Whatever the weather, spring has sprung and ’tis the season to broaden your mind, horizons, and indeed, waistline with the vast selection of South Asian events taking place across the capital. From eating experiences to theatrical food for thought; hands-on cookery classes to walking tours that require you to put your best foot forward; new aural pleasures to visual feasts, plan your diary wisely and well this April…
Rest assured, Michelin-trained Pratap Chahal won’t be serving up the kind of vile vindaloos you might have attempted to sate late-night beer-fuelled curry cravings with. This menu showcases Goan gastronomy in all its glory; from spongy sannas – fermented rice cakes – and real-deal vindalho, right through to Portuguese-influenced puds of doce (coconut toffee) and multi-layered, egg-rich crepe cane bebinca.
13th April – 8th May: Papi’s Pickles Market House residency
For almost a month, each and every weekday, Brixton’s Market House will house lovely South Indian eats from the team who brought you Point Pedro & Pondicherry pop-ups. Place your order at the bar, choosing from the likes of scratch-made dosas, Sri Lankan puttu with fiery fish curry, mutton rolls and much, much more; including seasonal specials and sharing platters that you’ll probably want to keep all to yourself.
If you like a lot of spices in your South Asian spread, join Curry Leaf Cafe’s Club… because if you don’t, you can’t wangle your way into the Brighton restaurant’s first birthday bash for love nor money. The evening will involve music, drink, and, of course, a lorra lorra fine food of the order locals and destination diners have come to expect from Euan and Kanthi’s dynamic venue. All the fun will raise funds for Snehalaya Children’s Care Centre in Mysore.
At Maida Hill Place, ‘Miss Masala’ will be serving up a splendid six-course supper with a substantial dose of wit and wisdom. Be sure to skip lunch in order to do justice to a menu that commences with a bracing glass of nimbu pani then takes in tandoori tikka, proper pakoras, mutton korma cooked on the bone, rice, dal, chapattis and a few more dishes for good and gluttonous measure. Be sure to save room for a fabulously fruity amrakhand finale.
17th April: Surrey Spice Supper Club’s A Royal Bengal Feast
Guildford will get a little more glamorous with the arrival of SSSC’s Royal Bengali banquet, boasting a four-course feast which sounds less modest when one discovers that in includes a welcome drink, four starters, a main course consisting of up to seven dishes, three desserts and, in case you had room for a brew, masala chai too. Expect puchkas and prawn malai curry on a menu which welcomes in Indian New Year and Poila Baishak.
Okay, so it’s slightly (very) outside the M25, but if you can make it to the wilds of Walsall, expect a bounteous BYO Indian thali-and-tandoori feast, no doubt cooked with just as much love as the Family Spice Kitchen put into creating the spices they sell. As well as all the eating, try your hand at hand-grinding spices, and blending and buying your own masalas. 100% of the money made on the evening goes to FRANK Water’s #KarmaKorma campaign.
25th April: August Indian Supperclub’s Back to Bihari Basics
Back to basics is a bit of a misnomer, because there’s nothing simple about August Indian Supperclub’s latest lengthy and lovely menu for an event whose attendees will get to relish a repast involving sixteen items. It won’t be easy, but start slowly with the starters; because you won’t want to miss mains like patna kebab, aloo bhujiya and bengun imli or decadent desserts of gajar halwa and ripe, juicy mangoes.
Watching comic melodrama Monsoon Wedding is enough to give anyone a healthy appetite, so it’s handy that host Mira will be handing out her trademark healthy fare to fill stomachs and quell cravings for Indian spice. Nice nosh taken from Mira’s cookbook ‘Green Daal Stories’ will include dhoklas, Bombay sweet potatoes, and chia kheer. For those inevitable mid-movie munchies, masala chai and turmeric-infused popcorn will be on offer.
2nd & 26th April: Deena Kakaya’s Modern Vegetarian Cookery Class
Deena’s trademark style of modern vegetarian cuisine is frequently Indian-influenced, but also incorporates ingredients and techniques from across the globe. Her three-hour evening classes will get you thinking about food and flavours in new ways whilst cooking up treats like beetroot, feta, potato and spice spring rolls, tandoori halloumi, paneer and sweetcorn curry in home-made cashew cream, and sweet shrikhand, berry and amaretti fool.
Dates throughout April: The Spice Angel’s Indian cookery classes
Whether you fancy rustling up Indian streetfood specialities, decadent dinner party dishes, classic curries, or even British Indian restaurant-style fare, MasterChef quarter-finalist Rani (the eponymous ‘Spice Angel’) offers something to suit. Intimate half-day classes take place in her Surrey home, where you can expect to get your hands dirty and your belly filled.
It might be held at Walthamstow’s Cordon Verve cookery school, but Nilanjani Dilling Pai‘s Mumbai menu will transport you to Maharashtra. Master Bombay mix-topped misal, a simple-sounding cucumber-and-peanut salad that’s deceptively delicious, aubergine raita and a very nicely-spiced pulao. Bring your own bottle to add extra piquancy to proceedings.
11th & 29th April: Jeanius Social’s Indian Street Food class
Street food is social by its very nature, as are Jenius Social’s cooking classes. Led by the resident expert head chef, you’ll learn to handle knives (and yourself) in the kitchen, marinate meat like a master, and bring balance to your flavour combinations. The evening ends with a shared-feast-cum-spicy-social-mixer.
19th April: Ren’s Kitchen’s Curry-in-a-Hurry cookery class
This intimate North London half-day crash course is small on numbers and big on hands-on participation. Starting with a Spice Masterclass, you’ll also cook kebabs, bhuna chicken, Goan fish and learn to make rice to really entice. Love what you’ve learned? Good, because you’ll head home with enough food for two.
