Royal Indian Hotel, Calcutta

Biriyani and Calcutta have been going hand in hand since the Nawabs from Awadh set their foot in the British capital. Royal Indian Hotel in Chitpur is more than a century old (110 years) and has made its mark as arguably the best Biriyani and Chaap in the city. For those unfamiliar with the idea of a Chaap, I’d suggest a quick tour of Royal in Calcutta for this divine experience. Mutton Chaap is an item invented by the Mughals, using the ribs of a goat to their best faculty. While most recipes tend to serve the flat beaten Chaap pieces as a whole , Royal has its own way of chopping them with the ribs to bite size pieces in a delectably rich gravy of its own fat. They have begun catering Chicken Chaap as well, which is a gross misnomer as the birds are not blessed with generous ribs that ooze the same taste and flavour. On our previous visit to Calcutta, M and I were determined to try this heavenly pair of Biriyani and Chaap from Royal, still in quest of the best biriyani in our home city.

Address: 147, Rabindra Sarani, Bara Bazar, Calcutta – 700073 / 24A, Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Diagonally opposite to Quest Mall, Park Circus

Contact: 033 22681073, 9903369147

USP – Biriyani, Mutton Chaap, Firni

Decor

Royal is one of those serious no-nonsense no-frills old-school ‘hotels’ which don’t believe in fancy decor. It’s an eatery with heavy wooden tables and straight-backed chairs with just a jug of water on the table. Located in the busiest and congested wholesale market of Calcutta (Chitpur/Barabazar), the restaurant is cramped for space. The floor above has been renovated and added to the restaurant as I’m told. There’s a separate air-conditioned hall with slightly hiked food prices.

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Malaka Spice, Baner

2017 arrived and made us reminiscent of a recent Thai trip where we stuffed ourselves with gorgeous food. We had heard about Malaka Spice and wanted to try their varied menu of not only Thai but Burmese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malay cuisine – truly Pan Asian cuisine. What attracted was the fact that they serve a range of meats from Chicken, Mutton, Buff to Quail and Duck. Though we didn’t try too many items, but mostly liked the ones that helped us usher this year with a good hearty lunch.

Address: 1st Floor, Atria Building, Baner Road, Baner, Pune – 411045

Contact: 020 30162339

Check them out on Facebook, Twitter

USP – Pan Asian cuisine, good starters, nice ambience

Decor

Paintings on corridor

Paintings on corridor

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Gunpowder, Goa

When in Goa, most of us look out for fun, frolic and comfort food, rather than fine dining or gourmet restaurants. In our recent trip, the resort was in Assagao, we were tired after a ten hours long road trip from Pune and it was raining in the evening. Search for nearby restaurants turned up Gunpowder with superb reviews and the promise of serving amazing pork/beef. What else does one need! We placed it on the map and it was hardly a kilometre or two from the resort. Not willing to drive long in the rain, Gunpowder’s cuisine was the perfect choice for the night. Located on a relatively quiet road, it’s not hard to find though.

Address: 6, Saunto Vaddo, main Anjuna-Mapusa Road, Next to Hotel Astoria, Assagao, Bardez, Goa, India

Contact:0832-2268091 / 0832-2268083

Check them out on Facebook 

USP Quirky decor, handicraft store, south Indian non-vegetarian food

Decor

One of the USPs of Gunpowder is its decor. There are cane chairs and tables in the portico, Chinese lanterns up on the thatched ceiling with coloured trails of frayed rags. The seating is mostly outdoor in a pretty garden, though it was raining while we visited. The tables in portico were already filled with happily eating people, so we had to wait while one of them was vacant. You will find a bookshelf among all other attractive decorations and a mini store inside that houses lovely pieces. There isn’t a lot of space, but it is enough for Gunpowder to operate.

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Adda, Pimple Saudagar

Besides restaurant reviews, we’ve begun pub reviews as we are serial pub hoppers. There has been a dearth of pubs/lounges in Pimple Saudagar until last year. Since then, two or three of them have popped out of nowhere, some with their exorbitant pricing, others with sheer lack of infrastructure. Adda, has a bit of history, though. It was previously named Elevate Lounge and was a mildly successful one. There has been a renovation, probably a change of management or even ownership and Elevate has been beautifully revamped into #Adda. Yes, the hashtag is present in neon beside the name and looks cool! The name signifies the establishment – Adda – a place for hangout of like minded people, for fun and frolic.

