Kolkata the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal is one of the best cities to visit in India. Kolkata is known as the ‘City of Joy’ and is well known for the grandeur Durga Puja celebration, street food, sweets and the iconic Howrah Bridge. When you start to explore the city of Kolkata, you can either start from the more ‘Firang’ area, i.e Esplanade or erstwhile Chowrangee where the British empire of Calcutta once thrived. Otherwise, you may want to start from the melancholic North which houses some of the most spectacular architectures of old Bengali Babu. Either way, you shall experience an exotic culture. And the best way to experience the culture is to try some local delicacies and specialties.
A guest post by Madhurima from Orange Wayfarer.
Let me jot down the best places to eat in Kolkata, a foodie must not miss in the quest!
- Must try Kolkata Food/Desserts
- When in Chowrangee (the Park Street Metro)
- Kolkata Chinatown or Tiretta Bazaar
- Kolkata Street Food Scene
- Pice Hotels
- Best Restaurants in Kolkata with a View
- Vegan Options
- Best Pubs and Casual Dining Options
- Cafes in Kolkata
- Kolkata Food Markets
- Any Tips
Must try Kolkata Food/Desserts
The quintessential Bengali Thali which is heaped with rice, different vegetable preparation, complimented by a couple of fish items and Mutton Kosha can be devoured in few of the famous Bengali food specialty restaurant. Aaheli by Peerless Hotel is one of the top choices for that. Alternatively, you can explore Oh! Calcutta, Mrs. Magpies, Kosturi or Bohemian.
A typical Bengali meal with rice, steamed fish in banana leave (bhetki paturi), daal, alubhaja (potato fried)
The Mughlai dishes of Kolkata has been inspired by the Lucknow nawabs in exile and comes in mainly three different and popular forms: Biryani, Kathi roll, and Rezala. While Kathi roll has been adapted to many other parts of the country, other two can be best savored in nook and corner of the city. Try the following restaurants for the best biryani in town: Nizams, Aminia, Sabir, Hazi or Shiraz. In Sabir, I tasted the best of Rezala in town. To think of a white gravy infused with the goodness of Yoghurt and Alu Bukhara! Awesomeness! A little exploration in the New Market area near Esplanade metro will help you find all!
The quintessential rice and meat dish in Kolkata has attained a humble addition of egg and potato piece. And there it killed it! I can never really devour a Biryani anywhere else in the world that does not feature the gentle Potato! And you will not find it anywhere else in the country. Originally retaining the Lucknow style, the Biryani came from the kitchen of Nawab who was rehabilitated in Metiabruz during British Raj and has picked up a different identity to match with the demand of the land.
The other identity of Bengali populace is their love for fish. Though the best of fish is only made in the humble Bengali households with helping of mustard oil and nigella seeds, along with a sprinkling of turmeric and salt; you can still savor few of the fish dishes from the Pice Hotels and the Bengali restaurants. Try 6 Ballygunge place for an authentic meal experience.
The city is famous for the sweets they sell. Many of the sweetmeats were primarily invented to please the royals. They are mostly made of milk and dairy products. Opt for Rosogolla and Sondesh where ever you go.
The city roads are closely punctuated by sweetmeat shops almost at every corner. Be sure to check blood sugar level after the trip gets over!
When in Chowrangee (the Park Street Metro)
Take a metro and get down at Park Street, the area where colonial hangover looms large. Among an array of old-school eateries, you must not miss the followings. Please note, the food you will chance to taste is unparalleled and does not appear in the ‘new world’ menu any longer.
The pioneer who started selling kebabs with rice, this restaurant have the orderlies with a Pagri (headgear), standing at the door and controlling the crowd. Definitely, a queue will be there on the weekends or any other major holidays. Try the Chelo kebab and Fish Diana under those lotus shaped red lamps. You can always thank me later!
The fish dish named Fish a la Diana where a bhetki fillet is filled with minced prawns
If you want to soak in the glorious past of British legacy on Park Street for a little longer, we strongly recommend visiting Mocambo. The restaurant is apt for those romantic dinners, rightly accompanied with the perfect whiskey sour and lobster dijon! The Bhetki fillet they use to cook their stewed fish is out of the world.
After all these delicious meals, if you are craving for some sweets like all Bengali do, head to Flurys! The cafe or patisserie was famous for the fine Darjeeling tea and breakfast buffet inspired by English culture until recently!
However, I fell in love with their Almond cake as soon as I tasted it!
Kolkata Chinatown or Tiretta Bazaar
The old Chinese tannery town had been banned due to its negative impact on the environment. Instead, they came up with an innovative and pleasing way to enthrall people, the authentic Chinese food! The residents of the area are descendants of Chinese tradesmen who settled here a few centuries ago. Locally known as Tyangra, the place beams with great restaurants like Big Boss and Golden Dragon, best Chinese restaurants in Kolkata. Food is great, alcohol is cheap.
Fried Rice with minced meat cooked in Kolkata Chinese style
For an early morning breakfast of steamed pork dumplings, head to Tiretti Bazar during winters. Please note this market is very seasonal and serves only the best of Chinese quick bites.
Kolkata Street Food Scene
Kolkata has assimilated the Chinese in street life with an excessive touch of Indian spices. So the Prawn Chowmin you are served in the street side stalls will have gentle seasoning of red chili powder and Ajinomoto. In my honest opinion, the street food influenced with Chinese cuisine is easy on pocket and healthy as long as it is cooked in front of you.
