For someone who grew up in Kolkata and now lives abroad, the only way to hold onto the nostalgia is through food. So, when I was visiting my family last year, after a long time, one thing I wanted to do before I left was to walk its food trail, and experience its culinary treasures once more!
There was a time when I would hail a cab or take the metro line and head to the bustling downtown, where all the great eateries are. But it’s been a while and I had forgotten most routes. So I managed to avail an inexpensive car rental service in Kolkata with an experienced driver and take me on my gastronomic expedition.
Here’s a quick rundown of the must-eat places in the City of Joy that will always remain my favorite, even if they close down someday.
I started from my old watering hole in College Street, home to Calcutta University Campus and Presidency College. The Indian Coffee House still stands as the good old bourbon. The colonial looks hadn’t changed much, neither did it old continental menu. Their chicken sandwich and mutton cutlets still taste the same!
When in Calcutta, its Mughlai food is a must-have! A blend of local flavors and traditional Mughal recipes, classic dishes like the Biryani, Mutton Chaap, and Rezala are still bestsellers at old restaurants like Nizam’s and Aminia. I decided to dig into their signature Shammi Roll and save my appetite for what’s to come later.
Coming back to the bustling market street of Esplanade, I got the car parked and headed to my childhood favorite bakery inside the dreary lanes of New Market. Nahoum’s remains the only Jewish bakery of the city, run by Nahoum Israel and his sons. Their fresh baked tarts, plum cakes (only in winters), and petite pastries are a huge contrast to its unassuming look and still manage to make me drool.
A few minutes’ walk from Nahoums towards Park Street lies the fancier, plusher Flury’s with its high-end French-style patisserie menu of quiches, brioches, choux pastries, and mille-feuilles.
Packing a mother-load of goodies to go from each bakery, I went for a dinner date with an old friend.
Park Street is lined with vintage and retro eateries like Peter Cat, Mocambo, Moulin Rouge, and more, each serving recipes from the British-Calcutta era. My friend and I headed to Peter Cat to dig into their famous Chelo Kabab platter, served with eggs, rice, and veggies.
A hearty meal with a bottle of cabernet, in good company, was all I needed that day to wrap up my trip. A lot had changed in the decades I have been away, but its flavors remained the same. As we drove down the sleepy streets at night, the aromas of the City of Joy lingered in my head and will, for many years to come!
- If you are starting your adventure as you land in the city, always hire a reliable and safe Kolkata airport taxi.
- Don’t forget to try the street-side Rolls, Jhalmuri, and Puchkas while you explore.