By the railway arches of Cheltenham Road, surrounded by greasy spoons and take-aways, this new-wave Indian restaurant jumps out, screams out loud and demands your full attention.
The name, the lighting, the incredible conceptual interior design; everything about this restaurant breaks the mould.
Oh Calcutta destroys the stereotype of the traditional wallpapered British curryhouse, and with its gorgeously illuminated sleek and modern decor it sets the scene for maybe one of the best Indian meals you’ll ever have.
The vibrant red walls and Bollywood classics projected directly on to the wall are offset by subdued grey stone slab tables and cream bench seating that runs the length of the restaurant.
The way the seat backs are latticed and lit up through hundreds of little squares provides a perfect example of how the restaurant combines practicality and style to powerful effect, and there is nothing superfluous in this really original and breathtaking design.
Although it’s roomy enough to accommodate large parties, Oh Calcutta is cosy and intimate. The management are thorough, the waiting staff are attentive and, nine times out of ten, you get excellent service.
On busy weekend nights the place is packed out with a mix of students, middle-aged couples, young professionals and work-parties, if this is the case service can take a little longer.
The extensive menu presents the very best of regional and classic Indian cuisine. Some of the chefs’ daily specials (all £12.95) are so extraordinary they change your perception of Indian food altogether. For instance the lamb nehari, cooked with ginger and spices, really raises the bar.
The selection, quality and presentation of fish dishes here is amazing –not always the case at your average curryhouse. Top marks go to the machli jalfrezi (spicy Bengal fish).
Even if you don’t go for a fish special, you should certainly sample some seafood while you’re here, even if it is just in the form of a starter like the bindya chingri - a good helping of spiced tiger prawns for a very reasonable £4.
If you’re a sucker for flamboyant presentation, go for a tandoor dish which come out of the kitchen on sizzling skillets. The main menu section is neatly divided into tandoor, regional and fish and there is a helpful heat-guide to ensure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
When you consider the impressive quality of the food here, the prices are fair. Sides cost an average of £3 and mains £9. They also have an early or late discount of 20 per cent off between 6pm and 7pm or 10pm and 11pm. Plus all dishes come with pilau rice as standard, which can keep the bill total down.
For a traditional lager accompaniment to your meal you can choose from draughts of Kingfisher or Cobra, priced £3.25 a pint. The bottled Tiger beer is also a popular choice and slightly cheaper at £2.95. Mixers are served as doubles for £3.90 and bottles of wine start from a medium-sized selection at £11.95.
The Last Word
A momentous curryhouse that's as stylish as a film-set, with food you won't forget. A meal at Oh Calcutta is pretty hard to beat as an all-round experience.