If Bengalis could, they would name their city as the City of Food, instead of City of Joy. These iconic vintage restaurants in Kolkata have stood witness to the city’s ever-changing landscape but the constant love for food. By Sreetama Basu
To say Bengalis love their food would be an understatement. But in this edition, we are giving a shoutout to all the restaurants in Kolkata that have been building their legacies since Victorian times. These restaurants and eateries have stood the test of time and have forever been etched as the permanent hunting ground for this food-loving community called Bengalis. Even though some of these restaurants have been revamped and restored over the years, but the magical blend of spices and their legendary taste has not been lost.
With tons of new and fancy eateries, bars and pubs opening up every week in the city, one would think these vintage restaurants would get lost in the crowd. But trust Bengalis to get really adventurous and dig up the best of everything when it comes to food. That of course, and the fact that nostalgia runs in our blood.
Not just nostalgia and reminiscence of old times, food, too, is deeply ingrained in our DNAs since medieval times. From the nizam influence to the British invasion, from American to Portuguese influences, and the permanent settlement of Chinese folks in the city, Kolkata is a melting pot of cuisines. From patrons of the eternal favourite roshogolla to the potato-inclusive biryani, aka, the Kolkata biryani, the city has an array of cuisines like no other. Where to find the best of everything? At these restaurants, eateries, food joints, bakeries, and sweet shops that have been around forever. Let’s look at the heritage restaurants in Kolkata for a true food lover.
The best vintage restaurants in Kolkata
A top spot for students, teacher and professors on College Street, this place has been a showstopper for generations. The usual adda spot over a cup of coffee and cutlets or pakora, Coffee House needs no introduction. Started off as Albert Hall in 1942, this pre-independecne spot is still a favourite spot amongst present-day youth. French windows and double-height storeys adorn this humble place, where adda over food never gets old.
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For all dessert enthusiasts, this place is a must-visit. It was once a famous tearoom for the British high lords and officials. Started in 1927, this place is known for its desserts and confectionaries. But if you want to move beyond their cakes and pastries, their English breakfast is a crowd favourite.
Image: Courtesy Instagram
North Kolkata’s charm and cuisine is something a true blue Bengali can never get enough of. For many generations, Golbari and Kosha Mangsho have been synonymous. Over a hundred years old, the most special thing about this place is that it has never changed its menu in all these years. Their soft, succulent mutton cooked in a dark velvety gravy is a signature dish that the city is incomplete without.
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Been around since 1920, Mitra Cafe has been serving lip-smacking cutlets for generations. Known for its Kabiraji Cutlet, Brain Chop, Mutton Chop and Fish Fry, visit this place any day of the week and it’s always crowded. Located near Sovabazar metro station, it is one of the last few remaining cabins in Kolkata now.
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Talking of cabins, we cannot miss this iconic cabin in the heart of the city. From Moghlai paratha to kosha mangsho, this place is famous for being a Bengali’s paradise. For one of the finest fish cutlets, chicken cutlers and Mughlai masterpieces in Bengal, Anadi Cabin is a must-visit.
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Set in 1902 by Nahoum Israel Mordecai right in front of Hoggs Market, the shop was later relocated to New Market. Their Rich Fruit Cake is the longest-standing item on the menu, that is still one of the bestsellers here. Their fish pantras, flavoured pastries, almond rings, jam tarts, and rum balls are unmissable and you must try them too.
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More than 130 years old, this place was started by Jeeban Krishna Saha. Allen Kitchen got its name from a Scot, Mr Allen, but the eatery was always owned by the Saha family. It is famous for its prawn cutlets, which are still one of the best ever that you will try. There have been many outlets across the city, but currently, they have only one. What’s amazing is that the main cook at Allen’s has been working here for over 50 years, which is why there has been no change in the taste they offer.
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Located in the center of College Street, they have been around for over a century now. It is running for its famous Kabiraji and cutlet, which is its own rendition of the classic. It had six other branches across the city, which had seen generations of romances and friendships, but they were all closed down. The OG one still remains, and is still a crowd favourite.
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The inventors of kathi kebab rolls, Nizam’s was set up in 1932 by Raza Hassan Saheb. Earlier, the chicken was cooked on skewers, which was then replaced by bamboo sticks. That is where the use of ‘kathi’ or sticks has come from, and hence, the invention of this delicacy called kathi rolls. Starting from Rs 30, their menu is extensive and easy on the pocket.
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A regular destination for families in Kolkata, Mocambo has a long lineage and the true foodies are aware of that. Mocambo is known for pioneering dishes like Fish A La Diana, Chicken Ala Kiev, Angels on Horseback and is a hot spot for even foreigners, tourists and expats in the city too.
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One of the first places to have introduced the concept biryani in the city, they are unique because unline all places in Kolkata, they do not add potatoes to theirs. To not add the ever-favourite aloo and still be crowded at all times in Kolkata is a big thing.
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(This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India)