Excitingly different Calcutta Street is worth the wait
Under the glow of the BT Tower, cosy restaurant specialises in home cooking and street food from the north-east of India
28 November, 2016 — By Tom Moggach
Flavours of north-east India: Calcutta Street in Tottenham Street
AN explosion of crab shell, hands soaked in scarlet sauce. My Calcutta Street meal was the messiest since childhood – and that’s a glowing compliment.
The restaurant is just three months old and specialises in home cooking and street food from the north east Indian state of Bengal. It’s a cosy place tucked away near Goodge Street. We pitched up for dinner, pushing open a secret door built to look like painted wooden shutters.
The décor is simple and imaginative: hand fans for lamp shades; wooden carvings; family photos; splashes of bright colour against the white walls.
Jazz played gently. The place was nearly full, both here on the ground floor (no bookings) and on the level below (reservations taken).
Picking a seat by the window, we looked up to see a pink glow from the lights on the BT Tower.
Calcutta Street is the creation of Shrimoyee Chakraborty, a young female chef determined to wow London with the flavours of her childhood in Calcutta. She started hosting supper clubs at home, before taking the plunge here with a venue in Tottenham Street.
The menu showcases regional dishes you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. Beverages include “shortbots”, a list of soft drinks you can spike with a shot of alcohol.
Aam Poora, for example, is made with green mangoes, black salt, mint and soda – with the option of adding a tot of Old Monk Rum.
We kicked off with snacky starters: homemade chutneys; aubergine fried in chickpea flour; dinky chicken thigh kebabs; fried whitebait with cumin and chilli; one-bite semolina balls filled with spiced potato and tart tamarind.
On paper, it sounds like a flurry of feisty flavours. But the seasonings were rather flat – no kick or oomph, as if the chef had forgotten to check.
We waited an age for our main courses. Service, it must be said, was haphazard and stretched on the night we visited.
The place cried out for someone to take charge of the room – to meet and greet, to check orders were flowing smoothly.
Main courses were excellent. The crab dish, Kankrar Jhal, was an absolute beauty – the crustacean smothered in a rich, heavily reduced sauce of tomato, onion and spice.
It was tricky to eat. I held the saucy claws in my hand, cracking and crunching to prise out the sweet flesh, then I shoveled up the sauce with a spoon.
Kosha Mangsho, a lamb curry, felt like the real deal – just what you would eat in Bengali households.
The tender meat was cooked on the bone, so was best eaten (again) with your fingers.
We were too full for pudding, but these include pancakes, hotcakes and yoghurt with fresh mango.
As an overall dining experience, Calcutta Street was patchy – at least when we had our meal.
But it’s nearly there. The atmosphere is warm and the food is excitingly different.
Expect to pay around £20-25 per head for three courses, before drinks.
29 Tottenham Street, W1T
020 7636 2744