So what are the new quirky food places at Kolkata?



A batch mate of mine from college wrote to me on FB the other day.

Can’t claim to have been, what they call BFF nowadays, when we were in college. We were both at Mumbai after college. Bumped into each other once at Snow Bite, the ice cream shop years back.

End of story.

Till there was Facebook and we connected again. We found out that we had a common passion for food. Something which was irrelevant in the relatively impoverished college days. She lives far away now and we talk about food across countries and continents. I heard in a recent dinner with college folks that she is married to a chef. Never asked her.

Then got this mail from her (J) in my FB inbox a few days back and our conversation started:

J: “Hi, need some dope on Cal - you seem like a good person to ask.
I myself have not much clue beyond what I knew 10 yrs ago! :-/:-/ Nor do I know many people there anymore...
Do you know some cool places? Eat, drink, live music are my areas of interest :):)
All tips very welcome! Especially a nice place for an aperitif and one for a special dinner.
Was hoping to steer clear of 5-star hotels and find something cool/quirky/charming. More an 'experience', if you know what I mean :):)
Have some pointers? Don't mean to be a pain, though... ;);)

Me: Well like all migrants I am stuck in a time warp. I stick to old favs during my limited days at Cal, Hardly go anywhere new. This is where I head: biryani shiraz, flurys - breakfast or coffee, mocambo fish a la diana, devilled crab, Chinese jimmy's kitchen, bong kewpies. oly pub for grunge. discovered a new place at south city mall which i like for Thai - Banjorang.

Here's my link to the cal write ups if it helps can put u on to my younger bro who used to go out q bit before he left for gurgaon... knows of more new gen places

J: I kind of thought so, but I gave it a shot :):) Yeah, it always feels 'enough' to revisit the places that push the nostalgia button. Besides, the 'new gen' places I heard of sounded too generic to waste the limited time on.
So I was actually hoping for something new, yet quaint, with 'Cal character'..when I said 'cool', I didn't mean fashionable - more quirky cool :):)
If your brother knows something, I could write him, but I don't want to be a pain!
Btw, you know anything of this Floatel?
Thanks a lot, Kolly! :):)

Me: Cal is hardly into quirky. It wants to be Mumbai

J: I've seen that. Sad. Cal was a prime candidate for 'quirky'. Which is why I hoped...

Me: The quirky Bengalis have left cal :):)

J: You're probably right... From what I've seen, it's the Great Hand of homogenization at work there...clinical and characterless

Me: Yes walk through park street. Every restaurant has big glass fronts. Anything new is either kitsch or part of chains and standardized

And this is when the penny dropped. I was behaving like a typical migrant. Rooted to the past. Pooh poohing the past. Claiming to be in a much better place. Rubbishing my origins.

I was guilty of the sort of boorish behaviour that I have seen in Indian expats abroad who, once away, rubbish everything about ‘back home’. They would be the first to upload links on things going wrong in India today. From their highs of Team Anna and corrupt India to the lows of Team India in cricket and the bomb blasts in between. There was someone who even wished India a happy independence day recently and congratulated India from entering the ‘space age’ from the bullock cart age. In two frigging thousand and eleven! Someone who was in his half pants in Calcutta when Rakesh Sharma went into outer space in the early 1980s.

The truth is I am not the best person to talk about what’s happening at Kolkata. My Calcutta is not today’s Kolkata. I have lost touch with it. Today I am a tourist in the city I moved in to when I was about seven and left when I was in my early 20s.

When I am at Kolkata I move around with a camera.

Well I do that in Mumbai too but you know what I mean.

So if you know what is new in Kolkata. Quirky, quaint and cool. And I am talking of food and not of Didi or Paschimbongo then please write in so that J can have a great homecoming when she returns to Kolkata.


Sharmila said…
Am of no help but am as eagerly waiting for some info here. Btw ... did I thank you Kalyan for your inputs regarding my B'lore trip? If I haven't please forgive me as I have been traveling a wee too much these days. Had Handi in mind in my recent trip to Jaipur after reading your post but had to shelve it due to my pure veggie in laws. Will check out the next time. Now am off to read all your posts that I missed. TC. :-)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Sharmila...well either people have stopped reading the bog or maybe there are no new places at Calcutta :(
Anurag Mehrotra said…
Does this prove that Bongs are lazy? ;-)
Jitterplate said…
I'm not a Bong, but I spent 5 years in Kolkata as a student.

There actually aren't too many additions to the standard park street fare of Mocambo, Peter Cat and I've never been a big fan of Flury's.

Salt Lake got some interesting places over the years that I was there. City Centre got Afraa - a Deli, a restaurant and a creperie. The quality of the creperie and the deli nosedived after a while, but the restaurant is still standing well. And they have a bunch of interesting pizzas. On my last trip there I tried a bacon wrapped chicken stuffed with swiss cheese and mushrooms and it was served with a side of couscous and drenched in bbq sauce. NOT as good as the name suggests. As a recently converted meat eater, I did not enjoy the lack of flavour and it was hardly stuffed with cheese and mushrooms. I could mostly just taste the chewy chicken.

