Feedback with Lolita Chakrabarti
This month, courtesy of the RSC, we talk to Lolita Chakrabarti - which was no mean feat considering her adaptation of Maggie O'Farrell's best selling novel Hamnet is in its final few days of rehearsal before opening in the Garrick Theatre, London.
Her father taught her how to carve a chicken with the precision of a surgeon, her mum made the perfect Saturday night chicken curry and one of her favourite places to eat is in a little street behind Euston station.
Enter our competition below to win two tickets to see Hamnet, plus a pre/post theatre meal for two at Brasserie Max in the Covent Garden Hotel.
What food always reminds you of your childhood?
My mum made a mean chicken curry. My dad would cut a whole raw chicken into pieces. He’s a retired Orthopaedic Surgeon and used to carve meat anatomically. He taught me how to do it – very useful indeed. My mum would cook it and we’d have it with rice. On a Saturday night we would sometimes eat while we watched Starsky and Hutch on the telly. An ideal night in!
Do you have a current favourite restaurant or type of restaurant?
One of my favourite places to go is Diwana on Drummond Street behind Euston station. It is a café style South Indian vegetarian restaurant. I used to go there all the time when I was at RADA in the late eighties. They serve puchka or panni poori which is a street food that I had for the first time in Calcutta when I was 10 years old and now if given a choice, I would live on it. It is so delicious – tamarind, spices, chickpeas, it’s like a tase sensation in one bite. If I’m ever near Euston I go to Diwana for my hit.
What food or ingredient could you not do without?
Cumin. I use it in all curries and now I add it to lots of things – pasta, fish, casseroles– it peps up the flavour and makes it deeper.
What was the most memorable meal you can remember eating?
I did a theatre tour of Twelfth Night as an actor that took me to China in the early 1990’s. We went to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing. We were invited to many events but there was one banquet, with some very luminary people, which was at 11am in the morning. They served a 10 course meal. It was extraordinary and delicious and mystical because of course we didn’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin and they didn’t speak English, so as food was served we had no idea what it was. After nine bowls and plates of delicious and interesting food, I remember the 10th bowl was plain boiled rice which was unexpected.
When you are writing, do you keep to normal mealtimes or is it a question of reaching for the biscuit tin as and when?
I have no set routine for my writing because it often gets disrupted by kids, acting, life, so I write when I can and it changes all of the time. I also eat at varying times. At the moment I am waking up really early, so I start writing before breakfast on some days. And then I just have coffee for breakfast. I take regular breaks to have a moment away from the screen which usually involves me going to the kitchen. Thankfully I’m not a big biscuit person anymore. Nothing is normal, usual or timetabled – I suppose that’s the freelance life.
Is there something particular you always keep in the fridge?
Garlic and onions. When the cupboard is bare and there’s nothing to cook you can do wonders with garlic and onion. I remember going to a Thai fast-food place and those two ingredients with basil made everything delicious.
What would be your last supper if literally anything was available to you and where would you eat it?
Can I have 3 courses? Puchka or panni poori to start. Lamb curry (queen of meals!) and aubergine curry for main. And fresh Alphonso mangoes for dessert. I would eat this round a table anywhere with my kids and all of my friends.
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Hamnet plays at London's Garrick Theatre for a limited season from 30 September 2023 to 17 February 2024. For more details and to book tickets, click here Plus, you can save up to £24.50 with this special 6+ Group Offer. To book a group ticket for you and your book club or friends, with the Best Available Seats for just £55 per person, book through this dedicated link This offer is valid when 6 or more tickets are purchased for Mon-Thurs performances from 2/10/23 - 14/12/23, subject to availability.