and cauliflower florets in a fragrant cashew and rose water gravy.
We devour the cod fishcake – a plump sphere combining spuds and fish – with dollops of zingy kasundi mustard for dipping, before greedily munching on the mocher chop – a lightly crumbed vegan banana flower croquette with sweet, tangy tamarind to accompany.
Delicate, yet earthy and aromatic, this is the surprise of the evening.
Cottage cheese dumplings arrive coated in a nutty, creamy sauce – fluffy, with chunks of pistachio throughout, this is a deceivingly light course.
Eight hour slow-cooked boneless goat proves to be a heavier alternative, but don’t let that put you off: rich, tender, and with notes of clove and cardamom, enjoy with a spoonful of pilau.
And for those who prefer chicken, there’s the signature biryani cooked in bamboo, flecked with juicy thigh and pieces of hard-boiled egg. It’s a Birthday well-marked, showcasing the diverse food of the region.
We leave the bustling restaurant and head out into the windy night to the sound of Justin Timberlake. Full and happy, we’re keen to return to sample more of their authentic Bengali fare.
Little Kolkata, open daily at 51-53 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9JU. More info. Their anniversary supper club is taking place Sat 19th Oct & Sun 20th 1-4pm, £45 or £65 with drink pairing. Tickets here.