It was 6am when we arrived outside Sudder Street, Kolkata, in a battered old Ambassador car whose passenger doors didn’t shut due to one too many accidents.
I was relieved to arrive, not just because our driver had a Michael Schumacher complex, but because outside of Sudder Street’s breakfast stalls, huge queues of many different stripes of people were forming. I knew that this was going to be a city which took it’s food seriously.
Over our five day stay we ate feverishly and all over town, in posh restaurants and alley-way dives – so fresh from the steamy hot streets of Calcutta, here are our top picks of places to eat:
This no nonsense, no frills, spartan restaurant with no menu turned out to be our biggest but best gamble. The ‘chingri malai’; prawns in coconut milk, chillies, garlic and cooked using mustard oil was insanely good. As was another prawn dish ‘kochupata chingri’, (photo below) tiny tasty prawns cooked in poppy seeds and colcasia leaves. The other vegetarian dishes we ate were tasty too. It’s in my top three meals in India so far, I will be thinking about it for months to come and I would go back in an instant.
Cost: 600 rupees for two people (approx £6)
Address: 7 A, Mustaque Ahmed Street, Near New Market Area
(For a more thorough review, check out Kalyan’s post here)
Kewpies is the place in town to get home-cooked Bengali food. It is actually served up in the Bengali home-turned restaurant run by the daughter of one of Calcutta’s most famous food writers, Minakshie Dasgupta. The Amish thali was a feast, my favourites were a perfectly spiced aubergine cooked in buttermilk, (begun doi) a steamed mustard fish wrapped in banana leaf, (bhekti paturi) the light as air luchis (thin fried bread) and a cracking dessert, a Bengali classic called misty doi – a sweet strained yoghurt served in an earthenware pot. It was a real treat, although not cheap at 775 rupees per head.
Cost: 2000 rupees for two people (£25)
Address: 2 Elgin Avenue, Kolkata
3. Hot Kati Roll
A legendary street stall on Park Street with queues so big around lunchtime they create a bottle neck in the street. They serve up the best version of Calcutta’s favourite snack made up of egg fried paratha filled with chicken, mutton or paneer with onions, peppers, tomatoes and chutneys. They might be simple, but they taste like magic. My favourite was the chicken roll which cost a whopping 60p.
Cost: Approx 50 – 80 rupees (60p to £1)
Address: 1 Park Lane, Kolkata
Chef Joy (third from the right in the photo below) has taken Bengali food head on and made a modern mix of it somewhat like a Bengali Heston. The starters: panch phoran chicken escalope and vodka soaked prawns were delicious, juicy beauties – our main courses, Gondhoraj Lime Bhekti (cod in King Lime sauce) and Aam Aada Bhekti (cod in mango and ginger sauce) were heavy and tasted somewhat thai – but I recommend this place for it’s great starters and brave approach.
Address: 32/4, Old Ballygunge 1st Lane, Ballygunge, Kolkata
Cost: approx 1300 rupees for two people (£16)
Mocambo is a curious place dressed with red velvet booths and low lighting packed with joyful and classy young Bengalis. This is the place to find items on the ‘Heritage Menu’ – throwbacks to the British Raj. We ate (very slightly) overcooked lobster and chips with the odd bit of pasta thrown in all for £4 but still left thinking we’d come back because the fun atmosphere, service and gin fizzes. This place is the best to experience a bit of old Calcutta.
Address: 25 Park Street, Kolkata
Cost: Around 1000 rs for two people (approx £12) depending on the number of gin fizzes.