Kolkata is a city where the modern and the traditional rests peacefully side by side. A century-old building with British architecture can embrace a new, swanky mall. The same applies to the foodscape of the city. While new restaurants with food innovations and multinational brands are opening outlets everywhere, there are still a few places with good, delicious food and loads of nostalgia that are thronged by people even now. To taste their traditional, authentic signature dishes and perhaps relive the history are what a lot of food lovers look forward to. Over the years, not only have these places not reinvented themselves in terms of their facilities or décor, but they also have not tampered with their menus, sticking to their recipes and quality.
Here are some heritage eateries in Kolkata that have become part of cult culture over time.
Indian Coffee House – Perhaps the first café in the city and perhaps the most famous outlet of the famous chain all across India, this is the cult café in the city. Though there are four outlets in Kolkata, the one on College Street, the educational hub of the city, is the most famous. The place was earlier known as Albert Hall, the ballroom of delegates of the East India Company. In 1942, the place was converted into a coffee joint and later came to be known as Coffee House. There is more to this place than a hot, steaming cup of coffee. Eminent guests have included Rabindranath Tagore, Amartya Sen, Subhash Chandra Bose and Satyajit Ray, to name a few who have been regulars at this place. The high ceiling, colonial-waiter dress code, and ceiling fans will definitely make you time travel to a different era. The coffee may not have that much variety, but the cold coffee/black coffee and cutlets are must-tries.
Mitra Café – This is a place to go for fish diamond fry, fish batter fry, chicken kabiraji and definitely the signature Mutton Brain Chop. One of the most authentic joints for Kolkata finger food, they have four joints across the city but the one at Sovabazar is the oldest and the flagship store. The place is a little small; hencem the tables fill up fast and one has to wait for their turn. However, the wait is worthwhile. Do not miss out on the punch of the Kasundi or fiery mustard sauce that they generously give with all their fried foods.
Nizam’s – The place where the now-famous Khati Kabab or the Khati rolls of Kolkata originated attracts lots of old loyalists and explorers of local Kolkata food. Situated opposite Calcutta Municipal Corporation, this eatery has existed since 1932. One can get all the varieties of rolls one can think of. Order a double mutton or a single anda aloo roll, or sit in either in AC or non-AC sections for their equally impressive range of biryanis, mutton tikkas with paranthas and all kinds of rich and greasy meaty dishes.
Royal Indian Hotel – This iconic biryani place is more than a 100 years old and is situated in one crowdy by-lane of Burra bazaar. The best way to travel to this place is via local transport. It is a three-tier place with a view of the kitchen at the lower tier. The place is always filled with happy faces enjoying their biryani and chaap. The restaurant claims to be the inventor of the Kolkata chicken chaap, which is cooked in ghee with saffron and other spices, and is beyond extravagant and delicious.
Paramount – So, we finally have a place to talk about that does not serve biryani or fish fingers. This place is famous for its sherbets. Another, almost a century-old, sherbet place located at Bankim Chaterjee Street in North Kolkata, it is unique to the city and completely unchanged in the last couple or more decades. There is proper seating arrangements in this antique sherbet shop and one can sip on the creamy daber sherbet (creamy tender coconut sherbet) and green mango sherbet while enjoying the buzz in the air. There is a pretty long list of sherbets to try out, and one stop at this place is never enough to quench your thirst.
A true blue Kolkata foodie, Anindya loves cooking and eating his Kosha Mangsho. Anindya weaves stories around food as he believes exceptional food is an emotional experience. Previously a restauranter, now a passionate photographer and traveller, he runs a successful blog called Pikturenama and contributes to other publications.