25th April: Dinner Party Delights with Ren’s Kitchen
Master the contents of a masala dabba with Ren’s renowned whistlestop tour through an Indian spice box before commencing the cooking part of this half-day course. Along with the host’s chicken-curry-with-the-most, you’ll get to savour saag aloo, vegetable pakoras, and chapattis – all created with your own fair hands and hard labour.
With this book, abstract painter and poet Sangeeta Gupta has compellingly captured the unknown ‘scapes of the land of Ladakh, a beguiling and beautiful area that evidently occupies a large part of both the author/illustrator’s heart and mind. Richly-rendered images are paired with sparse, seductive prose; designed to ignite willful wanderlust in anyone who should have the pleasure of viewing it.
This six-strong lecture series is hosted by Jameela Siddiqi, the woman whose aim it is to illuminate the differences between classical music and its and semi-classical counterpart. Key to the concept is ‘rasa’ – the ‘essence’ of a piece; imperative for both listener and performer. The course will examine the evolution and growth of the Hindustani classical genre and its various cousins and offspring. No knowledge is required, but enthusiasm is expected.
30th April: Wild Frontiers: Kashmir & The Himalayas
It may be home to the legendary 36-course wazwan feast, eye-popping scenery, and culture a-plenty, but not many have been privy to Kashmir’s many marvels. Wild Frontiers wants more intrepid travellers to experience its vibrancy; the stark mountain deserts of Ladakh, the alpine mountains and tranquil lakes of Muslim Kashmir, the lush hill stations of Himachal Pradesh, and the Punjab’s ornate Sikh temples.
8th April: Soumik Datta Arts Club presents Suphala
This edition of the Soumik Datta-curated, free-to-attend, genre-hopping monthly music mash-up at East London’s Richmix throws focus on Suphala; a versatile, mould-shattering tabla artist whose skills have endeared her to a motley collection of collaborators including Norah Jones, Timbaland, Vernon Reid, and Yoko Ono. Suphala’s style is highly improvisational, so simply abandon expectation and let the rhythms get under your skin.
Centred around a surrogacy clinic in Gujarat, this rehearsed reading of a new production draws together a trio of women present for very different reasons. Theatre company Tamasha never shies from considering and confronting issues like modern South Asian politics and the conventions and expectations of femininity; so expect plenty of food for thought from the Pooja Ghai-produced and directed ‘Mother India’.
14-15th; 16-17th; 19th April: Twelve on tour by Kali Theatre
‘Twelve’ is not just a number – it’s a stark reminder of the figure that denotes the number of deaths from honour-based violence that take place in the UK each and every year. Kali’s brave production comprises a dozen honest, engaging, and even humorous monologues, contributed by twelve writers in response to research on real-life stories. The April tour interweaves kathak and laban dance, adding yet movement and power to the piece.
15th April: Indian Rhythm Essentials at Southbank Centre
The Southbank’s Darbar festival has been an annual fixture for fans of South Asian music since 2006; founded to commemorate Bhai Gurmit Singh Ji Virdee, who died a year earlier. To mark the tenth anniversary of his passing, the Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall is offering a rare chance to relish a performance from legendary tabla-tapper and sitar-strummer Pandit Nayan Ghosh, supported by Murad Ali Sarangi on the nagma.
17th April: Shubha Das At Nehru Centre
Mentored by her music teacher mother, Swapna, Indian classical singer Shubha Das is a compelling performer; well-versed in classic South Asian singing styles and also bringing Indian influences to the original Western-style compositions she plays on the guitar. Shubha trained under Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra, and, at this evening, she will deliver both delectable devotional music and a range of ragas in the Khayal and Thumri styles.
17th April: Navodit at Richmix
If you love catching performers teetering on the cusp of greatness, Navodit is for you; showcasing classical Indian dance from a wide range of emerging artists. Working closely with an organisation called Akademi, rising stars receive mentorship and guidance in all areas of the South Asian dance scene, enabling them to navigate a career path with as much agility as they display onstage.
13th-17th April: Majestic Landscape-7 by Rajesh Harsh at Nehru Centre
In this one-man show, artist Rajesh Harsh presents a plethora of his vivid, vibrant landscapes. Expect intense colours, bold brushstrokes and much movement on his dynamic canvases; the works as a whole described enthusiastically by eminent Indian art critic Sanjiv Nair as, ‘The angelic beauty of nature returned gracefully with meditative thoughts to the canvas with equal dignity… a crispy, vibrating sensibility…. peaceful eloquence.’
On this excursion, you’ll be going to Gujarat… well, Wembley. I’m always on about how one can experience a little India in London, and Shared City shares the same frame of mind. Commencing with chai, the adventure unravels with a trip to a hand-carved Hindu temple and a poke around the myriad retailers whose emporiums bring subcontinental style to the surroundings. Street snacks sate the stomach throughout.
20-24th April: Paintings & Sketches by Deepa Nath at Nehru Centre
Having exhibited across India and the wider world, experienced artist Deepa Nath is giving aesthetes the opportunity to experience her art at the Nehru Centre, showing work on two themes: Girlchild, an explanation of her own adolescence, and Raasa, concerning male-female relations, with intimate Karma Sutra-inspired scenes depicted in charcoal and more mediums.
- To read about the best Indian eats in London from the mouths of chefs and experts, click here
- To read about last year’s South Asian Alchemy festival on the Southbank, click here
- To read about more cookery experiences at The Spice Monkey cookery school, click here