From Supper Club to Restaurant – Little Kolkata brings Bengali Dishes to London:
It must be about a year ago that I was invited along to a supper club, Little Kolkata. Navigating the maze that is Docklands on a wet and wintery Saturday night seemed like utter madness until I finally arrived at the sanctuary of Davy’s, which had been transformed into a Kolkata jazz venue for the evening with live music and wonderful food. I did wonder at the time whether founders Prabhir Chattopadhyay and Biswajit Deb Das would be considering a permanent venue. Sure enough, Little Kolkata opened a few months ago, tucked away just off Covent Garden.
It’s taken until now for me to actually make it to Little Kolkata – more than a ‘Bengali Canteen’ with funky seating and a quirky bar, yet still unassuming and simple.
Prabir was born in Kolkata and his grandfather comes from a long line of priests who have served at the 15th-century Kalighat Kali temple in Kolkata. He grew up watching his family prepare and cook elaborate temple food in Kolkata, but moved to the UK in 2006. After successfully running a series of sell-out supper clubs across London he’s now launched a restaurant with the same name, Little Kolkata, to bring some of the supper club favourites, his family’s food and more to London on a permanent site. I went along with Madeleine, who has also been to one of the supper clubs, so we could try a few more dishes and pick some of our old favourites out.
Starting with drinks, I enjoyed a Saffron Spritz made with saffron liquor, rosé and prosecco. It’s a fine and delicate aperitif and an excellent choice for me. Madeleine’s Mocktail, which I believe was Guava Molly (Guava Juice, Coco cream and Lime Juice) looked rather more substantial, if refreshing.
We started with a plate of Doi Papri Chaat, which both of us remembered from the Little Kolkata supper clubs – crispy pappadum topped with spicy potatoes, yoghurt, tamarind chutney sev and cucumber and garnished with pomegranate. It’s a street food dish that I love and could happily feast on all day long.
Tangra Chilli Chicken was another dish I remembered from the supper club. This Calcutta Style Chilli Chicken originates from Calcutta’s China Town Tangra – it’s the only one in India. The result is dishes like this sticky spicy fusion chicken which could just as easily come from a high-quality Chinese restaurant. Another one for all day feasting.
College Street er Maacher chop is a kind of cod fishcake which comes with strong Calcutta mustard sauce called Kashundi. College street is part of Calcutta which is known for its fish fry and I suspect that is where this dish originates. Perfectly crisp on the outside and deliciously soft and flaky inside, I enjoyed these Indian style fishcakes far more than I’d anticipated.
Murshidabadi Chicken Moghlai is one of the signature dishes of Little Kolkata. A whole baby Chicken is cooked in a cashew nut and saffron and rose water, resulting in a delicate, fragrant dish with a deliciously creamy sauce. A tribute to the Mughal influence on Calcutta this is as visually stunning as it is delicious.
We enjoyed the rich, buttery and truffle infused porota too and scoffed our way through a whole plate of luchi – Bengali puffed bread.
My personal favourite of the savoury dishes was the Golda Chingri Malai curry – a fragrant dish of jumbo prawns in coconut cream. That’s on my list for next time.
Those with a healthier appetite could do worse than the Kalighater Kosha Mangsho – a slow-cooked stew of goat meat in a rich tomato infused sauce. Another family recipe so we discovered. I suspect this dish would have been better later in the day, the goat wasn’t quite as tender as I would have liked. But that’s the challenge of an all-day dining menu.
Along with various side dishes, we were pretty much defeated by the time we finished the savoury dishes but agreed to share the beautiful Park Street Kulfi Falooda with almond, pistachio and gulkand (a sweet preserve of rose petals).
We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Little Kolkata but what comes through more than anything is the exuberant enthusiasm of the two owners and their passion for the food they are presenting. That, for me, is everything – and I have faith that they will succeed both because of the quality of their food and because of their dedication
51-53, Shelton Street,
London, WC2H 9JU
Looking for something different – we recommend Yauatcha City for great Dim Sum