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Kolkata clings to its colonial past and old-world charms with some pride, which might have something to do with its love for an elaborate high tea. For an archetypical Bengali, the ta is as, if not more, important than the cha (in this case, ta refers to the usually deep-fried accompaniments that come with the tea). Of course, while muri (puffed rice) and tele bhaja from the parar dokan scores the highest when it comes to teatime snacks, here are a few places in town where you can enjoy an elaborate high tea – Angrezi style.
Mini brioche slathered with creamy chicken mousse, deliciously chewy mini bagels stuffed with smoked Norwegian salmon, raisin-studded scones with Devonshire cream and preserves, English fruits cakes, cookies and dense walnut brownies – the high tea spread at The Tea Lounge at Lalit Great Eastern is luxurious and decadent, to say the least. Alternatively, you could opt for the Bengali jal khabar, with quintessential Bengali teatime snacks such as jhal muri, shingara (ones stuffed with minced meat too), fish fingers and nimki. The tea in the high tea is taken care of by their signature collection of gourmet teas from across the globe. And if that was not quite enough, you could add a glass of Champagne to the deal. If you are planning on high tea here, it is best you skip lunch.
Remember playing tea party as a child? Or, at least, enviously watching kids in foreign films throw tea parties for friends over faux-titbits arranged on pretty cake stands? At Mrs. Magpie, the memories and fantasies come rushing back. The doll-house setting, the pretty porcelain stands and the elaborate spread – assorted petit fours, a choice of their signature cupcakes, slices of tea loaf cake, scones and finger sandwiches with a stuffing of your choice (try the coronation chicken or the chicken salad sandwich) and big pot of tea – Darjeeling, Assam or Green tea – makes for a high tea from fairy tale land.
Flurys (this one needs no introduction) has a small but good high tea spread (they call it afternoon tea, aptly so). A cup of tea comes with a delicate cucumber sandwich, a seasonal fruits tartlet and one of their old-school butter cream pastries. Or you could opt for the cream tea served with scones, preserves and whipped cream or butter.
Or head to The Promenade Lounge at the Taj Bengal. This place takes tea seriously and boasts a fantastic specialty collection. They serve a fantastic English high tea between 3 pm and 5 pm in the afternoon – finger sandwiches with fantastic fillings such as steak and caramelised onions or masala scrambled eggs, assorted petit fours, scones served with clotted cream and preserves, a choice of their signature entrées and a few decadent pastries. And, as their website says, if you are lucky, you might just catch up with a visiting artist creating his next masterpiece, over high tea.
Smoke House Deli has introduced a fantastic teatime platter that will be served between 4 and 7 in the evening, on weekdays, until the end of monsoons. The prix fixe high tea spread comes with achari breadsticks and home-baked lavaash along with hummus pesto and pink curried dip (a quirky combination of tomatoes, cheese, herbs and curry powder) followed by a choice of sandwiches with fillings such as zucchini and ricotta, Greek salad, egg mayo and citrus chicken. Plus, there are paprika-laced fries and cabbage slaw. And the best part – scones, served with clotted cream and orange marmalade. This might be a limited-period option, but go while it lasts.
So, where is your next tea party going to be?
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.