Kolkata’s restaurant scene has gone through a dramatic makeover in recent years, and one of the most prominent trends in this changing scenario has been an emphasis on vegetarian dining. For the longest time vegetarians in the city have rued how restricted (limited in terms of choice of cuisines) vegetarian dining options are available in Kolkata. Of course restaurants like Teej and Gupta Brothers have been around for a while, but they served Indian cuisine only. At most Continental and Chinese eateries, choices for vegetarians were few. However, things are changing and changing fast, especially with numerous vegetarian specialty restaurants and cafés coming up in the city. Here are a few that you must check-out. Even hardcore carnivores are queuing up here.
Hakuna Matata – Dum aloo gnocchi tossed in saffron sauce flavoured with cardamom, hummus made from chana masala and cheesecake flavoured with mojito – Hakuna Matata has morphed vegetarian dining in Kolkata into an adventure. Incidentally, it is the first vegetarian restaurant on Park Street. The menu is a jumble of quirky dishes that blend global and Indian elements and a few straightforward perennial favourites. Try the tomato and basil pizza; polenta stuffed baked mushrooms and the spinach cannelloni. An interesting dish is the Indian mezze platter which comes with lachha, dal pakoda, raita, baingan bharta and chana masala hummus. They have a separate Jain menu with dishes such as stuffed date fritters (very popular), quinoa rocket salad and paneer makhni lasagne, as also options for vegans.
Kaidi Kitchen – This prison-themed restaurant on Camac Street, complete with jail cells, prison paraphernalia and waiters dressed as prison guards and inmates, is another quirky addition to the city’s vegetarian food scene. A particular guest was so impressed that he took up a franchise and opened Kaidi Kitchen in Chennai as well. The food is multi-cuisine with a mix of Italian, Mexican, Oriental and Indian. So, there is everything from litti-chockha to fajitas and Parmesan and peperoncino risotto to Burmese khowsuey. However, their Indian kitchen is by far the best. Try the paneer sikandari seekh kabab, cheese garlic naan and the pista badam kofta in reshamiya gravy. Reserve a table in advance but be prepared to wait anyway.
Crave Foodworks – Crave Foodworks, a swanky Southern Avenue restaurant, is one place that takes vegetarianism seriously. The menu – a mix of Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican and Far Eastern – is extensive and impressive. Their Mexican spread – tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas – is quite popular with guests. But, the Italian kitchen at Crave Foodworks is by far the best. They have an exhaustive selection of antipasti, salads, pastas, risottos and pizzas. Try the Crave special pizza that comes loaded with mozzarella and English cheddar, and toppings like oven roasted tomatoes, caramelised onions, char-grilled pimento and black olives. Their mezze platter is quite popular too.
An independent journalist based out of Calcutta and a dedicated food enthusiast, she writes mostly about food and travel, and has worked and written for publications India Today, The Telegraph, Live Mint as also Lonely Planet India’s website. She also loves to experiment in her kitchen and runs a food blog – allthatsdelicious.com. But mostly she eats, frets about how much she eats and then eats some more.