Chef and co-founder, Anjan Chatterjee presents his finest traditional and contemporary Kolkatan cuisine and we sat at the chef’s table inside Chourangi for a private dining experience.
With 130 restaurants in 5 countries, Anjan Chatterjee is no stranger to the world of hospitality. Yet, Chourangi is Chatterjee’s first venture in the UK and has been introducing Londoners to the delights of Kolkatan cuisine, since its opening in 2021.
The concept behind Chourangi is quite simple – allowing diners to explore the flavours and ingredients of Kolkata’s unique culinary tradition. The cultural capital of India’s history spans three centuries of rulers, overseas traders, and immigrant workers. The result is a fusion of British, Dutch, Armenian, French, Portuguese, and Chinese flavours in one proverbial melting pot. The restaurant is located metres away from Marble Arch in London.
As I sip my Old Quebec cocktail, which is like a Negroni but with coconut rum and mezcal substituted for gin, I begin to admire the ambience of this large and busy restaurant. The décor is reminiscent of Kolkata’s British heritage clubs and its well-known coffee houses; whirring ceiling fans, limestone floors and rattan teak-stained furniture complete the colonial interior look.
On a wall is a series of vintage photographs of the city in the 1930s. One image, in particular, catches my attention; among a bustling street with motorcars is a zebra pulling a hackneyed carriage. With its unperturbed passengers dressed from head to toe in white linen, the photo epitomises for me why Kolkata is India’s ‘City of Joy.’ It’s where tradition, history and old-world charm co-exist. The experience of joy can also extend to the city’s cuisine.
Anjan Chatterjee personally introduces the starters and main course dishes. We begin with the Lotus Stem Sweet Potato Chaat; it’s a tasty savoury street food snack made with sweet potatoes, yoghurt, pomegranate, and soya chilli sauce. Next, it’s Tangra Chilli Chicken; a spicy yet sweet, and sour oriental dish. Chatterjee returns to show the guests an unusual looking maroon coloured, cone-shaped fruit. He explains that the edible blossom of the banana flower is used to create our next starter: croquettes with mint sauce. We also sample tasty prawn cutlets with a creamy kasundi mustard dip.
For our mains selection, we have Aam Kasundi Aubergine; roasted eggplant cooked in Kolkata five-spices, turmeric, and red chilli. It’s a dish that’s packed with flavour. Tonight’s seafood dish is a Prawn Malai Curry – succulent tiger prawns in cinnamon, bay leaf, and coconut sauce. The meat offering is Kosha Lamb – the tender meat falls off the bone and is slow-cooked in thick yoghurt, green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sauce. For lentil lovers, the Grand Trunk Black Dal is a palate pleaser. The Urad lentils are simmered overnight and finished off with cream, and butter. There’s also Jackfruit Biryani. Granted, it’s not your typical layered rice with chicken or lamb, which is why the use of this exotic fruit with saffron, rose, cardamom, mace and nutmeg make this a dish worth tasting. Finally, for dessert, we have Aam Bhapa Doi, a delicious mango pulp steamed yoghurt that finishes off the meal.
While there is an extensive wine list available, if you’re in the mood for cocktails, Chourangi has quite a selection. Aside from the Old Quebec, the perfect aperitif, I would also recommend Aam Kashundi Harmony. It’s made using rum, Aam-Kashundi, lemon juice and a little sugar. If you prefer your cocktails sweet, you might like to try Indigo made with coconut rum, Amaretto, pineapple juice, coconut, and Blue Curacao syrup. Non-alcoholic mocktails are also available.
In a nutshell
Anjan Chatterjee and his team at Chourangi seem to have all the right ingredients: great tasting food, friendly service, and a shedload of atmosphere. If you like Indian food, you’ll love Kolkatan cuisine for its subtle differences in flavour. Chatterjee is decerning in his creation of both old and new dishes and while the menu at Chourangi is wide ranging, you’ll be pleased to know that coronation chicken is off the menu.
To discover more, visit: chourangi.co.uk
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All imagery courtesy of Chourangi.