Calcutta Club – Indian – Nottingham
Calcutta Club shares a number of things with Memsaab; its location is next door, Calcutta’s creators opened Memsaab in the 90s and the battle for customers in the top end of the Nottingham curry market. The ‘real’ Calcutta Club is a polo club established by soldiers British in India in the mid 19th century. This serves as the inspiration behind some elements of the restaurant, and its biggest influence is the surroundings with the heavily wooded Raj décor apparent throughout. Signs were good as we were seated and ordered a round of Meantime Pale Ale’s, a nice change from the standard Cobra and Tiger (which were also available).
The stock starter of choice is always an Indian mixed grill or ‘platter’ as they termed it here, the options were for a specific lamb or chicken version, of which we chose the former. Lamb cutlets, fillets and seekh kebabs came prettily presented with a few smears of well flavoured sauce. All were well cooked; the seekh’s were particularly good packed with more spice and taste than many you get. It was of modest size compared to the competition (Cumin’s is massive!) and I generally favour a rustic sizzling plate where you get the added attraction of onions having soaked up all the flavour.
The arrival of the mains brought table Tetris, you tend to find that rice, breads, curries never quite fit in the allocated space. Somehow we managed it without needing to relegate to the windowsill. We had chosen 4 dishes from the ‘Club Specials’ section of the menu. My choice was a Lamb Nihari, slow cooked lamb with turmeric and Nihari masala spice mix. On arrival I was surprised that surprised to find the lamb was on the bone, this was fine with me but I could understand that it would put some people off as it wasn’t mentioned on the menu. If only that were the main issue with the dish. The sauce was a rather unattractive shade, somewhere between battleship grey and Khaki and particularly thin. This pallid looking number redeemed itself little in the flavour stakes and I struggled to detect that much spice have been employed at all. My dining partners gave a second opinion…which was even less favourable than mine.
However they were mostly happy as they had chosen much better than I. A trio of chicken dishes were being enjoyed and I tried some of each, they must have taken pity on me. A saag was classic but well done, Suka-Masala Chooza was also good but it was Punjabi Karahi that stood out for me as a vibrant dish with lots of tomatoes and peppers giving a fresh note. A Peshwari naan was enjoyable, well cooked and the right balance of sweetness. I decided to order a dessert, partly to give a chance for redemption, partly as I was left unsatisfied. Gulab Jamun is a dumpling-like dessert which came prettily presented with Bellini ice-cream. The sticky sweet balls were well spiced with just the right level of cardamom although despite the ambition a vanilla ice-cream would have been a more successful pairing than the peach.
I left Calcutta Club with a feeling of disappointment. True I was unlucky with my choice, other dishes were significantly more successful creations, but at £12.50 for a curry (excluding rice etc.) there shouldn’t be any dishes as poor as my Lamb Nihari. We must bear in mind that it is still early days, and I am sure that the front of house will improve under the experienced stewardship of John. The main issue comes back to my first point, competition. When I next fancy an Indian meal there are several places that now rank higher to visit. I may return, but probably not soon.
Restaurant website: http://calcutta-club.co.uk/