Taking a Sunday morning stroll around Kumartuli Ghat has become a habit for Abhirup Ghosh, a resident of Darjeepara in north Kolkata. His morning walk inevitably ends at Lalu-Bhulu’s Tea Shop, a roadside stall that has recently fired the fancy of Kolkata foodies.
Serving dishes different from those offered by other shacks of its kind, this little tea stall bang opposite the Kolkata Police Sutanuti Outpost has been the favourite hangout spot for young people for 18 years. They enjoy sumptuous sessions of adda with Darjeeling tea, bhnarer chaa (tea in clay pots), lassi, burgers and sandwiches here.
On Sundays, the shop comes up with a special menu that attracts more people than usual. Foodies from different parts of Kolkata throng this tea stall to get their hands on a smoking-hot bowl of ghugni (chickpea curry) topped with generous amounts of mutton fat, semi-toasted bread, half-boiled or full-boiled duck eggs and tea.
From traditional chaa-biscuit to mangsher chorbir ghugni
Set up near Kumartuli Ghat in 2004, the tea stall was initially known as Gobindo-dar chaa-er dokan. Back then, it served tea in clay pots and a limited variety of biscuits. Gobindo Dey used to run the shop with the help of his four sons until two of them chose corporate jobs over shopkeeping, while the other two— Chandan Dey (Lalu) and Sandip Dey (Bhulu)—took over the business.
(L-R) Chandan Dey (Lalu) and Sandip Dey (Bhullu).Arijit Sen
Only Bengali breakfast staples like toasted breads with butter, omelettes and maggi were available at the shop till 2012. However, the brothers were already thinking of expanding the menu. Initially, they had planned to serve mangsher khichuri but eventually backed out because of the cost involved.
After a while, they stumbled on a serendipitous idea — how about a plate of ghugni with mutton fat spread over it? “Mangsher chorbi (mutton fat) actually enhances the taste of the ghugni. As an experiment, we started with a kilo of chickpea. On a Sunday morning we introduced it to our customers at Rs 18 a plate. We opened the shop at 8:30am; all the plates were sold by 9:15am,” said Lalu da.
The demand for Sunday special mangsher chorbir ghugni, cooked by the wives of Lalu-da and Bhulu-da at home, shot up within a week. The popularity of half-boiled duck eggs also increased. “Foodies from other parts of Kolkata come to taste these items. A guy came all the way from Andul just the other day! We now make ghugni with 13 kg chickpeas. We start serving food at 8am; the stock is over by noon. People now request us to make ghugni on other days too,” said Bhulu-da.
A plate of special ghugni, duck eggs, toast and tea will cost you not more than Rs 70.Arijit Sen
Menu and pricing
Pocket-friendly food is another reason why young people flock to this tea stall. One big bowl of mangsher chorbir ghugni is priced at Rs 18, while one small loaf of toasted bread cut into two comes at Rs 26. One boiled duck egg costs only Rs 15.
Apart from the famous ghugni, the stall also sells popular dishes like instant noodles, omelettes, sandwiches and burgers. “Young people comprise the majority of our customer base. We’ve introduced grilled sandwiches and burgers for them. The chicken patty used in the burger is totally homemade,” said Bhulu-da.
“We plan to include mutton burgers in our daily menu. But before that we would taste the burgers ourselves. Only after that, we would prepare the burgers in small quantities and ask our regular customers to give their feedback. We don’t compromise with the quality of our food,” he added.
Sunday scenario at Kumartuli Ghat
My Kolkata visited the stall on a summer morning, not expecting any rush because of the tremendous heat. But to our surprise, there was a regular crowd in front of the shop. A group of young boys in their football jerseys, friends, couples, families, morning walkers and pedestrians were waiting patiently in front of the tea stall.
“I have come from Ballygunge with my friends to try this ghugni. My friends have been talking about it for a long time. I am loving it,” said Pooja Choudhury, a teacher of a school in south Kolkata.
A lot of food vloggers have also featured Lalu-Bhulu’s Tea Shop as an essential destination for anyone who loves to tuck in.
Aryani Banerjee, an author and a foodie, said, “Just a stone’s throw from Kumartuli, this otherwise makeshift bamboo-thatched shop represents rustic romanticism. Ghugni topped with mutton fat, accompanied by two buttered toasts and boiled duck eggs, on a fineSunday morning on the banks of the Ganga — what more can you ask for?”
Young people living nearby have been visiting the tea stall for years. “We have known Lalu-da and Bhulu-da for a long time. Our adda is not complete without their tea, burgers and sandwiches. The Sunday special ghugni is a bonus! It’s nice to see so many people visiting the shop these days,” said Sourav Sengupta, a local.
How to reach
You can reach Kumartuli Ghat easily via bus, cab or Metro Railway. If you take a bus, get off at the Lal Mandir or Rajballavpur bus stop. From there, it’s a five-minute walk to the Kumartuli neighbourhood.
With Kumartuli Pally on your left, the ghat will be straight after the chakra rail line.Arijit Sen
If you want to take the Metro, you have to get off at the Shobhabazar Metro station and walk from there to the locality. Once you reach Kumartuli Pally, you will see the ghat and your landmark will be the Kolkata Police Sutanuti Outpost.