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Thursday , January 24 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Greek Salad with house wine at a typical taverna

Thankfully, 2012 wasn’t the disastrous year that the Mayan calendar had predicted. I suppose that, at least, should be reason enough for celebration and probably lots more eating and drinking.

So what’s new this year in the world of food? I personally have plenty of projects stacking up and yes, something old and something new. Last year was great for foodies in India with loads of new and different types of restaurants popping up, besides hundreds of the usual suspects (regional Indian, bastardised Chinese, etc). We had proper French restaurants, more Mediterranean, Japanese, pubs, steakhouses, American diners, more real delis, more bistros etc.

Thai food

I think this year’s food craze, in general (in India), is going to be similar to last year and hopefully someone (for god’s sake!) would do something with real Thai street food. I’d also love to see some South American restaurants pop up, real Mexican, maybe Chilean, Cuban and Brazilian. I’d love someone to ask me to do a proper northern Spanish place with the tastiest, most rustic food you’ve ever tasted. Something with true flavours of Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus… because if people actually tried that food, they would love it. Even a real Greek taverna.

This year’s big new restaurant openings should all be dedicated to real flavours and not just flashy surroundings. Why not bring that dhaba inside from the cold? Everyone knows that’s where most of the great food of India lies and I know for a fact that the best food I’ve ever tasted has been outside, on the streets. Bring it in and do something with that but don’t over-fancify it. Fancy should really be restricted to the true romantics who would love to go out and spend an evening over candlelight and a bottle of decent wine. But in all reality, that’s not for everyone and it seems that today, anybody opening a restaurant, whatever kind, is looking at only spending on the glamour of the space and nothing “on the back”… where you make your money!

Mexican Beef Burrito

In Calcutta there were lots of small new places that popped up in 2012, none of which I have tried as yet, but not really any big openings from new brands. This year, there are a couple of big new shopping malls coming up, which will house some new international brands. And there are many more that want to come in. Hard Rock Cafe, TGIF, Smoke House and Olive have all been looking for space for years. But the incredible difficulty of acquiring space in a good location, difficulty in getting a liquor licence (almost impossible, in fact), stupidly-high rentals in central areas, and low footfall seven days a week, also keep putting those same people off!

But saying that, I think there is a huge void for creating good fast-food outlets; that’s where the big money is. Some food for thought for investors!

Anyway, since we’re still in January and that’s just the beginning of 2013, let’s all hope it’s a good year ahead. We do have something to look forward to this year for true foodies — Calcutta’s first foodies’ club, The Calcutta Gastronomes. We already have the Wine Club and last year popped up the Single Malts Club and now after three years of general adda, we’re almost ready to start taking applications. Applications I’m saying because we can only take around 100 members, so we can be fussy!

Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

The Calcutta Gastronomes is going to be all about creating awareness and appreciation, a general celebration of good food in the city, whether highly pretentious or unpretentious, cheap or expensive. As long as it’s great food, we’re game, all the way up from street to five-star hotels and thousands in between. But like I said, it’s not going to be easy to get in.

Rita Bhimani and Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta are, as we speak, putting together a questionnaire that I’m sure is going to be a killer. So, if you are interested, you’d better keep your ear to the ground, for we are ‘coming soon’!

What’s on your 2013 food wishlist for Calcutta? Tell