Darjeeling Express – Curry is big business in Britain and it is believed, that there are more Indian restaurants in London than in Mumbai. London is home to some of the best Indian restaurants, with 5 of them being listed within the 67 Michelin Starred (2020) restaurants. Making your mark in such a competitive and large market is not easy but one name has managed to attract a lot of attention in the last 2 years – Darjeeling Express and the lady behind it Asma Khan. So let’s find out more about Darjeeling Express – London & Chef’s Table – Asma Khan

Darjeeling Express - London & Chef's Table - Asma Khan
The Restaurant – Darjeeling Express

The first I heard about Darjeeling Express was when I watched it on one of my favourite Netflix series – Chef’s Table. Straight away I was hooked onto it and could not wait to experience it myself. What a powerful story about a woman who migrated to this country, worked with like minded women and found her way into world of food in a city like London.

Asma Khan is the first chef from Britain to appear on the popular award winning series Chef’s Table on Netflix. Now that is an achievement when you consider she did not have a professional chef’s background and started her journey with a dinner of 12 guests in her dining room.   

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Darjeeling Express - London & Chef's Table - Asma Khan
Chef’s Table – Asma Khan

About Asma Khan.

Asma hails from a royal background in Indian and moved to Cambridge in 1991 to join her husband. She completed a law and went on to do a PhD in British Constitutional Law from King’s College London.

As a passionate cook she registered her food business and started a supper club from her residence in Kensington. This was followed by a pop up in Soho and she finally opened her restaurant Darjeeling Express in the heart of London in 2017.

Asma Khan - London
Asma

The Team of Darjeeling Express.

What strikes you most about Darjeeling Express is the all women team behind the kitchen. These are mainly housewives with a passion for food and have been working together since day 1.

Darjeeling Express London
The All Women’s Team – Darjeeling Express

Darjeeling Express and the Calcutta Food connection.

The Restaurant.

The restaurant is located in the heart of London in Kingly Court of Carnaby Street. Kingly Court is a 3 storey alfresco food and dining haven in the heart of London and attracts food lovers from all over the world and London.

Kingly Court London
Kingly Court – London

The restaurant is located on the top floor with an open kitchen where you see the magic happening. Earthly coloured and cosy it gives you a feel of the close knit staff and management. With limited seating it is one to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

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The Food in Darjeeling Express.

The menu at Darjeeling Express is a true reflection of Asma’s Mughlai ancestry and Calcutta street food. Being born and brought up in Calcutta myself could relate to the menu and couldn’t wait to taste the food. From the popular street food of Calcutta like Puchka and papri chat to the nawabi dishes like Dum Biryani it is a food paradise.

The menu also reflects some of the more traditional culinary delights of Bengal like the Mutton Kosha Mangsho and Beetroot Chop. Please check the menu on the website as these may change from time to time.

Darjeeling Express - London &   Chef's Table - Asma Khan
The Menu

Is Darjeeling Express suitable for vegetarians? Yes. There are vegetarian options as well on the menu so it is suitable for vegetarians.

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The Biryani Supper Club.

What got me most existed about Darjeeling Express, when I watched it on Chefs Table was – The Biryani Supper Club. Being a Calcutta Biryani fanatic myself I could not wait to get to the supper club.

Asma hosts a supper club twice a month on a Saturday and the highlight of this is the Kolkata style Lamb Dum Biryani (with potato).  

Biryani – The word ‘biryani’ is derived from a Persian word, birian, which means fried before cooking. A popular rice dish with its origin among the Muslims from the Indian Sub-Continent. A dish that resonates with celebrations and festivals. It is made with rice, Indian spices and any meat (chicken / lamb / fish/ goat).

Kolkata Biryani -
Kolkata Biryani

Did you know there are over 50 different types of Biryani in the world? The most popular ones are:    

  • Lucknowi, or Awadhi.
  • Kolkata Biryani.
  • Hyderabadi Biryani.
  • Malabar Biryani.
  • Thalassery Biryani.
  • Ambur Biryani.
  • Memoni Biryani
  • Dindigul Biryani.

The Biryani Supper Club Experience – Darjeeling Express – London & Chef’s Table – Asma Khan

Some come here for the food and some for Asma’s stories. It is a great experience where you get a bit of history about her food – which comes from recipes from undivided India and have been in her family for generations.

In her words – “I cook the food of Western Uttar Pradesh, which is where my paternal family hails from, Calcutta, my birthplace, and Hyderabad, a city I lived in for five years.

