Chourangi is located around the corner from the ill-fated Marble Arch Mound, and opened its doors to visitors around the same time, in autumn 2021.
Thankfully, that’s as far as the similarities go – the Mound appeared half-finished on completion, became a national laughing stock and is now being dismantled, whereas Chourangi is a rather charming place and seems to have all the right ingredients for a bright future.
Named after an ancient district of Kolkata, Chourangi bills its menu as the “unexplored flavors of India”. That tagline isn’t far off: there are just a handful of Indian restaurants in London serving cuisine from the West Bengal port city, where hundreds of years of historical trade and colonial activity left behind culinary influences from across Europe and China. The result – as far as the food goes – is an intriguing blend of flavors and textures.
Helpfully for the uninitiated, Kolkatan dishes are highlighted on the menu and, aside from a portion of steamed rice, these are the only dishes that my partner and I ordered.
The heavy lifting done by mustard flavors is almost immediately noticeable in our selection. There’s the Chingri cutlet, a chunky breadcrumbed prawn dish whose warming spices are piqued by a light mustard dip. Or the kosha mangsho, a bone-in lamb curry with deep, marrow-enriched flavor, where mustard oil enhances its gentle heat.
Where the mustard really sings is in the aam-kasundi begun – springy aubergine chunks in a mango-mustard sauce. Here, the tangy flavor pierces through like a lance – almost eye-wateringly potent, and strangely moreish.
Elsewhere a range of textures await. The aamada maach is all softness – bite-sized cuts of friable stone bass in a creamy sauce – at first offering a delicate fishy flavor, then a sucker-punch of heat. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the breadcrumbed mocha croquettes, which yield with a delightful crunch, yet have a much more gentle flavor. They’re vegan, but offer a real meatiness with their mix of banana florets, coconut and cinnamon, all offset by a delicate mint kasundi dip. Somewhere in the middle of the two is the kalonji naan, soft but with a crunch, and peppered with gently numbing nigella seeds.
Aside from the occasional strong shot of mustard, our menu’s flavors never strayed close to being overpowering, or particularly hot, instead focusing on providing interest – the tingling black cardamom that ripples through the creamy paneer dahi kebab kofta; or the twinging tartness of curd in the mango bhapa doi, a Kolkata “classic” dessert that deserves a place in anyone’s order.
Chourangi’s decor is inspired by Kolkatan architecture and suits its upmarket Marble Arch location. Bright, cream walls, dark green furnishings, rattan chairs, and structural flourishes on its ceiling and mirrors create a luxurious space, especially in the evening with its warm lighting, and smooth jazz tinkles in the background.
Over to the side is a gleaming bar serving an interesting range of cocktails that I now wish I’d sampled – particularly the aam-kasundi “Harmony”, if its aubergine namesake is anything to go by.
Chourangi may be all about bringing “unexplored” flavors to London, but its menu will have a broad appeal, not just for adventurous diners. That does come at a cost – before service charge, and excluding our drinks, our meal came to about £ 48 per person. Despite that, my main regret is not sampling more of the menu – at least we now have one Marble Arch attraction worth returning to.
Chourangi, 3 Old Quebec St, London W1H 7AF; chourangi.co.uk