Dinner At The Calcutta Club Indian Restaurant in Nottingham
The Man Bird and I do rather like Indian Cuisine, as you may have noticed by the amount of venues we’ve visited. When we were approached by one of the finest in Nottingham we jumped at the chance to go and discover for ourselves, if they were deserving of their reputation.
Calcutta Club strives to bring you the level of food and service that could have been experienced in the hey-day of Maharaja’s and their guests at post Polo Match feasts. As well as more traditional, familiar curries that we Brits have come to know and love, the Chefs at Calcutta Club also have a wide range of their own speciality dishes on offer.
As we approached, the doors were opened for us and once inside our coats were taken to be stored in the coat closet. A gentleman showed us to our table on the upper “Veranda” level before leaving us in the capable hands of a lovely young lady who took our drinks orders. Once our refreshments had been served she gently took our linen napkins and placed them in our laps; a very nice touch I thought.
Whilst we sipped at our wine and perused the menu, I took in the venue a little better; shades of sage green, putty and cream provided the base palate, which the accessories accentuated. The Veranda has a trio of arched openings which allow you to view the Club Room dining area and appreciate its beauty. The tables have latticed back double benches that are adorned with colourful scatter cushions to provide comfortable seating for diners in that area, and a gorgeous, intricately patterned carpet covers the floor.
Up on the Veranda the dark wood floors really do stand out against the colour scheme, as do the tables that are set with double layered, pristine white linens. Quality is always evident at Calcutta Club, not least in the weight of the cutlery and the glassware; the classiness of the establishment is more than palpable, but it doesn’t scream at you. Relaxed, refined elegance is clearly the ethos here.
Behind the sleek bar you can see a plethora of Polo attire, including mallets and pads; this Polo theme continues in the menu with the starters and mains being called the first- and second- chukkas respectively.
Our server recommended that we only have one Poppadom each to nibble at if we were ordering starter courses, which turned out to be incredibly good advice - thank you Gemma :)
From the get-go Nottingham’s Calcutta Club makes its mark on even the familiar aspects of Indian cuisine. The Mango Chutney was less sweet and cloying than usual and had black onion seeds in, the onion relish was packed with fresh Coriander and had a fab kick to it, and there was just a marvellous green Apple, Mint and roasted Cumin puree whose fresh, tart note danced on the tongue.
To begin our culinary journey proper at Calcutta Club we decided on the Tandoori Lamb platter for two. This comprises three dishes: Tandoori Lamb Cutlets, Anghari Boti, and Kakori Seekh Kebab.
The Lamb Cutlets are marinated with freshly ground spices, a hint of Ginger, Garlic and fresh Mint and were simply superb. You could discern all the different spice elements, and none over-powered the other. At first glance they didn’t look overly generous in size, but they certainly took some eating so there clearly was plenty of meat on them.
Anghari Boti is Lamb fillet marinated in Black Pepper, dry roasted Cloves, and Green Cardamom. The meat was incredibly tender and the flavour was amazing; you got the heat from the pepper and clove, and then the fragrant note of the cardamom revealed itself.
Like most Seekh kebab varieties, the one at Calcutta Club was shaped in a sausage shape but this is where the similarity ended. An assortment of herbs and spices infused the minced Lamb fillet meat, along with roasted onions and peppers; this is then placed on charcoal in a Tandoor, which creates a rich smoky flavour that is a delight to eat. The spices were discernible, but not too strong that they would spend the next few hours repeating on you; this is one of the reasons I tend to avoid this dish to be honest but Calcutta Club have shown that there is another way :)
For the second Chukka we ordered Hyderabadi Chicken Dham Biriyani (The Man Bird) and Tandoori Mango King Prawns (yours truly), along with a stuffed Aloo Pratha. We didn’t order any other accompaniments as my dish came with salad, rice and a side sauce included; His Nibs’ meal came with Daal and Raita, and Biryani is rice based to begin with.
As with the first course, our mains were exquisitely presented and the smells emanating from them were incredible. For The Boy Wonders’ Hyderabadi dish the chicken fillet, Basmati rice, glazed Onions, fresh Mint leaves, and Coriander are slowly cooked in a sealed pot to tenderise them and infuse all the flavours through the meat. His Nibs really was amazed by the tenderness of the chicken and the taste of it - not to mention the generous size of it!
