My favourite food at Park Street | Kolkata

Princep Ghaat - Kolkata
Princep Ghaat – Kolkata

What I eat if I have only half a day’s time to spend at Park Street, Kolkata

Last week, I was in Kolkata – the city that has played a significant part in my life, in making me the person I am today. I have literally seen the best and the worst times of my life in this city. I was away from home for the first time and honestly, it took me a while to get accustomed to the food in the city, especially what was served in my hostel. But now that I no longer stay there, I would do anything to get my share of the diverse food that the city is so famous for. There’s traditional Bengali food, Tangra Chinese Food, East Bangla Food, Muslim influenced ‘Moghalai Food’ and Europe influenced ‘Continental food’.

Way back in the year 2007, my friends and I, would often take a yellow cab from our campus on E.M Bypass Road to Park Street. The 6-7 of us somehow would manage to share one cab by sitting on each other’s lap (courtesy we used to be thinner in those days). On our normal outings, we would first eat our Beef Steak at Olypub along with some cheap beer and free chakna and then head to Some Place Else at The Park, to listen to live music. More often than not, Some Place Else used to be fully packed, as they had free entry, something that we hostellers fully exploited. We would find our way through the crowd only to listen to bad covers of many originals by The Doors or Jimi Hendrix. I liked listening to some Bangla Rock by Lakkhichhara and Fossils, though. And if we ever felt hungry after all that, we would grab some rolls from Kusum Roll’s and take the yellow cab back to the campus.

However, whenever we went to Park Street for a celebration – a birthday, a selection at a Film Festival or simply when family or friends were in town, we would choose fancy places. Either breakfast, dessert or small snack at The Flury’s, Main food at One Step Up (Peter Cat always had long waiting hours) or a roll at Kusum’s. Well, a fancy outing didn’t mean, that you couldn’t make space for an indulgent roll. Every outing here was like a much-needed break from Pyaaz Koli, Ghugni and Bhaja served at my hotel mess. So, I would love indulging in some fancy ‘European/Conti’ grilled dishes.

My parents were never big on eating out. Hence, I have limited memories of eating out as a kid. Even when we did, it was mostly restricted to Masala Dosa – Chowmein – Chhole Bhature in some ‘multi cuisine’ restaurant. So, in Kolkata, when I frequently started eating out, I came across many dishes that I was unaware of. For example, I had never heard of Chicken Tetrazzini earlier and I don’t think, even today, I see it on menus in Delhi. In fact I had my life’s first quiche at Flury’s in Kolkata. I was quite intrigued by Kolkata’s obsession with all the ‘foreign’ food.

Chicken a la Kiev, Fish Wellington, Grilled Beckty, Vegetable Au Gratin, Spaghetti Meatballs, Steaks (served with carrots, peas and parsley potatoes), Chops with Kasundi (Bengal Mustard) such dishes were celebrated in many eateries at Park Street.

At The Tea Table - Kolkata
At The Tea Table – Kolkata

One particular favorite of mine was The Tea Table (or T3 as it was popularly known). It was located at the corner of one of the many heritage buildings at Park Street, diagonally opposite to Flury’s. Many of my batch mates who were locals told me that it used to be the original Flurys. People were emotionally attached to the place. The old furniture, white walls, huge glass windows and familiar faces of its regular staff, it was the Flurys that many locals grew up on. A popular tearoom for leisurely time, to read newspaper, sip on tea and eat old favourites such as Fish Cocktail Sausages or Chicken Loaf. I was fortunate enough to spend a Christmas Eve there eating Spaghetti with Meatballs and Chicken Patties way back in 2008. Soon after, probably around late 2009, it was shut.

Anyway, during my last trip to Park Street, I only had 4-5 hours. I was meeting my dearest friend Sanglap (whom I lovingly call Bantu). He is a filmmaker and a senior from the institute. He was the one who introduced me to the world of Paturi Bhetki, Ilish, Kosha Mangsho, Dhokhar Dalna and other delicious Bengali food. He is my go to person in Kolkata for food, fun and just good times. Since it was pouring cats and dogs, it took him a while to reach Park Street. And in the meantime, I spent some alone time having Mango Shake and Spinach and Corn Quiche at Flurys. Yes, that was my first ‘must have’ at Park Street.

Since it was the first quiche of my life, I always like to get back to it. And, it’s lovely. Every time I eat it, I enjoy the creamy filling inside the pastry has the right balance of flavours. The sweetness from the corn is rightly complimented by the earthiness of spinach and saltiness from the baked creamy curd inside. The Pastry is soft yet its not goeey, and it cuts fine without turning into a mush. Its uncomplicated, a simple dish done right.

And like I have mentioned earlier, you can’t come back from Park Street, without eating a roll at Kusum’s Roll. Despite Bantu making fun of me for having a roll – an evening snack I Kolkata – right after breakfast, I went and ordered for Egg Chicken Roll. I met a Japanese couple who were effortlessly switching between Japanese and Bengali while eating their rolls. Anyway, with soft egg paratha filled with well-cooked pieces of chicken, handful of freshly cut onions, just a hint of chili sauce and freshly squeezed limejuice and bam my roll was ready. My mind was blown away by the sheer simplicity of it while, it tasted so delicious. The best roll I have had in recent times, affirming that even an average roll in Kolkata is always better than the best rolls in other cities. My ‘must have’ dish number two at Park Street had been had with great happiness.

Moving on, I went to an old favourite, One Step Up. I had celebrated my 23rd birthday at this restaurant. I loved going to this place, which was different than Mocambo, Peter Cat and other old establishments. While these heritage restaurants had nostalgic connection with the people, me being an outsider, One Step Up felt like it belonged to newer times and also it served my all time favourite Fish Diana. My ‘must have’ dish number three at Park Street. Fillets of Beckty fish rolled and stuffed with prawns, delicately grilled and covered with a sauce made with tomatoes, onions, cheese, cream and sautéed mushrooms. Served with sautéed veggies (babycorn, carrots, beans, peppers) and parsley potatoes, this is a complete meal. It’s creamy, delicate, delicious and perfect to eat on a special day with a glass of wine. Also, being a North-Indian, I would initially, struggle with the bones in fish, so, Fish Diana with no bones, was perfect for me, in that sense.

Fish Diana at One Step Up
Fish Diana at One Step Up

And if you aren’t a fish eater (precisely people allergic to seafood/prawns), you must have Chicken Tetrazzini at One Step Up. This time, I ordered this dish for Bantu, who trusted my food choice and it was not the other way round (he always orders when we eat together). Thankfully, he loved both Fish Diana and Chicken Tetrazzini. Chicken Tetrazzini is a dish named after Italian Opera Singer Luisa Tetrazzini, but is American in origin. Prepared with Boneless Chicken Breasts, Mushrooms, Spaghetti cooked in creamy sauce, garnished with herbs, cheese and baked.

These were my picks this time around. Now Park Street has fancy Hard Rock Café, Mamagoto, while restoration work of several other heritage buildings is going on. It wasn’t the Park Street I used to go to. In fact the whole city looked different with flyovers, blue and white walls, blue LED lights lighting up facades, metro construction and high-rises. Kolkata that once looked like a city stuck in the 80’s now looked fancy, catching up with the rest of the country.

My Kolkata is finally changing. Perhaps, it will soon only be a memory. Possibly ‘Continental’ will get replaced by ‘Modern Indian’ or god only knows what else. And I will have to hold onto to my memories till I find some connect with the city’s new food culture.

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