As the nights draw in long, and dusky mists settle over London town, the season is ripe for cozying up in the warm environs of a traditional English pub. On just such a bent we found ourselves down at the newly refurbished Sun & 13 Cantons for Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express year residency to enjoy some properly authentic Indian food.
It’s not every day you are waited on by the chef in a restaurant, but Asma finds the time to speak to and serve her customers face to face, which adds a definite personal touch to a dining experience which is deeply routed in the Chef’s very personal rediscovery of their motherland. Chatting with her it became clear that the Darjeeling Express is a condensed culinary journey through Asma’s royal kitchen experiences and memories of her motherland from Calcutta to Hyderbaad.
Part of a new generation of lifestyle-forward menu’s, Asma has labelled all dishes dairy-free, nut-free and gluten-free, offering everyone an easy ride on the dietary check-list! The menu is broken down into starters and main’s with bold classical drinks such as Nimbu Pani, a slightly eggy fresh lemonade with sugar and a touch of Himalayan sea salt, garnished with fresh mint leaves. Typically this would be a common street drink consumed to help with dehydration during the hotter month’s of the Indian climate.
Being a passionate authentic recreation of Indian food, the flavours are lighter and more delicate on the palate than one might normally associate with Indian food in this country. No dish was excessively or overly spicy, but the cuisine held a tone of deep and gentle heat throughout our meal. Our personal favourites were the Beetroot Chop, rich and spicy beetroot croquette served with smoked chilli & sesame chutney. The rather moreish Dahi Puckas (not dissimilar from dahi puri we’d tried elsewhere), the delicate Shorshe Chingri (sweet prawns), and the deep spicy richness of the Goat Rogan Josht.
Considering the quality of the food, and the care and attention Asma shows to her cuisine, this is a steal, and makes for a great week day treat. Considering the price and the Soho location, it’s now wonder Darjeeling Express was full on a Tuesday night, so book in advance to avoid disappointment.