Above the buzz of Carnaby Street, tucked away on the top floor of Kingly Court, the home-style Indian restaurant, Darjeeling Express made its grand debut on the London restaurant scene in late 2017.
Owner and mastermind chef Asma Khan introduces authentic Indian cuisines rarely found in restaurants —partition-era Mughlai food and Kolkata street food— in a space reminiscent of ancestral Havelis in India. Alessio Nardi of A-nrd Studio studied the traditional architecture and home decor from Asma‘s heritage to put together the natural look of Darjeeling Express.
The colour palette of the intimate space comes from golden hour scenery of India, where warm, earthy soft tones come alive. This palette is complimented with the cerulean blue of Indian train stations and of Darjeeling Express’s namesake train. This colour combination is also reflected on the table tops and the Chai bar, all made in polished dyed concrete true to one of India most used materials alongside brass which is also used for table tops, light fixtures, and ironmongery.
All the picture frames exhibited in the restaurant are part of a photographic series by Ming Tang Evan, a friend of Asma. The photos capture moments of a trip the two friends took together through Asma‘s growing up places in India. The chai pots that adorn the shelves are also a dear gift from one of Asma‘s friends which hand-made every single one.
Look up and you’ll see the simplicity of Indo-Vic torian architecture. The ceiling features fans, hardwood beams, greenery and pot ter y typical of Asma’s ancestral home and India in general. When your host or hostess guides you to your table, you may be seated at bench-like booths, inspired by the typical seating of the Darjeeling Express train. But these seats are also adorned with mismatched textiles in the same earthy tones of the restaurant and hand-dyed fabrics that remind Asma of home. The variety of prints represent the richness of pat tern and design found in India.