The London Diaries 1… The Chowzter Fast Feasts and the Genesis of the Trip

This post is for my mother who reads my posts the moment I write them and discusses them with me when I call her, for a very dear friend who whatsapped me the other day saying “Kalyan…I keep checking your blog EVERYDAY for a new post’ ,and for Pallavi, whom I don’t know, but who I heard was wondering why I hadn’t posted for a while…it’s for folks like you that I keep writing…been a bit slow her as I am dividing my writing time between the blog and some other writing assignments.. but thanks for indulging and egging me on


It’s my dad’s 30th death anniversary today. 30 years through which he made his presence felt every day. 30 years through which my mother stepped in for him.

This is a post I had written about him 5 years back.

A good day I thought to catch up on some of the memories from my recent trip to England. It’s been a bit more than a month since I returned. I had written about my return to Canterbury, the town of my birth and then moved on to the Barcelona stories. The London tales remained unwritten. Posting pics on facebook (do join in to see more regular updates) and twitter (do follow @finelychopped for more) while travelling dulled the urgency to share. There was so much to do and so much to write after I returned. The Barcelona posts, the Finely Chopped Walks, new stories to post, features to write which I am   quite excited about. One of the reasons why I have declined event blogger dinner promo invites and reviews after I returned to Mumbai.

We lived in Canterbury and Liverpool when in the UK. My dad told me that we did go to London for the Durga Pujas.

So what did I go back to London and UK almost 34 years after I last went there?

Well I had gone over as the guest of Chowzter to attend the  2013 Tastiest Fast Feast Awards.

Chowzter is a very unique group set up last year which leverages the world of food bloggers. Simply put, it is a site which is based entirely on a network of food bloggers from across the world. They have identified food bloggers across the world to represent various cities as the ‘Chief Chowzter’ for the city. Currently I’ve been lucky enough to represent Mumbai as the Chief Chowzter for Mumbai. Which is great as one of the things that I have tried to do through the blog is to share my favourite bits of Mumbai with the world at large. Chowzter offers one a platform to do so. As it does to the other Chief Chowzter I am sure. Here is the list of the Chief Chowzter from across the world

The philosophy of  Chowzter is based heavily on the world of blogging. A philosophy that believes in going by the recommendations of individuals one trusts. Recommendations which are quirky, reflective of personal biases, passionate but not exhaustive….it is not about lists or listings or directories here …it is about personal tastes of folks whom you might connect with…for the rest you have the various faceless yellow pages that exist.

The Fast Feast Awards, which I was a part of the jury, awarded restaurants from across the world which were nominated by the various Chief Chowzter and then audited by the Chowzter team. India had quite a few nominations in the final global list such as Mumbai’s Khane Khaas’s tandoori chicken, A1 samosas, Kirti College Vada Paos, Malvani Aswad’s pomfret fry and fish curry and Kolkata’s 6 Ballygunge Place’s Pabda machhed jhol.

We had a winner too with Ritz Classic in Goa’s mutton vindaloo winning the best curry award . As the only person from India around I went and proudly accepted the trophy on their behalf. You can read more about the event held in the Village Underground in Shoreditch in this article. Here’s a list of all the award winners & this is a video link to what happened at the awards night.


There were a number of interesting meals and market visits organised by Chowzter CEO Jeffrey Merrihue (who loves Indian food) and the  team around the event. I attended the dinner at Chef Francesco’s L’Anima for a ‘rustic Italian dinner’.

The dinner at this much acclaimed chef’s table was a veritable smorgasbord but what particular stuck in mind was an offal dish which reminded on of the Goan sorpotel, salt encrusted Chilean sea bass which made one realise what the fuss about the dish was about and a most indulgent ravioli.  Each dish was Renaissance work of art.


I must also put in a good word for the hotel where we were kept. The South Place Hotel which is one of the warmest and smartest hotels I have stayed in while travelling abroad. Lovely rooms, great service and fantastic location.

