Park Street is one of the most iconic destinations in Kolkata. This post title is entirely dedicated to the book, The Oxford Handbook to the Indian Constitution, which is unnecessarily long for a student pursuing a bachelors degree, just like this post, which is needlessly long for an average person only looking for good places to eat.
For one reason or the other, even person who has ever lived in Calcutta or is visiting Calcutta will insist on visiting Park Street for every single meal for the day. But what is so incredible and magnificent about the place, that draws a huge crowd, albeit being boring and monotonous.
For me, there is a sense of familiarity to this monotonousness. It is the comfort of not having to choose between very many places/ items and knowing what to eat, and also the satisfaction of knowing that you will not be disappointed.
Bengali’s and Calcuttans, in general, are the laziest bunch of people in the world. It wouldn’t take a normal Calcuttan much of an effort to defeat the most indolent sloth when it comes to being the laziest living, breathing animal around. And this is where the sense of comfort draws its roots from.
Although Calcutta is now at par with some of the other cities, in terms of restaurants and places to eat or drink in general, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Calcuttan in you prefers going to Olypub over Hoppipola, or to Flurys over Q33 at Quest, or to Peter Cat over some other swanky restaurant serving similar kind of cuisine.
Rolling in the deep?
I think the only ‘must-visit’ place that exists in Park Street right now is none other than the legendary Kusum Roll Shop. Tucked inside the butane near McDonald’s, it is by far one of the best Roll Shop in Calcutta. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it’s delicious. The shop easily ranks high up on the list of best roll shops in the city, and surprisingly, its quality hasn’t gone down over time. The egg chicken roll to die for and the variety of rolls on offer also quite easily surpasses the other roll shops nearby. I remember there being other two roll shops in Park Street, one being ‘Hot Kathi Rolls’ and the other one being ‘The Roll Shop’. It’s pretty much disgraceful if you chose to visit these two over Kusum, any day.
A – la Kiev
Mocambo is by far the most frequented place of food connoisseurs looking for ‘continental’ flavours in Calcutta. Mocambo was in the news a few months back, for all the wrong reasons though. But I would suggest you not let that make your taste buds suffer. A series of assumptions has led me to believe that Peter Cat and Mocambo is run by the same group of people, and if that is the case, then they seriously need to reconsider the whole deal about hygiene is important, at least in Peter Cat. It is not uncommon to sport tiny cockroaches running around.
Some might even say that they add flavour to the food. But if you’re not really into bugs that could survive a nuclear war but not your mothers’ slippers, then I suggest you stick to the succulent Chelo Kebab and House Steak at Peter Cat, and Chicken A – la- Kiev, Shrimp Cocktail and Angels on horseback when you go to Mocambo. The deviled crab is also an excellent option to go for. More often than not, it is the decor and the ambience that appeals to the visitors rather than the actual food, which is not necessarily a bad thing, since that makes up a part of the whole dining experience. But I feel a little more importance should be given to the food itself.
Unfortunately, if you’re not much of an alcoholic, like me, you should not try experimenting and stick to fresh lime soda, which is neither fresh not has much fizz in it.
For the alcoholics, or if you’re asking for a friend, I have heard that the Bloody Mary is excellent. But why waste your hard earned cash there.
I think, OlyPub, by far, is the most happening place in Calcutta. Time stops the moment you enter, and the lack of enthusiasm among the waiters complements the time travel. They only have three types of beer available, at any given point in time, and if you ask for anything fancy, they will judge you. They will serve you generously if you look like the kind of person who will tip them because honestly, they couldn’t care anymore or less for the customers or their employers. If you speak to them sweetly and they are in a good mood, then you are in luck. Don’t be surprised if they serve you a 90ML peg of whatever poison you’ve ordered for yourself rather than a regular one.
I also have this working theory that they serve the pour the alcohol right in front of you on your table, just to make you think that they aren’t mixing water into it, but I am pretty sure that they do it at the source itself. Better luck next time, Oly. Oh and also, the food at Oly is unpalatable. Do not go for anything other than the channachur they serve, for free.
Do remember to tip the waiters and the doormen, at least 20 bucks! You don’t want them to spit in your drinks, do you? Or worse, confront you. Trust me on this one; they will do it.
I have never been to Roxy or the other upscale places near the Park Hotel, so apologies for that in advance. However, I believe there is not much to the place barring a few dishes here and there. For example, the Stroganoff in Magnolia was amazing. Or the crispy lamb at Bar-B-Q. But there is not enough old Calcutta charm left in these places for me to recommend them. At least for Park Street first timers.
There will undoubtedly be revisions to this article, with places like Pepperazzi and others opening up. But that’s for some other time. And on a side note, if you are not visiting Park Street during the last week of December, then you are missing out.