The real test of a cleverly executed curry lies in the combination of spices used to create a symphony of flavour; heat without tingle is not easily achieved, but Calcutta Club’s chefs are clearly masters of their art. The heat in this dish came from its cooking temperature – it was piping hotJ. Both the caramelised Onion and rice were cooked to perfection, and The Man Bird couldn’t praise the Chef enough.
Daal is something I make at home, so The Boy Wonder had to tread a very fine line as he sang the praises of the one he was sampling at Calcutta Club. His verdict was that mine just has the edge, but there was a definite twinkle in his eye as he spoke the words, and he must’ve swallowed the Daal a little wrongly, because he coughed too.
The Raita was lovely and creamy and had small pieces of chopped fresh Tomato and toasted Cumin seeds in it. Its clean, fresh flavour cut through nicely on the palate to provide a refreshing element to the dish.
Quite possibly the hugest Prawns to ever have come out of the ocean were in my dish! Their beautifully sweet, firm flesh melted in my mouth, releasing the subtle warmth of the Kashmiri Chilli element within them. Sweetness came from the Mango component of the marinade in which they’d bathed, and some pungency was provided by the Ginger and Garlic. Fresh Coriander not only lent its characteristic fragrance to the dish, but its clean taste lifted the dish in the mouth too.
As with His Nibs’ meal, my rice was cooked perfectly to just retain a hint of bite without being chewy and the dressed salad was deliciously crisp and chilled. The delightfully tasty King Prawns were robust enough to stand up to the side sauce, whose slightly sour edge perfectly partnered the sweet seafood. Again spice was judiciously used to make the taste buds dance without any uncomfortable tingle or fire.
Sometimes it’s the side orders that get overlooked, but there was absolutely no chance of the stuffed Aloo Pratha being left out of this particular party. This morsel was indulgently buttery and rich, but hadn’t been ridiculously over-stuffed with Potato. Sometimes all you can taste is the Potato rather than the bread, but there was a lovely balance between the two here. The texture was also brilliant; soft in the mouth, but dense enough to withstand being used to scoop up sauces and Daal without breaking apart.
At every course, several members of the serving team ensured that our drinks were refreshed and that we were happy with our food. Their attention to customer comfort was second to none, without being obtrusive at all, and we really did feel like honoured guests.
Given the quality of the food we’d had so far at Nottingham’s Calcutta Club, there was no way that we weren’t going to sample a dessert! We had been fed so generously though that we ended up sharing a portion of Gulab Jamun with Pistachio and Rosewater Kulfi between us. The dough balls were incredibly moreish and indulgently moist with syrup in their centres, yet not sickly. Rich and satisfying is more accurate. They were accompanied by a wonderfully creamy Kulfi, perhaps the nicest I’ve ever had, whose gentle rose taste was quite superb. Pistachio pieces provided a great textural element to an otherwise smooth dessert, and the nutty flavour was gorgeous.
We were in luck that John, one of the owners, was on the premises and he happened to come over for a quick chat when he found a spare moment. In the course of conversation it came out that Calcutta Club were heading down to London to compete in the Tiffin Cup. This is where Chefs representing different areas of the country cook for the House of Commons in a bid to be crowned the best; clearly this is going to be the year for the East Midlands to bring the cup back!
As is our usual habit, we rounded the meal off with hot drinks; Black coffee for The Man, but I decided to try the Indian tea. This is served white and the tea is infused with Cardamom and Fennel seeds. An individual white teapot, china cup and saucer, and metal strainer were placed before me, so I wasted no time in trying the libation contained within. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it took me aback by just how lovely it was; I think I was waiting for the milk not to marry with the spices, but in reality it worked incredibly well. If you haven’t tried this tea before, then I heartily recommend that you do :)
In fact, I heartily recommend that you go and have a meal at the Calcutta Club. Full stop. From start to finish we couldn’t fault a single thing, and the other diners looked to be having a similarly great time too - especially a group that were in celebrating. Given how busy it was on a Sunday evening, I would ring in advance a reserve a table, otherwise you’re at high risk of being disappointed. Hot Wings unflinchingly awarded here :)