Eateries of all types are found in plenty in Kolkata. From Mughlai to Chinese, European or Thai, the culinary delights on offer in the City of Joy will never disappoint any foodie; more so because you can get quality food at affordable prices here. From decades old cafes to latest hangout zones, Kolkata has something to offer to any age group; this sets this city apart from any other metro. It is difficult to even short list a few food-joints as must-visit; every place has its own history and USP.
When it comes to Mughlai cuisine, Arsalan occupies a place second to none among foodies. Biryani available in Kolkata was an innovation introduced by the erstwhile Nawab of Awadh, Wajed Ali Shah. Exiled to Kolkata by the British in the mid-18th century, he brought his chefs along as well. But the strain on finances for an exiled Nawab prompted Wajed Ali to innovate, which he did by replacing meat with potatoes. Later this innovation became the speciality of the Kolkata biryani.
There is no better place to taste it than at Arsalan. In fact, one has to be lucky enough to manage a table at their Park Circus outlet during peak hours.
A Slice of Sikkim
If you want good Sikkimese stuff, Blue Poppy is as good as it gets.
Momo, thukpa, thenthuk – anything you wish for, Blue Poppy serves it hot and delicious.
There are two outlets, the original one at Sikkim House on Middleton Row and another one at Gurkha Bhawan opposite City Centre in Salt Lake.
Rock and Roll
For anyone coming to Kolkata, street food is something one must encounter without fail. Rolls of various kinds are among the most popular quick-bites Kolkatans swear by. If you want to relish this ubiquitous Kolkata creation at a restaurant, there is no better place than Nizam’s, where it was all created.
It is located on Hogg Street, near the KMC headquarters.
Sheikh Raza, the founder of Nizam’s (named after his son, Nizamuddin) invented the kati roll, or hot kati roll - as it is also called, in the 1930s. Pieces of meat pierced through by a bamboo stick or ‘kati’ (later came the veg roll) and prepared in an oven, wrapped inside a paratha and the whole thing wrapped in paper to enable it to be held without soiling the hands, this staple of Kolkata street foods should not be missed at Nizam’s.
Raj’s Spanish Café in the Esplanade area is the ideal place to try some delicious Spanish food, especially the Spanish omelette. Located on Sudder Street, it is almost always filled with foreigners. Although Mexican and Italian are also specialised in, baked cheese empanadas prepared by the chef here deserve a special mention.
The Kosha Mangsho Kronicles
Up north we come to Golbari, the ever popular joint at Shyambazar crossing. It is famous for its kosha mangsho, or chicken in thick spicy gravy. Dip chapatis or parathas into the tasty gravy and relish the soft chicken. It tastes heavenly!
By the way, the real name of Golbari, which many don’t know, is New Punjabi Hotel. A part of its facade is semi-circular, which has given it its famous epithet.
Mitra Café at the corner of Jatindra Mohan Avenue and Aurobindo Sarani is one of the oldest and most famous traditional eateries in the City of Joy. If you want to bite into some quintessential mutton and chicken cutlet, kabiraji or chicken afghani and brain chop, troop into this more-than-ninety-years-old eatery. It is a small place and opens after 5 pm, so almost always it is chock-a-block. Reach early to get a sitting place, and you will never forget the experience.
Anadi Cabin at Esplanade-SN Banerjee Road crossing is again a place worth experiencing for some drool-worthy mughlai paratha, fish fry and chicken cutlet. For connoisseurs, there is duck-egg mughlai. This 87-year-old eatery serves cheap but delicious food, and it is every bit worth trying out.
A small restaurant, a hole-in-a-wall kind of place on Jatindra Mohan Avenue in Sovabazar, is Allen’s Kitchen. Their prawn cutlet is really special. The prawn is dipped in lime juice and then dipped in a special batter and fried, and what comes out of the frying pan is a scrumptious prawn cutlet, soft and fluffy. Their mutton steak and fish cutlet are equally good.
And the Adda
A steaming cup of tea, crispy appetizers and adda - the quintessential Kolkata way; what better place to experience that than at the Indian Coffee House on College Street. The place is steeped in history, with famous people from all walks of life having patronised the place. Thanks to its location, it has always been a favourite haunt of students. To have coffee is de rigueur here, be it milk coffee or black coffee (called ‘infusion’ here). And to go with it, the best-loved items are chicken omelette, chicken pakoras and baked fish.
Care for some dessert, Sir?
And if you are in the College Street area, don’t forget to pay a visit to Paramount, the most famous sherbet joint of Kolkata. They serve only sherbets, and they serve the best you can get. Their speciality, which you will only get in this place, is daab sherbet, made of specially prepared green coconut water. This is another one of the heritage food joints of Kolkata, and boasts of a long list of famous clients. Inside, on the wall, hangs the list in all its glory.
This centuries-old city has spawned numerous places over the years where cheap and tasty food can be had with great relish.
The more you explore the more you will learn about the food heritage of the great city.
And you will find that surprises await you at every corner, every turn.