Kolkata is a foodie’s paradise! The amalgamation of the distinct tastes of the Eastern & Western halves of Bengal coupled with motley of influences over history have created a gorgeous and lip-smacking melange of dishes. There are strong Mughlai, Punjabi, Chinese, Tibetan, and South Indian influences. The hint of Anglo-Indian and Armenian cuisine is subtle, but not non-existent. Globalization has introduced more exotic cuisines like Lebanese, South Asian, Greek, Italian, Mediterranean, and Japanese into the palette and niche restaurants catering to specific tastes are opening their doors to them. Bengalis love their fish, meat, and desserts - the ubiquitous mishit that is our pride.
Here are 11 places in Kolkata that you can visit for a gastronomic adventure. Welcome to the land of foodgasms!
Around Nakhoda & Colootola Mosques
A maze of labyrinthine lanes bustling with business branch and re-branch to run into each other in the shadow of the majestic Nakhoda Mosque, the minarets of which pierce clouds of suspended particulate. This is the city’s kebab district. Colootola and Phears Lane are replete with hole-in-the-wall eateries selling every variation of skewered meat. Try out the beef specialities here- Sutli Kebab (the meat is so tender that it needs to be bound with a thread, a sutli), Khiri Kebab (made with the cow’s udder), Malai Kebab and Gurda Kebab (made with the cow’s kidney). During the month of Ramadan, the entire Zakaria Street turns into a food bazaar. Small stalls selling Bakarkhani & Sheermal Breads, Murgh Changezi, Mahi Akbari, Sewaiyan, Rogni Roti, Shahi Tukras, Haleem, Biriyani and countless other delicacies jostle with stalls of colourful bangles and clothes. From November to February, you can find delicious Nihari early in the morning. Recommended eateries here are Adam’s Kebab, Abdul Hamid’s Kebab, Taskeen and Haji Alauddin.
Bhowanipur & Elgin
The food scene at Bhowanipur is heating up by the day! Restaurants catering to every cuisine and every pocket line the area. Hookah bars like The Dugout, Privy Ultra Lounge, Desi Drag, Tyre Patty, Chaska Cafe and ZAF Lounge are a rage with youngsters. For pure vegetarians, there is the very popular Balwant Singh’s eating-house. Buddha Bites, Bijoli Grill, Rooftop Top View and Tibetan Delights are light on the pocket and serve excellent food. Fifth Element is known for its Pan-Asian delicacies. Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick is a famous Kolkata sweet shop. Café Mezzuna, Spaghetti Kitchen, Oh! Calcutta, Biker’s Café and Matsuri are must visits.
Poddar Court & Tiretta Bazaar
The heart of Kolkata is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines! From rows of shops selling chanachur to street food vendors hawking chaats, ghugni, littis and puchkas to Ralli’s sherbet, name it and you have it here. Chinese breakfast at Tiretta Bazaar is a unique experience. This is part of the city’s old China Town. Around 6 every morning, roadside stalls selling sumptuous dumplings, soups, pork buns, sweet buns, and noodles appear out of thin air. The business is brisk and the market wraps up by 7 am. Tung Nam, a small eatery in the Chatawala Gali, serves authentic Chinese food. A little further, Bow Barracks is a different story already. The rows of red-bricked houses here are mostly inhabited by the Anglo-Indian Community. Their cuisine is distinct, and without many to take it forward, the delicacies have ended up as letters in old recipe books. But during Christmas, this sleepy lane comes alive with celebrations and you can have a taste of dishes like Pantheras, Kedgerees, Chicken Jalfarezi, Mulligatawny, and Liver Fry.
China Town at Tangra
Calcutta was the origin of the ingenious Indian Chinese that is quite a rage in every city in the country. The primary influence is the Sichuan cuisine, but what differentiates Indian Chinese from its authentic counterpart is the liberal use of spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, hot chilli, yogurt, and garlic. Initially, the Chinese occupied a part of Central Kolkata around Chatawala Gali, but most have since relocated to Tangra, where they established a burgeoning business of tanneries. Bright red and lantern-lit facades are a common feature of the eateries here. There are numerous “Hakka” Chinese restaurants here, but all share two common features- the large portions and the minimal serving time. Beijing and Kim Ling are two legendary eateries of Tangra. Other recommended places are Golden Joy, Big Boss, Ming Garden, and Kim Fa. During the Chinese New Year, the entire locality erupts with festivities. There are dragon dances, fireworks and of course, more food!
Dacres Lane, Chowringhee Square & New Market Area
Dacres Lane is paradise for street-food lovers. Squished in-between Esplanade Row and Waterloo Streets, Dacres Lane has an unprecedented number of stalls selling anything from chowmein and rolls to jalebis and dahi papris. The most well-known here is Chitto da’s stall that dishes out an excellent and aromatic chicken stew. Bebo Sandwiches serves wonderful grilled sandwiches. The road leading to Esplanade along Sreeram Arcade has a number of shops selling fresh fruit juice. Chowringhee Square and the area around Little Tipu Mosque turn into a hotbed of food during Ramadan. New Market Area has a number of famous eateries- drop in at Aminia, Nizam’s, Mughal Garden and UP Bihar Restaurant serve excellent Mughlai food. The area has a number of food carts selling kebabs, rolls, phuchka, chowmein, jhaal muri, ghugni, and telebhaja. Right inside Hogg Market is the famous bakery, Nahoum’s. Rich cakes, pastries, fresh breads, hand-made cookies and other goodies line the displays. Another store named Sabitri Dalmoot Store stocks excellent meetha chanachur. Blue & Beyond (overlooking the Kolkata skyline), 1658 Bar & Kitchen, Zaranj, Raj’s Spanish Café, and Kasturi Restaurant are other good places. The next lane, Sudder Street, is Kolkata’s backpacker haunt and is chock-a-bloc with eateries. You can find anything from English breakfasts to Mughlai kebabs here.
