The festivities begin with Durga Puja and then continue with Laxmi puja and finally Diwali, the big event. Diwali is not just about celebration, but is also about the onset of winters and the relief from the humid, hot atmosphere for which Kolkata is infamous. Finally, family and friends can go for a weekend out or for picnics. For people like us (who live in constant air conditioning), we can look forward to the winters and an opportunity to stay outdoors or take a quick drive nearby for a leisurely lunch. There may not be as many options as in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru or, for that matter, Pune, but Kolkata also presents some great places for dining just a short drive away.
On a weekend, Sonartori at Ganga Kutir, Raichak, is bustling with diners who have come to experience a traditional Bengali meal amidst beauty and nature. The restaurant in itself is a treat to the eyes, and is set within a modelled Zamindar house in a village. There are two types of thalis available here: a Grameen thali and a Zamindari thali. The former is served on a clay plate and the latter on a grand brass plate. The food in the grameen thali has more of a rustic charm, but is packed with the goodness of local ingredients. The Zamindari thali, with all its grandeur, packs almost all possible proteins true to a Bong’s heart and has incredible richness and depth of flavour. It may be just Bengali food, but having it here at Sonartori is an experience one must undergo. Trust me, the journey of a couple of hours from Kolkata is totally worth it.
Raichak too far away? Well, there is Punyalakshmi Hotel at Diamond Harbour, overlooking the mighty Ganges, and it has a multicuisine restaurant that dishes out a nice variety of fresh fish from the locale. Try the hilsa in mustard gravy in season time or any other fish and you will not be disappointed. Another resort that has been there for a long time and is perhaps one of the go-to places for corporate outdoor meetings is IBIZA near Joka. Pretty close to Kolkata, this place offers a great one-day outing with family and friends, with food and plenty of outdoor activities (including boating).
On the other side of Kolkata and closer to the airport is Vedic Village, which gives diners a number of options to dine in luxury in the middle of nature. However, of these options, Bhoomi promises a complete dining experience and is definitely the most popular one. With its rustic ambience depicting the local art and craftsmanship of Bengal, Bhoomi has very select Bengali dishes that are simply irresistible, such as sutanutir prawn cutlet, kochi pathar jhol and more. Though the prices are a little on the higher side, the food and service are worthwhile.
On the way to Kolaghat, there used to be this roadside dhaba that has now been converted into quite a decent restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating called Shere Punjab. A very popular halt for most people on their way to Haldia, Digha or Mandarmani, this is a great place to have breakfast or lunch. Chole bhature to puri subzi for breakfast and some hard-core dhaba-style food for lunch are their trademarks and are sure-shot winners. And if you want to venture further, then after a sumptuous breakfast, head towards Hotel Sonar Bangla at Kolaghat by the banks of river Rupnarayan. A decent hotel with green lawns and plenty of space for the children to enjoy, this hotel provides quality food at reasonable prices. It may not be fancy but the food is flavoursome and fresh and, if you’re lucky, you might just end up eating some freshly caught fish from the river.
So, this weekend, do not think twice but just get behind the wheel and drive to a destination simply for food.