Calcutta Canteen by Darjeeling Express will open mid-November at 74 Broadwick Street. It has been confirmed that the café will remain open until late February; Khan says that it could also remain thereafter.
“We are not sure if the site at Broadwick Street will remain a café as the building above is going to be renovated,” she said. “I definitely want to continue and may look at moving to another site in the west end after February. So fed up of not getting decent tea — London has so many great coffee places!”
Khan also confirmed that she closed the Calcutta Canteen outpost at the Market Halls food court in Fulham in August. That site opened in May.
The new café will serve food taking inspiration from Khan’s north Indian and Bengali heritage. Described as “holistic, nourishing, and packed full of flavours and textures,” the savoury and sweet snacks, and tea can be eaten either in the cafe or sold to takeaway.
The menu will feature pau buns — a bread roll stuffed with four kinds of fillings: vegan potato, cashew nut and curry leaves; vegetarian beetroot chop; masala omelette; and beef mince. The buns will be served with a green chilli and coriander chutney and tomato relish. Pau, which means bread in Portuguese, dates back to the 16th century, when the Portuguese settled in Bengal and Goa.
For this latest project, Khan has partnered with self-taught baker Tarunima Sinha of My Little Cake Tin. Sinha will provide all of the cafe’s baked goods. Designed to “celebrate her Indian heritage,” the cakes will include masala chai flavoured bundt, Indian spiced shortbread cookies, and pistachio biscuits.
“I am so excited to expand in Carnaby, from my first permanent restaurant in Carnaby’s Kingly Court to now a café on Broadwick Street. I consider Carnaby home and my new opening is way for me to serve authentic Indian home cooking to Londoners and tourists alike,” Khan said in a statement today.
Khan will also serve Darjeeling Express’ masala chai and non-alcoholic apple cider alongside tea from the chef’s ancestral tea garden in India, which is now owned and run by her aunt. (The organic tea estate recently won a certificate protecting the habitat of local elephants and providing a safe passage for the herds.)
Finally, mirroring Khan’s efforts at the restaurant where she gives a platform to female chefs with her Sunday supper club series, she will host a community wall in the new café — it will be a space for women to display seasonal food and condiments next to her new cookbook, Asma’s Indian Kitchen.
Simon Quayle, director at Shaftesbury, the landlord, said that he was happy to have another site from Khan, following the success of her debut restaurant. “Having given Asma the opportunity for her first restaurant, the very successful Darjeeling Express in Kingly Court, we are delighted to welcome her new concept, which will offer something very authentic, and different from anything else on offer in Soho,” he said.