A vada pao stuffed with soft-shell crab instead of potato. Tuna amped up with sriracha and gondhoraj zest served on a khakhra. Madam G’s adventurous spirit shines through a multi-layered menu that presents an array of unexpected pairings. The restaurant’s name is a play on “madam ji”, an epithet that most Indian women are familiar with. The capitalisation to Madam G underlines the fact that this is a female-run business, founded by restaurateur Drishleen Sethi. Sethi started off in fashion but then pivoted towards F&B, partnering with Passcode Hospitality to launch Ping’s Cafe Orient and Saz American Brasserie in Kolkata.
For Madam G, she brought on board multi-disciplinary artist Eeshaan Kashyap who wove the restaurant’s design narrative, and together with head chef Tanmoy Ghosh, drew up the menu to showcase regional Indian cuisine in an inventive manner.
Eye for aesthetics
Don’t let Madam G’s location on the second floor of a commercial office building deter you. The 3,000-sq.ft. space designed by architect Ajay Arya eschews the usual trappings of an Indian restaurant and leans towards an understated, sophisticated look. The colour palette is largely charcoal grey and beige punctuated by rich notes of copper and gold.
The ceiling installation designed by Kashyap features recycled paper woven on a charkha while inverted matkas make for interesting light installations. That is not to say there are no pops of colour — the bar back is the cobalt blue of Madam G’s logo while the sliding door to the private dining room (PDR) has colourful ikat motifs on the outside and raw silk screen-printed with Bengali poetry on the inside. Kashyap’s vibrant wall feature in the PDR is an arresting play of vibrant yellow, orange, and red hues.
The action begins at Madam G’s high-energy bar where you will find an array of signature cocktails to suit your style. I kick off the evening with the ‘Amrud Punch’, a tequila-based clarified milk punch with hibiscus and guava — it’s fruity and flavourful, the perfect way to ease into dinner. I also sample other cocktails over the course of dinner, like the refreshing and herbaceous ‘An Evening At Victoria’ with gin, celery, and watermelon shrub and ‘Call Me, Madam G’ with gin, passionfruit, coconut milk, and amra foam — the latter a tad sweet but still worth trying.
The much-recommended ‘Ball At Banaras’ isn’t to my taste, though, an overly sweet concoction of whisky, gulkand-infused rum, and chocolate bitters with gulkand-stuffed paan as garnish. Negroni fans should get the ‘Neemcho Negroni’, which uses housemade neem liqueur in place of Campari to bring out the bitterness. All cocktails are served in minimal glassware with classic garnishes.
Culinary road trip
The food menu spans all corners of India, bringing everything from North Indian chaats and Gujarati farsan to Goan choriz and Naga pork to your plate. Classic flavours are reimagined in novel ways to appeal to a wide range of patrons — indeed, the night I visit, the restaurant is packed with couples, multi-generational families, and small groups of friends. The aamra makha — unripe mango slices with lashings of kasundi, kaffir lime leaves, togarashi and green chillies — is a great way to start your meal.
The aforementioned Tuna Khakhra comes next, a dish so flavourful that it’s polished off in mere minutes. Vegetarians have the equally delicious avocado khakhra to savour. The small plates come thick and fast, each well-executed and flavourful like the two Bengali staples — banana blossom croquettes stuffed with local Bandel cheese and beetroot chop with pickled beetroot, kasundi aioli, and masala feta. You will reach again and again for the hummus flavoured with curry leaf and molgapodi or Goan choriz, served with assorted khakhra or Goan poi bread, respectively.
The choriz also makes an appearance quite unexpectedly in the paniyaram, a delicious flavour bomb; however, the vegetarian version with mango, chilli, and moringa podi wins the paniyaram face-off! The Naga-style pork ribs are moreish while the crab vada pao with thecha, garlic chutney, and green chilli makes this Mumbai girl very happy indeed.
Poetry on plate
If you’re watching calories, the barley and quinoa salad with housemade tamarind ponzu dressing is a must-try, while chaat fanatics will love the ghewar burrata chaat laced with tomato-date chutney and wild berry chutney. Amongst the mains, I particularly enjoy the bharela baingan with creamy peanut butter salan and the soulful Alleppey fish curry, but the hands-down winner is the chilli mutton chops, which is based on Sethi’s family recipe. Leave room for dessert as there are several worthy contenders including Bengali favourites such as the bhapa mishti doi and rasmalai, but also mille feuille with gajar halwa and assorted ice creams in flavours including besan with crumble and gondhoraj. But if you have to pick only one dessert, I recommend the chhena poda cheesecake with salted jaggery toffee sauce — it’s the perfect fusion of local and global sensibilities that Madam G seems to pull off quite effortlessly.
Address: Madam G, 2, Lee Road, Altitude - The Business Park, 2nd Floor, Kolkata
Meal for two: INR 2,500 (with alcohol)