Darjeeling Express - London &   Chef's Table - Asma Khan
Asma tells her story.

Menu of the Biryani Supper Club

Starters – Onion Bhajia / Shikhampuri Lamb Kebab on a fluffy Paratha followed by Puchka or Pani puri.
Mains – Lamb Dum Biryani with Beetroot Raita and Mirchi ka salaam. Desert – Suji ka Halwa (Semolina sweet dish). Darjeeling Express Bar – It has a bar that serves a wide variety of beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) To finish it off – the good old Indian Chai.

The Dum Biryani is brought out to the seating area in a sealed pot and opened in front of the diners. As she opens the lid – the room is filled with fragrances of exotic Indian spices and saffron. Biryani is served on your table and is practically unlimited servings.

Darjeeling Express - London & Chef's Table - Asma Khan
The Biryani is rolled out.

A perfect reflection of the Indian Hospitality where you sit together and share platters of food as a family. It is what she calls a Daawat (Urdu word for a celebratory feast for a large number of people)

Darjeeling Express - London & Chef's Table - Asma Khan
Dum Biryani – Supper Club

The Verdict

It was one of the most amazing food experience I have had and if you are a Biryani enthusiast then this is surely one to add to your list. Add the stories and a chat with Asma and it becomes an unforgettable afternoon.

Quite rightly she said – You may forget the Biryani but you will remember the stories and the experience of the Biryani Supper Club.

Asma Khan and thetrraveller
Asma Khan and the trraveller

There is a long wait to join the supper club so get on that list now – Experience the magic of Darjeeling Express and Asma Khan.

Address: Kingly Court, Carnaby St, London W1B 5PW, United Kingdom. Phone: +44 20 7287 2828 Website – Darjeeling Express

If you loved Asma’s Story why not read about another master chef – Ivan Orkin – The Best Ramen in New York .

Ivan Ramen - Chef's Table.
The Best Ramen in New York

Fun Facts about Darjeeling Express – London & Chef’s Table – Asma Khan

  • Darjeeling Express offers free use of the premises on Sundays to women who are aspiring chefs to host supper clubs.
  • Asma was named as one of the 100 most influential women in UK hospitality list.
  • Second Daughters Fund a non-profit organization that encourages families in India to celebrate the births of second daughters is supported by Asma Khan.
  • Her debut cookbook – Asma’s Indian Kitchen – is a collection of authentic Indian recipes and won the World Gourmand prize for best Indian cookbook in 2018.
  • Evening Standard, Daily Mail and the Financial Times have hailed the food at Darjeeling Express.
  • Filming for Asma’s episode of Chef’s Table took twenty days – ten in India, and ten in the UK.
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40 COMMENTS

  1. I knew there were a lot of Indian restaurants in London. But would never have guessed they exceed the number in Mumbai. And even better to know that many of these have great Indian food. An appearance on Chef’s Table is certainly a great way to draw in new visitors to the Darjeeling Express. I do love when the kitchen is open and you can see the chefs at work. I am sure that a visit to the Biryani Supper Club was a delight and an amazing food experience. And wonderful that you got to chat with Asma.

  2. I have heard that there are many Indian restaurants in London which might even given tough competition to Indian restaurants in India. I love such restaurants which are managed by food enthusiasts and therefore love to visit Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express. Not only the decor is very beautiful, food too looks tempting. I loved their way to cook biryani in true authentic way by wrapping the utensil with flour covering. By finishing such a delicious dinner with Indian type of chai would be my choice too. I was knowing only two popular Biryanis, Lucknowi and Hyderabadi, never knew there are others too. Thanks for sharing other Biryanis too.

    • Agree there are some great Indian restaurants in London which can give some of the best Restaurants in India a challenge. The Biryani at Darjeeling express is very authentic.

  3. I haven’t heard of Darjeeling Express before. I must visit this place, it looks fantastic. I love Indian cuisine. Its outstanding flavors and dishes, so in these restaurant, I will definitely discover a lot of meals for me. I like the menu Menu of the Biryani Supper Club. And the history of Asma Khan and the team of all women behind the kitchen is excellent.

    • The all women team is something great and unique to Darjeeling Express. Hope you can experience the great food soon.

  4. Can’t wait to visit Darjeeling Express and taste the Calcutta style biryani. Will definitely watch her on Netflix Chefs table.

  5. I read about her culinary journey and its incredible that how she sailed through.. And her culinary skills are worth to mention I am sure. Infact I saw the movie.

