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Darjeeling Express! India?! No, this time we didn’t go to India, but finally to London again!

I’ve been looking forward to it the whole time. It wasn’t the sights of London that first came to mind when I thought about my trip, but a very special restaurant that had been on my mind for a long time and which I really wanted to visit – 

Darjeeling Express!

Since watching the Netflix series Chef’s Table episode starring Asma Khan, from India, I have been fascinated by her story, her bravery and her food. A trained lawyer, she discovered her love for food in London, her newly adopted home. Driven by homesickness, she organized her initial supper clubs at home. 

I found out that she would be reopening her restaurant in Soho just around the time I would be in London. I booked a table straight away.

Every journey starts with the first step.

Mine was a food journey that started in front of the TV and found its way into reality.

Food – My way of connecting with the people and their stories.

Although I did not personally meet Asma in the restaurant, many interesting and unique stories awaited me there.

For example, I met Poh and Pessi, both retired, originally from Hong Kong but who have lived in London for over 35 years. Poh still imported clothes from Japan in Hong Kong, but worked as a real estate agent in London through the years. They both love Berlin and a simple question about how they would know Asma Khan led to a lively conversation about food, travel, life… They had known Asma Khan’s kitchen for six years, when she offered her food in a London pub. They have remained true to her over the years and have always followed her whenever a change of restaurant was due.

As soon as I entered the restaurant, I felt a pleasant atmosphere. Everything was decorated in light beige tones and the tables by the window really looked a bit like they were in one of the Darjeeling Express carriages.

As the second-born daughter, Asma is committed to helping disadvantaged women in India and set up a foundation to promote girls’ education. Only women cook in Asma’s restaurant and I could see them cook in the open kitchen. The wonderful aroma of Indian spices gave me the feeling of actually being in India. 

I ordered the Calcutta Roll – Chicken Kati and savored every bite of it.

At the next table, I struck up a conversation with May, Maco and their friend from Japan. All three looked as if they had stepped out of a Japanese fashion magazine. I looked at them curiously and simply asked if I could take a picture of them because I found them so fascinating. They felt very flattered and so we started talking. They told me that it was their first time in Europe and London. They also knew Asma from the Netflix series Chef’s Table. They loved Indian cuisine as much as I did, so we spent some time chatting about Japanese culture, food, Asma…

That afternoon I had not only eaten amazing Indian food, but also learned about the people who dine there.

When I got home, I opened Asma’s cookbook and copied her “Anda Curry (Hard-Boiled Eggs in Gravy).”

As I cooked, I remembered with a smile all the moments and people I had met in London…

… food is connection.

food is memories.

Post Author: Anna - Katharina