Ghotigorom is a type of Chaat which is basically Chanachur (Indian snack Mix) mixed with chopped onions, carrot, green chili and raw mango. A typical street food snack must try when in Kolkata.
Along with that, try the Kachori served on Shal Pata bowl (Shal leaves, very eco-friendly). Also, opt for Phuchka (known as Golgappa in the rest of India) and Churmur. Do try Alu Kabli and Jhalmuri. These are vegan snacks and very cheap, found in abundance in any park and entrance of a monument.
From the house of novelties, Biryani has soared the street food scene of Kolkata as huge handis (pots) are often put of Dum with a red cotton cover and upon request brings in a fine mix of rice and meat. Though they shall not reach the amazing flavor of the more traditional restaurants, they sure come handy for a quick meal on a budget. You shall find them near the Rabindra Sadan Metro Station, on the street of Camac street and Bardhan market.
In days of yore, many hotels used to operate on Pice system meaning you eat for the whole month and make payment at the end. Pre-globalization, when Kolkata housed plenty of students and workers in ‘Mess Baris’ (paying guest houses), the system saw their heydays. The Pice hotels these days try to emphasize on the legacy gone by and retain few old-school customs, for example, sitting on a wooden bench and eating from a brass metal plate covered with banana leaf. They are particularly good if you are craving some good fish meal. they serve the fresh catch of the day, cooked in authentic style. Try them. They are incredibly cheap as well! Try the Adi Hindu Hotel in College-street by the side of Presidency University. Tell me if you did not love it!
Best Restaurants in Kolkata with a View
Fancy a dinner on the river bed of Ganga? You should head for the Floatel. They are a fine example of luxurious hospitality. In case you are in the city during Durgapuja, book with the steamer that takes visitors on a cruise for the last day during idol immersion.
This restaurant excels in the ambiance. Warm lighting, grand decors, soothing music by Manna dey or Rabindrasangeet is always on the play while service personnel decked up in traditional Saree and Dhuti attire will greet you. Try the Daab Chingri (prawns cooked in the green coconut shell) among other delicacies. Do opt for one grand Thali though I doubt if one person can eat it all!
In case you want to take a look at Kolkata from the high of 17th Floor, Ozora is your place. The newly opened place also serves fancy Hookah and amazing cocktails. Do head for one hip-hop night!
Fish and Chips in Ozora
The kitchen of Bengali has invented plenty of vegan dishes, mostly unaware of the vegan food lifestyle but to accommodate the need of a Bengali widow. With time the customs and rituals changed from the cruel list however the legacy of eating amazing dishes with simplest of ingredients remain. Try the Posto (poppy seed) fritters or the gravy with fried potato to understand what I mean. Also, try Mochar er Ghonto (a vegetable made with banana flowers). Shukto will blow your mind (an assortment of bitter Karela with the myriad fresh produce of the garden in a milk and mustard gravy). The Coconut Narus are great snacks if you have got some serious sweet cravings.
Best Pubs and Casual Dining Options
The Park Street is and the work area of Sector 5, the salt lake has experienced a boom in pubs and bars. My all-time favorite will remain Oly (erstwhile known as Olympia and now shorted with love) pub from Park Street. For some good music scene, check out Someplace else. Tantra is city’s first nightclub and many Bollywood movies were shot at the place!
Cafes in Kolkata
Plenty of Cafe has been set up in different parts of the city. For a taste of new Kolkata, make sure you check out the Cafe Kabira at Jadavpur or Travelistan in Golf Green. For the good old cafe that serves traditional pudding, check “The Cafe” by Jatin Das Park Metro station.
The traditional authentic steamed pudding made with egg white
Also, try their Kabiraji cutlet (an essential anglo dish) and mutton stew (which contains a piece of potato too)!
Mutton Stew with Potato, another Anglo influenced dish!
For quick refreshments, Monginis and Kathleen, the two chain of quick bites have been much adored for days. Their chicken patties, egg puffs, cream rolls are heavenly and very pocket-friendly.
Kolkata Food Markets
The Kancha Bazar (Raw Market)
If you can withstand the strong fishy smell, I strongly suggest visiting the raw markets of Gora Bazar, Dum Dum or Gariahat to witness how big and varied a fish market can be! With that, keep an eye open for the vegetable market, often situated close by, for myriad leafy vegetables, lemons (Gondhoraj lemon) or other produce.
Hog Market or New Market
What is known as New Market for the shopaholics, is also known as Hog Market for the discerning gourmet lovers. You can choose from an array of delicacies if chosen carefully. They sell the indigenous Bandel Cheese here, along with the famed plum cakes of Nahoums. You remember those cake shops that come straight from the second world war movies? Nahoums looks and feels like one of them. I kid you not, the long queue during Christmas holiday proves how a Nahoum’s cake is utmost important to kick-start the celebrations!
In case you are visiting in winter, make sure to take the sweet items made of Nolen Gur (date jaggery). Try the Sondesh, Rosogolla and some Pithe (rice pancakes).
Macher kata (fish bones)
If you go a bit adventurous with the fish, make sure you be vigilant of fish bones and remove them with caution. Use your hands to eat Bengali meal of rice and fish.
Try to avoid the accompanying water and only eat the dry Puchka with potato fill to save from a stomach ache.