City Centre also has Kaafila for some amazing NWFP cuisine. It's one of the best places I've been to for North Indian food and its likenesses.

Mani Square mall apparently opened a mediterranean extravaganza but it was during my last few days there and I couldn't make the time to try it out. Also, i was quite broke.

Chowringhee acquired a Casa Toscana for Italian fare which has an inconsistent quality, but got some loyal patrons.

One of my most favoured haunts was Sikkim House on Middleton Row, for its Tibetan restaurant Blue Poppy. Very simple food. But oh so tasty. And very healthy, if you order the healthy stuff. Their pork momos are to die for, and the thukpa is the best for a sore throat.

But what exactly did you mean by quirky?
The Knife said…
@Snickernsnee...thanks for writing in...btw I am one of those who had the runs after the inconsistent quality of Toscana :(

Well 'quirky' is my friend's term but to my mind they would bring images of Dolly's, Kewpie's, Olly's, Jimmy's once upon a time ... toscana today barring the runs...the new Flury's
Jitterplate said…
have you ever been to Broadway bar in chandni? I miss that place so much. Brilliant prices, no-nonsense staff and the most entertaining drunk people. They don't serve ladies sitting at a table alone any alcohol but take a guy along and they happily ply litres of the stuff.

The chicken a la kiev there is good. But I really just go there for the feel.
The Knife said…
No I haven't. had a rather sheltered upbringing at Kolkata. Went to OLY Pub for the first time at the ripe old age of 37 and didn't tell my mom about it :)
Jitterplate said…
And Oh my god, Taaja's has reopened. You remember Taaja's? On Ballygunge Circular Road? It had shut down due to some labour issues.

It's reopened near Dhakuria. you'll have to call em for proper instructions. It's called Bibi of Taaja's now. Such a great place.

Oh and Soho on SC Bannerjee road has a good restaurant called Mezze serving Lebanese and mediterranean food.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
I ate at Taaja in 98 or so. My first boss took us there for a group lunch. Now she has become a food blogger too :)

Remember having and hearing about moussaka there for the first time
Kalyan Karmakar said…
I ate at Taaja in 98 or so. My first boss took us there for a group lunch. Now she has become a food blogger too :)

Remember having and hearing about moussaka there for the first time
BongMom said…
sO WHAT IS WRONG WITH GOING BACK TO dOLLY'S, kEWPIES'S, fLURY'S ? btw i WENT TO dOLLY'S LAST TIME I was in Kol -- total unlike. I never went there earlier, impoverished student, why drink tea at some place other than home etc. mentality. I am so glad I didn't spend my money there during college days, so not worth it.

Since there were no Bong eating places in Kol in my time, I am totally overwhelmed by the Bong restaurants there now. Also I would rather have more of egg roll :) Every place need not be Bombay
Anurag Mehrotra said…
I have been to Calcutta only once and had a memorable meal at Aaheli in Peerless Hotel. Enjoyed the food.
Sachinky said…
I like One Step Up, Mainland China, Mocambo, Shiraz, and Krystal Chopstick. Those are my staples any time I am back home.

I do like Chinoserie at the Taj and Pan Asia (not sure if it's still open?)

I tried Charcoal and that was pretty good, and I have heard good things about BBQ Nation.

For Bengali food, I say Bhojo Hori Manna.

Ah, now I miss dhaba food.
J said…
Monsieur Knife, I'm glad we weren't 'BFF's. I would never have lived it (the term) down.
J said…
I cannot believe Taaja has reopened and I didn't know! I loved the place. They even opened one in Darjeeling...saw it on my last trip there (I think it was 2005).
And snickersnee, I went to Soho for a cocktail and a spot of live music.

Olypub - it's gone way beyond 'quirky' or 'quaint' now. No, i will NOT eat in harmony with rodents. Irrespective of how good the steak is or how cheap the beer. Sad. It used to be my playground. Well, of sorts.

Kewpie's had no place for us, both times we tried :( That's beginning to get on my nerves, as this is the 3rd trip during which I've wanted to go there.

And folks, the revelation of the trip was Bohemia, a great reco from Knife's friend. It's near Ballygunge Place. It's a must-go-again for me.
They call it 'contemporary Bengali cuisine'. I'm inclined to agree on the whole. Looks like they have a hit on their hands, as long as they keep tweaking and innovating. Unless the Bengali purist refuses to patronise a place that marries aam kashundi with cheese or puts paanch phoron in a mousse :)
J said…
P.S. Knife, I can, unfortunately, corroborate your observation now. Calcutta DOES want to be Bombay.
Just sad.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
J I guess the term 'BFF" forever was more so that my younger readers to understand
Arnie said…
Interesting read.....will be visiting home after a long the info is well appreciated.