Ming Tang-Evans

Food & Drink

Jason Allen 12/10/21


Darjeeling Express

NOTE: Darjeeling Express has now closed in order to find bigger premises Рwatch this space. In the meantime, you can find chef Asma Khan cooking at her Darjeeling Express pop-up, or you might want to explore the many more great restaurants in Covent Garden, as well as amazing Indian restaurants across London.


Darjeeling Express started out as a series of supperclubs, the brainchild of the now-legendary self-taught chef Asma Khan, who wanted to share the flavours of her childhood in Kolkata and her Mughlai ancestry. Over half a decade she honed her skills,¬†garnering some strikingly good reviews before going on to open her first bricks-and-mortar spot in Carnaby’s Kingly Court. After appearing on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, her fame reached stratospheric levels, leading to daily queues outside the restaurant and visitors from across the globe booking months in advance for a table.

The solution? Move to a bigger place.

Now she’s done just that, unveiling Darjeeling Express 2.0 in a Grade II listed building on Garrick Street, in nearby Covent Garden. It’s an airy space, decked in evocative plaster hues of pink and cobalt blue, splashes of greenery, and elegant, art deco-styled wooden details. Despite the upgrade in setting, however, the restaurant’s staying true to its roots. The kitchens are still run by an all-female ‘team of housewives’, and you’ll likely see Asma herself pottering about, greeting guests and sharing a little of the history behind each dish. For a truly intimate experience, you can book into the Sunday supperclubs, which she still runs at the restaurant. There you can join a biryani feast (as featured on Chef’s Table), or even get to try some new dishes that are in development. Which brings us nicely to…

THE FOOD

The dishes here are firmly entrenched in Asma’s childhood experiences. The lunch menu is inspired by the long-distance train journeys she made with her family in the 70s and 80s. As they chugged out of Bengal, chai sellers and street food hawkers would board and alight the train at each stop, bringing new regional flavours with them as the train passed through. To this end you’ll find classic street food like Bhel Puri with puffed rice, vegetables and a tangy tamarind sauce; larger dishes like the kati roll stuffed with Shammi kabab (a Mughlai dish with Syrian roots); and striking sides like the rose-hued beetroot raita.

For dinner, you can plump for a three course set menu or a ‘Royal Thali’, a 12-dish feast inspired by traditional wedding and celebratory banquets. Served on a beautiful copper platter, there’s slow-cooked tamarind dal, Bengali prawn malaikari, and Tangra chilli garlic prawns, whose Indo-Chinese spices reflect the fact that Kolkata (where they originate) is the only Indian city with a Chinatown. There’s a full veggie alternative, too, for any non meat-eaters.

THE DRINKS

With so much flavour in the dishes, Darjeeling Express’s drinks menu is pared-back but thoughtfully chosen: English sparkling wines, well-picked bottles of white & red from across Europe, and beers from White Rhino, India’s first craft brewery. Star of the list, however, is a creamy mango lassi made with Greek yoghurt and fresh Alphonso mangoes.

We expressly recommend it.

 

NOTE: Darjeeling Express has now closed in order to find bigger premises Рwatch this space. In the meantime, you can find many more great restaurants in Covent Garden, as well as amazing Indian restaurants across London.

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Carpe Diem!


Darjeeling Express


2a Garrick Street, Covent Garden, Central London, WC2E 9BH




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