Many Indian cities may beat Kolkata in terms of new development and presence of new-age businesses. But no other city comes close to Kolkata’s majestic charm owing to its aristocratic past. The city reminds me of how my brother-in-law always has a sentimental soft-corner for his exotic yet old, 1985 Mercedes Benz 240D over any new-age, utilitarian yet boring Honda or Toyota. Just like the 240D, Kolkata had its glory days – but even today it has a lot more heritage than any other city!
Within my few days in Kolkata, the first thing that struck me was that all streets in old neighborhoods, though narrow, had a sidewalk, a street name and each house had a house number. I have not seen this anywhere else in India. Clearly India had the system of structured addresses until someone in the administration chose to ignore it and worse yet, in some cases, use a complex survey-number system for addresses.
Durga Puja in Kolkata
My visit to Kolkata coincided with Durga Puja, which is celebrated with huge fan fare in this city. When I came across a Puja Pandal, I mistook it for a permanent structure that was built in the middle of the street. But then my wife, who has lived in Kolkata for about 25 years, educated me that it was a temporary structure being built for the 5 day Puja – which apparently provides employment to an entire workforce for at least 6 months each year.
Over the course of our stay, we got to visit several creatively designed Puja Pandal’s. Below is a 360-degree virtual tour of one such Puja Pandal – where goddess Durga is depicted as the creator of all vegetation, planets, humans, equipment – the entire universe.
Food and Sweets in Kolkata
I think, I epitomize the quote “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. And I truly believe that food is one of the best way to experience any city.
It is almost criminal to go to Kolkata and not try Misti-doi, Chamcham, Rosogulla, Nolin-gur and Sandesh. Even an average sweet-store in Kolkata is better than the best in any other city. But you may want to try the sweets from Nakur Chandra Nandi or Balaram Mallick which have been in business since over 150 years.
Must-try restaurants in Kolkata
We were fortunate to have our relatives in Kolkata prepare a list of select restaurants, along with suggestions for the best entree at each restaurant. You should definitely try the following restaurants while in Kolkata:
Pictures of entrees that we had at restaurants in Kolkata
1. Peter Cat on Park Street As they say, their sizzlers are legendary. You should also try their Chelo Kababs.
2. Mocambo on Park Street Try the chicken shashlik and vegetable cannelloni which are their heritage dishes
3. Flury’s on Park Street Most of their deserts are nice – but the Viennese Coffee is exceptional
4. Bohemian in Ballygunge A truly gourmet restaurant where you cannot go wrong with any entree on the menu. We tried the pabda rolls stewed in cherry tomato and spinach broth, sizzled bhetki simmered with pickled garlic and malpua cheese cake. Everything was extraordinarily good
5. Arsalan near Park Circus Crossing The biryani at this restaurant is quite famous. In Kolkata biryani is never complete without potato – which tastes exceptionally good.
6. Egg rolls at almost any place in Kolkata
7. Momos at most restaurants are good
Following are a few restaurants that were recommended* to us – but we did not get an opportunity to try:
- 6 Ballygunge Place – serves authentic Bengali food
- Oh Calcutta! at Forum Mall, Elgin Road – serves British Bengali food from East India Company days
- Veda on Park Street – a relatively new restaurant with good food
- Bistro by the Park near Loreto College front gate
- Siraj, near Park Street, Mullickbazar Crossing – Known for its Mughlai food. It is not upmarket and you should try the family restaurant
- Jimmy’s Kitchen, AJC Bose Road – Serves really good Chinese Food but has very limited seats
- Oudh, 1950 near Deshapriya Park- it is a new restaurant that serves good Awadhi food.
*Entire list of restaurants was a courtesy of Satyajit Ghosh
Accommodation in Kolkata
And when you are planning a short or long stay in Kolkata, do check out our select serviced apartments in Kolkata and book online.
Note: This post is dedicated to Satyajit, Shradha and my wife’s parents – without whom my experience in Kolkata would not have been so exceptional.