Once known as Calcutta, the city of Kolkata is an amazing place to introduce yourself to Indian food. This is easier said than done: India is such a vast country that the definition of Indian food includes Persian and Bengali fare, not to forget English tea. Kolkata’s rich restaurant scene is always changing, so we’ve updated our previous listing to bring you our new guide to the ten best restaurants ready to host you in Kolkata.
A much appreciated legacy of the British Empire, Flurys is an English tearoom first established in Kolkata in 1927. Sweet tooths won’t be able to resist the remarkable range of mouth-watering treats tempting them from the packed display cases. Fresh cakes, delicious pastries, rich puddings, fluffy cookies – everyone will find a delicacy to their taste to indulge in a sinful pleasure. But Flurys is just as known for its drinks. There’s tea, of course; and then you have the chocolates, the Belgian hot mocha and the tearoom’s popular Viennese coffee. Housed in a historic and charmingly decorated venue, more than simply a tearoom Flurys is a veritable institution and should be on the route of anyone visiting Kolkata.
For part of its rich history, the North of India was under the rule of the legendary Mughlai Empire, which left more than a few traces of its influence in the country’s culture, including its cuisine. Popular restaurant Arsalan on Park Street serves traditional and scrumptious Mughlai food, and is best loved by patrons for its exquisite spread of biryanis. An Iranian delicacy, biryani is a dish of mixed rice usually accompanied with chicken or mutton meat, and a range of spices such as pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and coriander. Variants with beef or fish can be found, as well as vegetarian alternatives with no meat at all. Restaurant Arsalan is one of the top places in Kolkata to taste some quality biryani, but its offerings also include other tantalising delicacies – don’t skip their kebabs!
Part of a chain of Indian restaurants, Kolkata’s Barbeque Nation offers a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience. A dinner here starts with a pre-fixed menu of five barbecued starters which are the real draw of all Barbeque Nation’s outlets. Each table is equipped with a grill that guests can use to keep their starters warm or glaze with the accompanying marinades and sauces. All tables also have a little flag: the alert service keeps the starters coming until the flag is up. If you wish to take a break or proceed to the main courses, signal this by folding the flag down. The extensive spread of dishes offered at Barbeque Nation are influenced by international cookings, but deeply founded on India’s national cuisine.
Banana Leaf has been offering fresh, delicious South Indian staples to Kolkata’s foodies since 2002. Here travellers can try a range of traditional bites, like idlys, small cakes made from rice and fermented black lentils, served with a choice of condiments; vadas, a mouth-watering fried pastry in the form of a doughnut or disc; the dosas, a typically Indian thin wrap usually filled with vegetables and sauces; or the exquisite uttapams, the Indian equivalent of pizzas. Or join Banana Leaf for a more elaborate meal – you will be served a platter with a portion of rice in the centre, and all around a selection of smaller plates containing sambar, rasam, kuttu, potato curry, pickles and other ingredients to season the rice with.
A hearty, traditional Bengali meal usually begins with a selection of fried starters, and follows with the dal, a course consisting of rice to be seasoned with a varied choice of accompaniments, but generally potatoes and vegetables, either fried or stewed. The meal continues with the main course, usually a fish dish, on top of which a meat-based preparation is occasionally added. Then, it’s time for the chutney course, a bittersweet mix of fruits that serves the purpose of cleansing the palate before proceeding to dessert. With its five-page menu of vegetarian and non-vegetarian specials, curries, dals, servings of rice and pulao, chutney recipes and desserts, restaurant Bhojohori Manna is a great option to experience a typical, tasty Bengali meal.
Fine-dining restaurant Dum Puhkt, the first in Asia to have received the prestigious Golden Fork Award, revives the ancient art of dum pukht style of cooking that was common throughout India’s royal courts. The dum pukht technique requires that the food be patiently roasted over slow fire in a bottomed and tightly sealed pot, the handi. Critical to the technique is the addition of herbs and spices, which are given plenty of time to release their strong aromas and lend incredible flavour to the utterly delectable fare. Accordingly with the royal theme of the cuisine, the restaurant boasts a stunning, luxurious venue and top-notch service.
The city of Kolkata is without a doubt one of the top destinations in India to enjoy the country’s tastiest street bites. In fact, Kolkata’s street food is numbered among the best in the entire world. Recommended places in the city for delicious street fare include James Hickey Street, Abanindranath Tagore Street and Dalhouise Square. Hit any one of these locations and grab the iconic phuchka (a fried, crispy ball with a filling of spiced mashed potatoes), some jhal muri (seasoned rice puffs with a variety of ingredients and topped with mustard oil) or a delicious kathi roll (a wrap of unleavened bread filled with mutton kebab, bits of fried chicken, paneer cheese and fried egg).
Kolkata offers many great restaurants that can introduce you to the distinctive flavours of Bengali cooking. In particular, restaurant Oh! Calcutta spoils its guests with a delectable menu that surveys the many nuances of Bengal’s rich gastronomy. With the ocean not far away and the region featuring many lakes and rivers, fish and seafood are a prominent highlight of Bengali cuisine, making Oh! Calcutta an especially recommended choice for fish lovers.
Treat yourself to a sumptuous meal in a refined atmosphere – choose restaurant Zen for your next dinner in Kolkata. Found in the lavish, five-star hotel The Park, Zen brings exquisite and deftly prepared pan-Asian food to the discerning palates in the city. The restaurant boasts a captivating venue dripping with oOriental charm, however adjusted to contemporary expectations. The stylish ambience, both relaxed and seductive at the same time, perfectly matches the superb food. Levels of service are also above average in comparison with most restaurants in Kolkata.
Situated in a century-old bungalow, 6 Ballygunge Place is yet another great choice in Kolkata for traditional, authentic Bengali food. Located in a century-old bungalow sporting, among other features, enchanting pictures of old Kolkata, 6 Ballygunge Place offers a lovely setting as a backdrop to a truly delectable Bengali meal. The menu holds something for every palate, and caters well to both vegetarian and meat lovers. Popular choices include the kasha mangsho, a delicious, spicy curry of mutton; and the daab chingri, a dish of prawns marinaded in mustard and typically cooked inside of a hollowed-out coconut.