Roop Partap Choudhary wants you to feel at home. “I wanted this restaurant to be an extension of my living room,” he tells CulturAll at a special evening of art and tasting in the bedecked private dining room of his new restaurant Colonel Saab. Judging by the decor, Choudhary clearly lives with the distinction of being a collector of stories as well as cuisines.
Located in Holborn’s old Town Hall in London, Colonel Saab is a restaurant bringing together foods and flavours from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan as well as art from across the sub-continent. All of which describes and highlights the journeys Choudhary took through his childhood as his family followed his father, Colonel Manbeer’s, military postings.
That experience has created a small litany of curios and self-contained stories from the sub-continent: chairs made of camel bone, embroidered deeds to land sealed by maharajas, portraits of jesuit missionaries, solid silver temple doors, tea chests and art-deco drinks cabinets designed to facilitate the last orders of the British Raj.
Having a curated plethora of objets does not make the restaurant unique, but their stories and the family feel do. As well as the portraits of previous generations, centuries of regional variations also look down on you: “what people don’t understand about India is that our language, our religion, our eating patterns, our culture, changes every 200 kilometres,” says Choudhary. “As my father was posted in so many different cities and countries, food was an integral part of my household.”
The menu is less inspired by the restaurants of those regions and more by the local cooking of friends and the new “aunties” he made along the way. “For me the food is derived from all the lovely kitchens and ladies and homes that fed me as a child.”
The living room feel is certainly there: the restaurant feels cosy and intimate with less than two hundred covers and a secluded sedan style mezzanine to overlook the small forest of chandeliers that ensconces the main dining space. The food itself is also delicious: CulturAll particularly enjoyed the Luknowi Kofta and the Pakeezah cheese we were able to sample, as well as the cocktails expertly forged by Antony Bertin.
However, perhaps the most enjoyable element is the sense of overall craft. Bringing art and food together is a story as old as India itself, Colonel Saab is no radical in this sense but by making this a personal and shared curation they’ve shown why that confluence will always be worth celebrating.