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Apart from the Chowzter event I also spent an afternoon judging the International Chocolate Awards with Zoe Perett or @thespicescribe, another afternoon talking about the food of Calcutta in Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Club Pop Up at the Vivek Singh’s The Cinnamon Club (best biryani outside of Shiraz & an amazing mishti doi) and went with Rashmi Uday Singh to the Roca Brother’s Gastronomique Opera launch at the Mandarin Opera, hours before their restaurant in Girona was announced as number 1 in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants Awards. Rashmi was a judge for this and also came to the Chowzter awards to say hi. She’s truly an angel.

Many more tales of London coming up on the blog but till then leaving you behind with a link to Meera Sodha’s blog which is a great read, a taste of things to come from her.

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Meera was kind enough to host me at her place a for a few days before I moved into South Place. She had cooked a lovely black daal when some friends dropped over one night and I pitched in with some jhaal muri, alu posto and chingri malai curry. Still can’t forget the taste of the black daal she made. For dessert there was a Sri Lankan love cake that Meera made and a delightfully light shreekhand. This is one talented cook and I was lucky to get a taste of Meera’s cooking. I have many fond memories of Meera and her boyfriend A cooking in their kitchen and experimenting with recipes. They are such lovely hosts.

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Went to their favourite restaurant in Islington, Morito’s on afternoon for a fantastic Moorish Spanish lunch. Thanks Meera and A for your great hospitality.



Talking of our friends from London, Maunika Gowardhan is now blogging at Vogue India and has written about the Finely Chopped Walks there. As I keep saying I feel really lucky and blessed to have met such wonderful human being through the blog. 

While on the trip, here’s an article in Spanish on the Casa Asia Conference in Barcelona which is where I came to London from. As a kid I have travelled to places such as Stockholm and Kyoto where my father would present at conferences. Happy to follow in his footsteps in some small way.


Thanks Kalyan! So very glad you like the Vogue piece. Here's to many more Mumbai food walks:) M x
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks as always Maunika. You have been really kind. Great to see you at Vogue India. They chose very well
Unknown said…
30 years without dad. .Nothing can prepare us for this. It is a complete chaos when certain things are thrown at us and we dont know how to handle them. You mentioned in one of your blogs that there is lot of your dad in you . Little comforting for your mummy. (forgive me if i am not using appropriate word. so bad in writing skills)
Kalyan. both of us had the not so common but precious privilege of spending our childhood days with our maternal grandparents. Where on this earth we will find that purity of emotions, sense of welbeing when we had them around us. They were never tired when we were hungry and that divine shining happiness across their faces watching us eat.
I was so stuck up with my daily routine. In of your blogs, you described a simple dish such as poha as GRANDMOTHERLY.
All of a sudden ,I was schoolgirl of say eight or nine . I studied in a zilha parishad school in a serenlly beautiful village in Vasai.On various such lazy monsoon afternoons, my classteacher who loved me so much, used to give me a familiar smile. And i used to rush towards the the school gate. Waiting there would be my nani wearing soft cotton nine yard saree (I can still feel it if i close my eyes.) I would spread my hands and she would place a medium sized stainless steel dabba filled with warm poha. It had fried potatoes, generous spread of freshly grated coconut and a slice of lime.After that she would take out two beautiful pink roses (picked from her garden).They had that amazingly sweet fragrance of gulkand."Wait pallavi,"she used to say and pass on a one rupee coin.I was back to the class holding it tight.Can I get those days back? Thanks for using that word. (MY 10 yr old son addresses my mum as DIDU.)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment pallavi and thank you so much for understanding. Our grandparents, my late grandpa and my grandmom, Didu, were such a big part of our growing up days. Looking after my then tiny brother and me as my mother went out to work. Showering us with loves and giving us the values one has tried to live by. Nothing makes them as happy as seeing us happy and this is unconditional...even today I can pick up the phone and speak to Didu and feel assured and loved and happy about life...thank you so much for sharing your memories with me Pallavi.

Take care, kalyan
SC said…
I've been checking your blog for a new post for the longest time too but I wasn't sure if it was alright to "bully" you into writing again. Now that I know its perfectly acceptable, you can be rest assured that I will do it the next time there is a long gap :D I love the picture of your parents, K da. Your father looks quite dapper in that picture :)

Kalyan Karmakar said…
Bullying in this case is good SC :)

Yes, he was rather dapper and had a very well stocked wardrobe and collection of shoes :)