Chic with a touch of spice

Sunetra Senior Monday 02nd March 2015 10:14 EST

Q: First and foremost, you are launching a pop-up restaurant - Calcutta Street - at Zensai Bar in Camden. Tell us more please?
A.    Yes. It will be on the 7th March, and it is an awesome place. It’s about Asian fusion food, so it’s a perfect match for me. I’m bringing Calcutta street food to the West. The venue is spacious and there will be live music, and cocktails flowing. The Bengali dishes on the menu include: lamb curry, my speciality luchis – no one in London seems to be doing that – the Kolkata egg roll which will have lots of chilli sauce, greasy but wonderful with coriander, chick peas etc, and finally Pa Bhaji which I know is from Delhi but is also popular in Calcutta! To book please see Event:
Q: So the Zensai extravaganza is your first big step into the professional world of cooking?
A: Yes! It’s the culmination of all my experience and research. I’ve been blogging since university and that has been my main outlet this far. After completing my MA from Manchester Business School, I have been working in marketing where I have done food reviews for YELP, The Sunday Times and Zomato. A huge part of my job was helping restaurants market themselves. Alongside that I’ve been exploring the food markets and gathering info. There is an in-house chef here at Asia House, the wonderful Paul Bloomfield, who I observe frequently in my lunch hours. He has inspired me and given me some valuable advice, like with the Menu for Calcutta Street. He’s a real mentor! I’ve also appeared on food shows for Channel 4 as well as travelling the world and seeing what it can offer.

Q: Could you draw from your expertise and tell us what makes a good restaurant?
A: It’s a combination of good environment and quality of the service, together with the cuisine. A great example of this is Dishoom. I feel they embody what I stand for: breaking the stereotype for Indian restaurants. Usually, there’s a corny Bollywood song playing in the background and we are not in the 18thcentury! Oh, and the elephants ornaments and sari-clad women serving you food etc. No places show the real India: the modern place with women like you and me! It’s either Michelin stars which is really posh, or just really tacky. As well as the food being authentic, the environment of contemporary Kolkata or Mumbai should be real too. English people also associate Indian food with curry and it’s not the only thing we eat! I love Flesh and Buns in Covent Garden which is fusion food: Chinese buns with meat and cucumber fillings etc. On the higher end price-wise there is Notting Hill Kitchen, but again they have excellent preparations and service.
Q: You are very stylish; I wonder, is having a creative eye a big part of cooking?
A: (She laughs) Thank you, and yes definitely. I went to a Vietnamese pop-up recently and they just told me the basic ingredients which I then tailor-made for myself – using Chinese noodles etc. As long as you have a curiosity about taste, it is EASY to cook. Actually, that’s part of the idea I have for for an app: a hand-held one which helps innovate dishes as you shop. Go with what you have and create from there. I never follow the recipe, adding my own touch. But maybe that’s just me being ambitious too, haha, because I want to gain the credit for what I’m doing!
Q: Your blog tells us you came over from Calcutta with ‘suitcases and spices’. Tell us about your love for cooking?
A: Well, I grew up in Calcutta, and moved out to Mumbai when I was sixteen. Growing up, my mum was a fantastic cook and not everyone is good at it. I know it sounds typical to say your mother is the best, but she really is great! At sixteen/seventeen, food isn’t the first thing on your mind and you do take it for granted so it wasn’t until I did move out that I appreciated the difference! Making quality dishes is really difficult. I’ve watched my mother cooking from a young age and that was really useful when I travelled to England to pursue my degree. Reality struck as things were really expensive as a student. I was cooking for myself. From there, my friends began to ask me for help with little dinner parties and gatherings. In fact the mother of the fella I was dating at the time encouraged me to start a video blog – of course she didn’t say that in so many words because she didn’t know what that meant; it was more like “you should set up so people can watch you cook.” (I laugh). People were saying “this is good Indian food”. So I bought a little web-cam, up-graded to a better camera and off I went.
Q: So, from the past to the present: Where do you see yourself in the near future?
A: Pop-ups over the next six months, and then my own restaurant. I will also do more TV work as I have a passion for presenting. I don’t like the idea of secret recipes. Every time I have the knowledge, I want people to know.
Q: Finally, what is your advice for other young entrepreneurs?
A: Do your research properly but then it’s time to be fearless. Don’t be scared.

Shrimmy’s Signature secret

Welcoming as she is, Shrim left us with a mouth-watering recipe for one of her most-in-demand dishes: “there has not been one time when someone has disliked it!” –

Pav Bhaji: Pav: Get some tiger buns or regular buns, break them into halves and heat them in the pan with some butter. You want the inside to turn sort of red and slightly crunchy.
Bhaji: Chop veggies – Onions, peppers, tomatoes, chillies

Boil and Mash Potatoes Add butter in a pan (2 tbs) and saute the veggies starting with onions Add the mashed potato and then add some garam masala, salt and lemon juice. Mash the whole thing up together and then add a dollop of butter, chopped raw onions and some fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with the buttered buns.

For more info see: Twitter: @shrimoyeec • Web:

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