Calcutta’s foodscape is getting a mouth-watering makeover with a host of trendy eateries with offbeat culinary offerings, says Lubna Salim
Molecular mocktails that look like magic potions as liquid nitrogen is poured into the glass, tapas served in
customised cazuela bowls from Spain, or Devilled Crab covered with molten cheese. What will it be?
Whether you’d like authentic Afro- Portuguese cuisine or want to go back in time for a retro dining experience, just make a reservation at one of the new restaurants that have opened in the city. Their quirky ambiance and creative menus are putting them high on must-visit restaurant lists. They are also making for perfect watering holes, as they offer bar menus that are innovative and brimming with the latest tipples.
From celebrating a special occasion to setting up a business-y conference, the restaurants are serving as perfect venues. Here’s a sneak peek:
Fans of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the celebrated American television show, who’ve yearned to plonk themselves on the orange couch at Central Perk, the coffee-shop where the six friends would hang out, have reason to rejoice. For, the F.R.I.E.N.D.S Café at Deshapriya Park has all things quintessential to the show.
“It’s not just the sofa, this place encapsulates the entire world of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. There’s Pat the Dog, Phoebe’s
bicycle, doors resembling ones in Monica’s and Chandler’s apartments in the show,” says Aditya Bachhawat who started this one-of-a-kind café. The 80-seater space is divided into a café and a lounge. “We play back-to-back episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S here,” smiles Bachhawat.
The menu too has been designed to bring back memories from the show. For instance, it features Ross Geller’s Moist Maker Sandwich. “For desserts, there are cheesecakes and chocolate mousse made popular by Monica in the serial. I’ll soon be adding Joey’s favourite foosball table too,” says Bachhawat.
Among the international players targeting the city’s growing love for global cuisines is the South Africa-based restaurant chain, Barcelos. Perched on the fourth floor of Acropolis mall, this chic 120-seater, casual dining restaurant serves Afro-Portuguese cuisine.
The highlight is a huge 500sqft 3D wall painting depicting a Portuguese street market. “The optical illusion is such that no matter which direction you look from, the cobbled street in this painting always points towards you,” laughs Robin Sarkar, one of the three joint directors of Barcelos along with Kaushik and Indranil Roy Chowdhury.
The menu at Barcelos offers four variations of Peri Peri Sauce — Mild, Tangy, Veri and Supa — that pairs perfectly with the signature dish, Flame Grilled Chicken. “Our coloured burgers, in white, black and red variations, are in high demand too,” says Sarkar.
Sample authentic Afro-Portuguese dishes like Chicken Cataplana — grilled chicken, peppers, olives and chickpeas served on a bed of rice — presented in a traditional cataplana pan. Molecular drinks like Kiwi Kooler and Tangy Mango are fast movers.
This high-energy restobar-cum-microbrewery is catching the fancy of diners with its menu and interiors. “We got Mumbai-based Ayaz Basrai, the man behind India’s coolest restaurants, to design the interiors because we wanted to create an out-of-the-box space,” says Gaurav Karnani who runs The Grid, in Topsia, with his wife Ritika.
The Lego Bar, with colourful Lego designs on the bar counter, is hard to miss. Behind the bar is the microbrewery. Divided into seven cool zones there’s Grid X (a 31-seater private clubbing zone), The Smoking Room on the first floor and The Asylum where conferences can be held. Hang out in a different zone each time you visit.
Nibbles are served in grid-shaped boxes and trays. Try the signature dishes —Tokyo Chickpeas (chickpeas in tempura batter and Togarashi sauce) and Chicken Berry Pulav (Iranian berries with rice and chicken).
For dessert Ritika recommends Guptaji Chocolate Toast (bread grilled with nuts in chocolate and caramel sauce). “This is a tribute to the famous chocolate toast sold at Mumbai’s Gupta stall,” smiles Ritika.
Strains of Love Me Do and Summer of ’69 fill the air at Chapter 2 that recreates the nightlife of Park Street of the ’60s and ’70s in Mani Square mall.
“We’ve grown up eating at Sky Room restaurant and enjoying live music at Trincas on Park Street. Through Chapter 2 we want to bring back these memories,” says Shiladitya Chaudhury who runs Chapter 2 with his brother, Debaditya.
To recreate the feel of the bygone era, they roped in art director Nitish Roy to design the interiors. So, 3D frames displaying portraits of Hollywood stars of yesteryear adorn walls along with life-size statues of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. The quirky Cadillac Bar (a half of a Cadillac mock-up juts out of the bar counter!), and the retro costumes of the Chapter 2 team complete the picture. A live band plays on weekends at dinner-time.
The retro dining experience is enhanced with a menu featuring dishes born in the days of The Raj. Try the Chateaubriand Tenderloin Steak, dig into Prawn Thermidor or order a hearty Irish Lamb Stew. “Our Prawn On Toast is a huge hit,”says Shiladitya.
Occupying the ground floor of an old mansion, Route 17 is the perfect place for adda over comfort food on Dr Sarat Banerjee Road. Akhilesh Jayaswal, Zahid S. Khan and Mantosh Gupta, the men behind this newly opened restaurant, devised interiors that are split into three zones.
The first and the biggest has red-and-black wrought iron tables and chairs. Zone two, a small room with a nest swing, books and a bench, allows the luxury of ‘me’ time. And, if you feel like stretching on a gadda, head to the cabana-style alcove. “We wanted Route 17 to be a place where college-goers and working professionals could hang out; so we divided it into these sections,” says Jayaswal.
Calcutta-style Chinese rules the roost here and includes Crispy Chilli Potato and Shanghai Fish for starters while rice and noodles dishes in sauces like Schezwan, Mongolian and Cantonese can be paired with an assortment of sides. Among the fast-movers is the signature Route 17 Special Fried Rice topped with a half-fried egg and Prawns in Chicken Blankets. Jayaswal is keen on padding up the menu with a Continental section.
Industrial chic interiors amp up the cool quotient of this two-storey restaurant. A brainchild of Le Cordon Bleu graduate Urvika Kanoi and her friend Aakash Jaiswal, the 84-cover Bodega, on Park Street, is spread over 2,750sqft.
While the ground floor is occupied by the bar, the restaurant upstairs has an exposed ceiling, industrial lamps and ropes that are counter-balanced by leather sofas and bar stools. Large tables are teamed with mismatched chairs.
“We’ve done this to introduce the concept of community seating,” says Kanoi who intends to initiate less mainstream global cuisines. So, starring on the menu are Spanish, Korean and rustic Italian dishes. Among the hotsellers are Chickpea Chorizo (a Spanish dish of tempura chickpea, Spanish chorizo, peppers and cilantro) and nibbles like Shroom Balls (mushrooms with fresh mozzarella and confit garlic).
Kanoi’s collaborated with Sanjana Patel of Mumbai’s French patisserie, La Folie, to curate the sinful dessert menu with sweet devils like Bodega Bomba (a hand-painted chocolate dome with strawberry foam, parfait and champagne sorbet). The popular picks from the bar include the Atlantis Fizz. Adds Kanoi: “I’m working on some Peruvian dishes too.”