It is impossible to watch the Asma Khan episode of Chef’s Table and not be impressed by her as a chef and, somewhat more importantly, as a human. The first British chef to have an episode dedicated to them, Asma’s story is a fascinating watch. Born into an Indian royal family, she moved to the UK unable to cook and trained as a lawyer. A return trip back to India followed whereupon she learnt to cook the royal Mughlai dishes from home cooks, then came back to the UK to continue practicing law, started some supper clubs and gained some very famous fans of her food. Those supper clubs turned into residencies and eventually a fixed restaurant, first in Soho and now relocated to Covent Garden. What stands out from the Netflix show is how she uses her platform to empower other females within the industry. Most of the team in her restaurant are women, many of whom are immigrants. It’s a brilliant watch if you haven’t seen it already. 


I’ve wanted to eat Asma’s food since I read a review of her residency in a Soho pub. It seemed unlike any food doing the rounds at that time; homely, without pretence, it reminded me of the food our neighbours would occasionally knock the door with as I was growing up. The building that Darjeeling Express now resides in is a vast space of rooms and high ceilings. The dining room is petrol blue and dusty pink, with flecks of marble and art deco touches. Asma is on the floor, talking to tables and making sure it runs smoothly. It’s reassuring, in much the same way that dinner at Le Gavroche often features Michel Roux Jnr doing the rounds. 


The food arrives all at the same time, covering the table with a smorgasbord of spice and aromats. The dish they recommend as essential is the one is the one that least impresses. Dahi Papri Chaat is served on individual wheat crackers with a tamarind and green chilli chutney which I found too sweet to fully enjoy. By contrast I do enjoy the Puchkas, similar to Pani Puri, the crisp puffs of wheat contain chickpeas and potato into which a tamarind water is poured. They zip and refresh in equal measure; we fight over the last one. I lose. 


Mutton Shammi Kabab Kati Roll is a loose mix of heavily spiced mutton wrapped in a double-layer of paratha and an omelette. The heat is well judged and the mutton robust in flavour. If I lived close by this would be my lunch most days. Perhaps the star is the Methi Chicken curry, fragranced and slightly nutty. The chicken thighs gently cooked and with real flavour of the bird. Knockout good, we mop up the last of the sauce with parathas stuffed with spiced potato. 


Lunch with a couple glasses of good wine clocks in at just over sixty pounds, which given the portion sizes feels like exceptional value. We both loved the meal and added Asma’s cookbook to our collection on the way out. Inside are many of the recipes from Darjeeling Express, stripped back and accessible for even the most novice of cooks. It’s almost as if she is passing on the knowledge taught to her in India. Good cooking doesn’t have to come from years at catering college, it can come at any age, from a love for food and a desire to nourish the souls of others.