What: The Indian supper club of the same name has moved in to its first permanent site at bustling Kingly Court on London's Carnaby Street.
Who: Owner Asma Khan is a trained constitutional lawyer who turned self-taught chef when she moved to the UK from her native Calcutta in the 1990’s. The Indian dishes at her London supper clubs have been winning plaudits for years, and are now available daily cooked by her all-female kitchen team - housewives and second-born daughters Asma is training up.
The vibe: The restaurant is open seven days a week and has taken on a bright but cosy space on the top floor of Kingly Court. It might have progressed to a proper site but Darjeeling Express hasn’t forgotten its supper club soul. Asma is a warm presence on the dining room floor, offering recommendations and explaining the story behind each to dish. While she doesn’t drink alcohol herself, there are plenty of friendly waiting staff to help with the extensive wine and cocktail menu. The open kitchen gives the restaurant a buzzy atmosphere and offers the chance to watch her team in action.
The food:The menu contains homages to Asma’s royal Mughlai ancestry, family recipes and Indian street food, and will change every eight weeks. There’s an interesting story behind every dish, whether it be personal or anecdotal. A starter of chilli garlic prawns (£8) infused with Indian and Chinese spices is inspired by Calcutta, the only city in India with a Chinatown area. Puchkas, a street food snack of wheat and semolina shells with chickpeas and potatoes, are filled with tamarind water and eaten in one go. Main dishes range from £10 - £16 and feature traditional Bengali recipes such as slow-cooked goat curry (£16) and prawns cooked in coconut milk (£15). Desserts are all £5 and include stewed hunza apricots with cream.
And another thing: As part of Asma’s mission to support Indian women the restaurant donates a portion of its profits to a charity helping second-born daughters in the Darjeeling district in Bengal.