Mogra Murg Pulao and Potli Kabab from Siraj-ud-Daullah’s durbar, the long-lost Keller’s Railway Cutlet from the old Sky Room kitchen, Phulkopir Malaikari and Motorshutir Dhoka, Thakurbarir Ranna. Or maybe, ‘mouth-watering’ telebhajas and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ langchas like Shaktigarh makes it — all in ‘star’ comfort.
The banquet bastion for a trip down the city’s taste trail is being laid out from Poila Boishakh, on Elgin Road. Oh Calcutta! “a celebration of Calcutta’s cuisine”, promises to provide “the most comprehensive array of the city’s trademark dishes under one roof”. The 125-seater, 5,000-sq-ft restaurant coming up on the fourth floor of Forum, the lifestyle mall on Elgin Road, will bring back to the dining table many “lost dishes” of the city.
“Calcutta is one of those unique places with a culinary legacy of its own. Down the ages, the repertoire has been further enriched by different schools and cultures, and we plan to restore that culinary heritage,” says Anjan Chatterjee, director, Speciality Restaurants Pvt Ltd, which owns the Oh Calcutta! brand.
Chatterjee, who had triggered a fine-dining revolution south of Park Street with Mainland China on Gurusaday Road, has spent months researching traditional and near-extinct recipes of Calcutta. “The hunt for exotic dishes which are quintessentially Calcutta and Bengal, has taken me to remote areas, even into Bangladesh, where I chanced upon Dhaka’s very own Prawn Bharta,” says Chatterjee.
The Prawn Bharta will find pride of place on the Oh Calcutta! menu, alongside Shankarpuri Kankra, Dab Chingri and Bihari Kabab. The Mumbai-based restaurateur, who believes “feeding people is an art”, has extensively studied the various influences on Calcutta cuisine, from Siraj-ud-Daullah to the British, Chinese settlers to the Anglo-Indians.
The décor of Oh Calcutta! will bring alive various facets of the city. “We want to give the restaurant the look of an old Calcutta club through theme walls,” explains Chatterjee. So, one wall will be dedicated to the romance of the Tollygunge studios, with posters and stills of Satyajit Ray, Uttam-Suchitra and more. The sports wall will depict Maidan heroes in sepia tone, while another wall will bear signatures of “all those who have done Calcutta proud”. There will be Desmond Doigs too, besides lots of artefacts from old auction houses of the city. Wooden flooring and armchairs will complete the old-world ambience.
Oh Calcutta! aims to plug the need for a signature restaurant of the city’s cuisine. While sticking to good ol’ grandma’s kitchen, the chefs will take care to address the needs of a rapidly-changing world. Hence, the emphasis will be on steamed and pan-fried dishes, slow-fire and charcoal cooking.
Chatterjee, who is taking Mainland China to London in July, is confident Oh Calcutta! will follow suit.