The pavements of the Central Business District transforms into a mesh of food stalls during the afternoon. Office goers dig into plates of biriyani, omelette, puri-sabji, momo, thukpa, dosa, idli, uttapam, bhaat-macher jhol, chowmein, parantha- it is a never-ending list. Add to it the wide array of sweets- from sandesh and rosogolla to payesh and kulfi, you will find it all. The food is freshly cooked and vendors carry them in baskets and wait until the employees descend at lunchtime. It is ironic that legendary restaurants like Firpo’s, Whiteway-Laidlaw, Bourne and Shepherd that once stood proud here have now been replaced by ubiquitous street food stalls. Although the grubby tarpaulins ruin the aesthetics of the palatial, heritage buildings, the food-loving Kolkatans are happy with the food and are far from complaining.
Park Street, Camac Street & Surrounding
Park Street is the city’s famed party district. Be it Christmas or New Year or Durga Puja, the street is decked up and the hippest, trendiest people descend to party hard. The entire road is dotted with restaurants and nightclubs- the most legendary amongst which is Flurys. A step inside and you are transported to the Raj era of the English high tea and cupcakes. Other famous eateries here are Mocambo, Peter Cat for the Chelo Kebab, Oly Pub, Sam’s Pub, Waldorf, Flotiana and Trincas. If you looking to unwind, drop in at Cha Bar and prop a book while indulging in some gourmet teas. Camac Street is dotted with offices and the street food scene here resembles that of Dalhousie, albeit on a smaller scale. The surrounding areas comprising Wood Street and Russel Street together offer a melange of cuisines. The Blue Poppy above Sikkim House arguably serves some of the best Tibetan food in the city. Fire & Ice serves delectable pizzas. The food scene here is very dynamic - new restaurants pop up every other day, and each has something new and distinct to offer.
Sector V, Salt Lake
Sector V is Kolkata’s IT Park and to cater to the young professionals who come from all around the globe, a large number of restaurants have mushroomed here. No matter what your taste buds are craving, you will find a place that will make you happy. For meat, there is the Barbeque Nation chain and yet again, it does not disappoint. Paris Café has some delectable items on the menu; their red-velvet cupcakes are a rage! Bakstage, Chai Break, and Opium are great places to down a beer. Rang de Basanti Dhaba and The Funjabi Tarka are family restaurants serving North Indian cuisine. Right across the street from the glittering buildings that house IT giants, small shacks cater to office-goers at lunchtime. Though not as diverse as the foodie extravaganza at Dalhousie, you can find filling thalis, mangsho, chowmein, momo, rolls, sandwiches, and puri-sabji here.
Shyambazar, Sovabazar & Hatibagan
The nostalgia-soaked heart of North Calcutta will give you an authentic taste of Bengal. The area has some of Bengal’s oldest eateries – the famous “cabins,” Allen’s Kitchen and Mitra Café are located here. It is said that doctors prescribed the latter’s chicken soup when you had a flu. Sample their cutlets with a fiery kasundi dip. Sen Mahasaya, Girish Chandra De & Nakur Chandra Nandy and Nalin Chandra & Sons are few of Kolkata’s famous sweet shops. Try anything from traditional rasogollas and kanchagollas to newer chocolate barfis. For authentic Bengali food, drop in at Bhojohari Manna. Other well-known eateries here are Arsalan and Golbari. Walk down these narrow, congested by-lanes and who knows you might stumble upon a pre-independence eatery dishing out excellent kachuri-torakari and chop.
The leafier, well-heeled neighbourhood of Southern Avenue near Rabindra Sarobar have seen a recent upsurge in boutique restaurants. Young well-travelled entrepreneurs are giving the city a taste of global cuisine. Most of the establishments are located in old houses reminiscent of the unique Bengali-European culture, and this along with the meticulously decorated interiors up the aesthetics. For your meat cravings, drop in at the Steak Factory and the Blue Door. Ecstasea specialises in seafood. Restaurants like Mrs. Magpie and Cloakroom will woo you not just with their décor, but with their food too. The sunken pudding at Cloakroom has some excellent reviews. Mandarin, Tak Heng, China Calling and The Wall serve excellent Chinese. If you want to unwind, drop in at the Xrong Place.
The slew of restaurants in this part of South Kolkata caters to heavier pockets. Street food does make a show in the form of phuchkas, jhal-muri, ghugni, and telebhaja because the average Kolkatan cannot survive without any of these, but the chances of you stumbling at a shack is rare. Instead, drop in at Chilli’s, Bohemian, Smoke House Deli, Bombay Brassiere, Serafina, Villa 19, Mainland China- the famous Chinese restaurant-, 6 Ballygunge Place for traditional Bengali food or at Yauatcha, Kolkata’s first Michelin connection. Irish House is arguably one of the best pubs in the city. Regular happy hours coupled with a great atmosphere draws young professionals. For more pocket friendly eats, there is Pai’s Malgudi that serves authentic South Indian food, Paris Café, Chowman, Café Pranah, Sharma Dhaba, and Kasturi.
Which of these areas is your favourite place for a bite or an elaborate meal? Have we missed out on anything? Tell us in the comments below.