    • Yes a great culinary journey and was very well portrayed on the series. Glad you liked the movie

  6. Last two visits to London was spent staying at our relatives place and our dinner was mostly at home. So we never ventured out into any Indian Restaurant. Now that they have moved out Darjeeling Express would surely be a must visit for us when we are there next time. I love the ambiance, the Biryani and the Calcutta connection as we now stay in Calcutta.

  7. Hahaha! I remember a quote that said something like, the reverse effect of colonialism is that the favourite food of most Britishers is Curry & Chicken Tikka!!!! So yeah, no wonder there are so Indian restaurants there.
    Interesting to know about the life of Asma. Daawat is indeed the right term there. The Biriyani supper club is a super-duper concept. I can imagine the awe of any person who doesn’t know of Indian cuisine, to sit there and look at the Biriyani lid been opened and mixed!!!!

    • It’s an absolute treat for someone who has never experienced the traditional way of seeing biryani being prepared and served.

  8. An article after my own heart and stomach – comes at the right time as we love indian food and I especially love a good biryani. We are in London in 2 weeks and I hope I am able to get to try it. It is also inspiring to know the story of Asma and how she started with humble beginnings.

  9. Great food. I love how the food looked , I have always loved Indian food, even though never tried any Indian food outside India.It seems like the Darjeeling Express will have some great food and options. Asma Khan seems really sweet and love her story too. I would love to give her Darjeeling express a visit when I am in London.

  10. Wow, being a Indian food lover , I would definitely love to have all my meals in a Indian restaurant specially when in a place like London. The food looks so amazing and that biryani made me drool lol. Am definitely gonna visit this place when in London next time

  11. Such a great experience that you had! I love Indian food so I’d love to try the dishes at Darjeeling Express. It’s great to read story about Asma Khan and how she started it. Also, I’m surprised to know that there are over 50 different types of Biryani, must try more!

    • It’s a great place to try Indian food and the story behind it as interesting. Hope you can visit it soon.

  12. The Biryani Supper Club sounds interesting as I like biryani with lamb. It looks like a great experience since Ashma talked about her personal stories of the food. I also like the name of the restaurant – Darjeeling Express. Which British doesn’t know the name, right?

  13. I love a good biryani and was not aware of such a place in London. Thanks for sharing the supper club. Will look to book it soon. Rajesh

  14. Asma’s story is very impressive — I think it is amazing that she has gotten such a reputation as a chef in a top city without any formal training she must be very talented! I would love to try the Darjeeling Express, I’ve had some of the best Indian food ever in London it truly is a part of British culture. The setting in Kingly Court is also interesting and looks very lively.

    • It is a great setting in food haven Kingly Court. You must try the Indian in Darjeeling Express for sure.

  15. I usually don’t like rice because here in Romania we are not used to eating it too often. But seeing all these gorgeous foods that look so great, I think that I might take the chance to eat the local dishes at the Darjeeling express. Good for them they have opened such a great place in London and share the India cuisine with the world.

    • I can see your point and where you coming from but it’s always great to try new cuisine and foods from around the world.

  16. Indian cuisine is my favourite cuisine in the world. Lucky we are heading to the UK this year and will definitely visit the Darjeeling Express. I did not know that there were 50 different biryanis. My favourite starter is onion bhajia and your one looked so good. Thanks for the article

    • You must book in advance if you are planning a trip to London and want to visit it. Yes I was surprised myself there are so many versions of biryanis.

  17. I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!! I’m so jealous – what a wonderful experience! I also saw Asma Khan on Chef’s Table and I’ve been DREAMING of visiting her restaurant – what a legend! That biryani looked amazing, I’m dreaming of tasting it someday. I’m so so so happy for you that you had such a wonderful time!

    • I hope you enjoyed the episode on Chefs table as I surely did. Hope you can experience the supper club one day too.

  18. It’s great to hear the chef’s story and how she made success with Darjeeling Express and I love the fact it’s an all women team! I’d love to try the The Biryani Supper Club Experience too and see if it was too hot for my Western palate! It’s great she offers the use of the premises to aspiring lady chefs!

    • It’s a great place and a story I must say. Helping other aspiring ladies to work towards their dream is great initiative

  19. Can’t wait to visit this beautiful food paradise. We will surely visit once we back to normality.

    • Hope we get over this pandemic soon and we can enjoy our favourite eating places once again.

  20. I really like your blog. A great discovery and a very interesting blog. I will come back to visit you.

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