Chourangi is located around the corner from the ill-fated Marble Arch Mound and opened to visitors around the same time, in the fall of 2021.
Luckily, that’s as far as the similarities go – the mound appeared half finished, became a national laughingstock and is now dismantled, while Chourangi is a rather charming place and seems to have all the right ingredients for a bright future.
Named after an old neighborhood in Kolkata, Chourangi bills its menu as the “unexplored flavors of India”. That slogan isn’t far off: there are only a handful of Indian restaurants in London serving cuisine from the port city of West Bengal, where hundreds of years of historic trade and colonial activity have left their mark. culinary influences from all over Europe and China. The result – food-wise – is an intriguing mix of flavors and textures.
Useful for the uninitiated, Kolkatan dishes are highlighted on the menu and apart from a serving of steamed rice, these were the only dishes my partner and I ordered.
The heavy weight brought by the mustard flavors is almost immediately noticeable in our selection. There’s the Chingri escalope, a dish of large breaded prawns whose warming spices are spiced up with a light mustard dip. Or kosha mangsho, a bone-in lamb curry with a deep flavor and enriched with marrow, where mustard oil enhances its mild heat.
Where the mustard really sings is at the start of the aam-kasundi – springy chunks of eggplant in a mango-mustard sauce. Here, the tangy flavor pierces like a spear – almost powerful and oddly more indulgent.
Elsewhere, a range of textures await. The aamada maach is all about smooth – bite-size pieces of crumbly sea bass in a creamy sauce – offering a delicate fishy flavor first, then a tangy sucker. At the other end of the spectrum are breaded mocha croquettes, which provide a delicious crunch, but have a much milder flavor. They’re vegan, but offer real meat with their mix of banana, coconut and cinnamon florets, all offset by a delicate mint kasundi dip. Somewhere in the middle of the two is the sweet but crunchy kalonji naan, sprinkled with slightly numbing nigella seeds.
Aside from the occasional strong hit of mustard, the flavors on our menu have never strayed from being overpowering or particularly pungent, instead focusing on interest – the sparkling black cardamom that trickles down to the creamy paneer dahi kebab kofta ; or the fizzy acidity of curdled milk in mango bhapa doi, a ‘classic’ Kolkata dessert that deserves a place in anyone’s order.
Chourangi’s decor is inspired by Kolkatan architecture and suits its upscale location at Marble Arch. Light cream walls, dark green furniture, rattan chairs, and structural flourishes on its ceiling and mirrors create a luxurious space, especially in the evenings with its warm lighting and soft jazz playing in the background.
To the side is a sparkling bar serving an interesting range of cocktails that I would have liked to sample – particularly the ‘Harmony’ aam-kasundi, if its eggplant namesake is anything to go by.
Chourangi may aim to bring “unexplored” flavors to London, but its menu will have wide appeal, not just for adventurous diners. It comes at a cost – before service charges, and excluding our drinks, our meal came to around £48 pp. Despite this, my main regret is not tasting more from the menu – at least we now have a Marble Arch attraction worth visiting.
Chourangi, 3 Old Quebec St, London W1H 7AF; chourangi.co.uk