It is a strange concept that what we have come to know and accept in UK as Indian cuisine is unheard of in some parts of India, but it all started at the time of the British Raj and the newly opened East Indian Cafe transports you back in culinary time to the food that our ancestors ate daily. It is quite important to understand ones history here.
1858 System of Governance
The ‘System of Governance’ was instituted in 1858 when the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown of Queen Victoria. Britain and India have been enjoying a very close relationship ever since.
It goes without saying that the lifestyle that the British Raj had was phenomenal, especially when it came to dining. This includes a variety of items for breakfast, a quick lunch for office workers and commuters and a full dinner table surrounded by servants, cooks and butlers who were known as the Khansamas.
The cooks relied on local suppliers and would then transform the food into unique, mouth-watering food that their Masters would enjoy and it is here that the East India Café has brought to us the recipes and creations of the Khansamas and wow, was we in for a treat.
Housed at 103 the Promenade the location is central to town and inside the whole place is candle lit with soft music giving a real intimate atmosphere that is ideal for couples. The interior design is strongly influenced by the Raj period with colonial antiques in the lounge waiting area whilst the dining area has vintage art from the era with large map of the indian continent on the wall dating from 1881. Our table was housed by the fire place and looked amazing and comfortable.
Upon arrival we were greeted with a welcome drink of passion fruit that was refreshing and was well received this was followed by a Amuse Bouche (Mouth Amuser) and was that a real surprise, this small ball of flavour exploded in the mouth that was a real experience.
7 course taster menu
We opted for the 7 course taster menu being that it would give us a range of the cuisine that was offered and it was definitely the right choice.
The first course is known as Nastha (intro) which originated from the streets of Kolkata and our first dish was the Jhal Muri that was served in a cone, inside was a mixture of three different types of fried lentils, puffed rice, sev, red onion, tomato, coconut, pomegranate and cilantro. All shaken up and served with ingenious bent spoons that made the dish highly entertaining but the taste was sublime, I would’ve happily eaten that all evening, and would make a great fast street snack food in Cheltenham.
Next came the Phuchka, a round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with mixture of masala chickpeas, baby potato and cilantro served with Cafe’s Special Phuchka Masala, Green Chutney & Birds Eye Chilli pickling water.
Adopting the ‘when in Rome’ it was only right that I ordered one of the cafe’s special cocktails so opted for the Viceroy Thirsty, named after the esteemed Lord William Bentinck who with Raja Ram Mohan Roy helped to suppress the Suttee (widowed woman) custom. this amazing cocktail is made with juniper and citrus, Old English Gin’s rich plum, raisins and rosewater, with a finish of pomegranate, lemon, mint and rosemary garnished. Wow, it was good!
We then went onto the starter which had selections of Fried Calamari with mixed peppers, pepper corn, green chutney, garlic mayo; Shikampuri Kebab, with hang yogurt, cilantro and mint stuffed, red onion & rosemary raita; romano pepper, red onion, mint and coriander chutney. all tasted just wonderful and were totally different to one is used to in a Indian restaurant. There then followed an interval with a serving of Lemon Sorbet to cleans the palate before the main course arrived.
The main course arrived that consisted of Lamb Raan, cardamom, nutmeg and Rezala sauce; Spice crusted Sea Bass Fillet, with Coconut, Methi seeds and Alleppey sauce; Goat & Camembert cheese, roasted Aubergine steak wrapped cashew nut sauce served with Kedgeree & Roti. Each dish was perfection with its own individual explosion of flavours that left amazing tastes in your mouth and all complimented each other quite well. the final course was dessert with Vermicelli with saffron milk; Ice Cream; Masala Chai.
Unbelievably we had been sat there for just over 3 hours whilst sampling one of the best menus I have ever had.
Now the East India Cafe is not a curry house and in fact does not serve traditional Indian food that the British have now come to know as Indian cuisine, here you will get a taste of what it was like to eat like our forefathers did in the British Raj, so be prepared for a totally relaxing evening with great atmosphere and ambience, with some of the best food in Cheltenham and staff to match. You will not be disappointed.
East India Cafe
103 The Promenade
Cheltenham GL50 1NW
Telephone 01242 300 850