If you can, then you should. A can-do attitude is all that is needed to eat with your heart’s content some super delicious street food from Calcutta, right in West London. Nicely located in Fulham’s brand new Market Hall, Calcutta Canteen is chef Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express follow-up promises to all kinds of Indian street food for the folk of Fulham.
Unbeknownst to many a food lover that Calcutta (now called Kolkata) was the capital of the British colonial empire in India until 1911. Now the busy and bustling capital of the Indian state of Bengal – Kolkata continues to be a food-lovers’ paradise and most of the paradisaical small bites are prepared and enjoyed on the streets of this City of Joy, as fondly called.
From politics to poetry, from football to oddballs, stirring up a storm on a tea cup is part and parcel of the essential Bengali ritual of ‘adda’, which has a near-match translation in English as ‘chit-chat’ or ‘light hearted banter’. But all of the English terms fail to convey the true spirit and fervour of the Bengali word ‘adda’. Perhaps grabbing a bench in front of the Calcutta Canteen over some street foods will be a good opportunity to experiment what this ‘adda’ is!
The location of Calcutta Canteen could not get any better. A short walk from the Fulham Broadway underground station, the new Market Hall hosts around 10 bars and kitchens and Calcutta Canteen is one of them. With free seating in the food court, you have option to choose from the mouth-watering menu at Calcutta Canteen.
We were quick to start the proceedings with the tantalising Tangra Garlic Chilli Prawn. It was love at first bite when we had this starter at Darjeeling Express previously so there was not an iota of doubt to order it immediately when we found it being featured in the Calcutta Canteen’s menu. As main dish, we ordered the luscious Lamb Thali and for drinks we ordered Canteen Masala Chai and a cold bottle of Limca, the quintessentially Indian soft drink.
The food was swiftly prepared with love and attention by Calcutta Canteen’s all female culinary crew, a fundamental aspect of Asma’s staffing approach. We tucked in as soon as our buzzer rang and lo and behold. The moment of truth made us realise that the hunger of the eyes could have been better served had the portions were a bit bigger. At a handsome £11.5 for a meal of railway styled Lamb Thali, the yearning heart and the hungry tummy would have been pacified better if the Thali would have hosted some more basic items such as chapati and raita (In traditional Indian thalis, they are a must) for example.
Under the omni-present shadow of the mothership Darjeeling Express, we were compelled to compare the taste. And except the champion Tangra Garlic Chilli Prawn, the Lamb Thali proved itself to be a hunger buster but not a heart winner. Finally, we believe that eating out is more about the overall experience and not only about the food. We wish the Canteen could have offered with some authentic elements of the Calcutta street life. May be some memories of the streets of Calcutta– something along with the food, which would have looked and felt more like Calcutta street perhaps. Guess if we were blindly content with the food, we would not have looked around for fancy frills such as decorations but hey, when you eat out, you eat an experience, not only food on the plate.
Fresh from the oven, Calcutta Canteen opened its doors only in April in 2018. Obviously, it is only going to improve and bring the best of the Indian street food experience to the Londoners. Next time round, we intend to try out something new. Tanusree had tried out their famous Chicken roll on a solo-date there and mighty pleased with it. If you can, go to Calcutta Canteen now to calculate the joy of Indian street food for yourself.0