Did you know? The term ‘Pub’ originates from ‘Public House’ which traditionally sells beer, ale and other brewed alcoholic drinks. In Europe, pubs date back to the Medieval age.

The concept of pubs is relatively new in India and probably arrived with the British. I’ve read in historical fiction and other books about Seraikhanas along major highways in the Mughal era that served alcohol, food and even had lodging facilities for travellers. But pubs, solely meant for serving drinks were probably set up by the British officials, albeit for their folks only. ‘Native Indians’ were kept out of them by guards, who must have evolved into bouncers these days.

Here comes a snippet about Adda and everything about it.

Events at Adda

Events at Adda

Address: Shop 1, Rainbow Plaza, Near Shivar Garden, Pimple Saudagar, Pune – 411027

Contact: 020 30189670

Check them out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

USPLadies Night, Offers/Discounts, Live band, Good pub food.

addaDecor

The entrance to Adda is led through a corridor that is strategically lit with a mirrored wall and is the smoking zone. You might encounter a lot of smoke if you’re a little late in joining the party. Once you go in, things get better though. The decor is quirky with a lot of brickbats carefully arranged on racks and graffiti that is eye catching, most of them is Hinglish.

 

There’s a huge black board that will remind you of school, but it’s filled with offers, discounts and events for the week from Monday to Friday. The toilet sign board reads शौचालय, and I’ve been wondering what happens to people who cannot read the Devnagari text.

There’s a wall redecorated with faux wooden doors and stained glass that gives a retro look of an old style mansion. The utensils for serving cocktails and snacks are done wackily in aluminium kettles, some of them inscribed with catchy taglines and hashtags. It looked pretty cool to me each time I’ve been there.

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Kimling Rush

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The Menu

We love Chinese food. Well, who doesn’t! I think every ‘Chinese’ restaurant in India should add a disclaimer in their menu or decor that the food served there is unmistakably Indo-Chinese. Rather than a pungent and bland authentic Chinese fare, the food that has gained popularity in India has been influenced to an extent by local tastes. For instance, the Schezwan variety of spiced dishes served in Indian Chinese restaurants is quite a few notches fiery in hue and palate than native Sichuan food from China. Being a lover of the red hot Schezwan food, me and M had opted to try an authentic Chinese restaurant called Sichuan in London. As we sat ourselves and scanned the menu, the overwhelming odour of steamed greens and fish sauce from hot bowls served around killed our appetite. Not only was it very strong and organic in flavours, the items didn’t look very appetising either. We realised that Sichuan is not our cup of tea, but Schezwan definitely is.

Since then, each city where we have lived for a considerable period has gifted us a decent Chinese restaurant nearby. From Sizzling China and Shang Dynasty in Bombay, Shanghai Chef in Hyderabad, China Buffet in Belfast, The Golden Empire in Calcutta to Kimling Rush in Pune – we’ve found our calling and made these restaurants richer with frequent visits. Here’s a comprehensive account of Kimling Rush in Pimple Saudagar, Pune.

Address: Shop 1, Sai Ambience, Opposite NKGSB Bank, Pimple Saudagar, Pune – 411022

Contact: 020 30189828

Check their Website

Decor

Kimling Rush is a quaint little cosy place amidst huge residential complexes. Since it’s a Chinese & Thai restaurant, the decor has a lot of Buddha motifs, busts, Chinese symbols and lanterns. The wall paints and mosaic tables are done carefully and are soothing to the eye. I liked the coloured glass water bottles at each table. They added a little colour and vibrancy while you eat, chat and relax. There are wooden dividers around the corner tables.

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Mainland China

Mainland China came into existence in 1994, the first outlet being in erstwhile Bombay. It’s not surprising that this piece of news didn’t reach the majority of middle class people residing in Bengal. Why would they have bothered with accounts of some expensive Chinese restaurant opening in Bombay? I, as a child, was quite happy with our occasional Peping and Chung Wah stints while visits to Calcutta and the ketchup slathered ‘chowmein’ at street stalls. Eating out hadn’t gained popularity, nor had Chinese restaurants popped up like mushrooms all over the city. The China Town or Tangra area in Calcutta still ruled when it came to amazing food and liquor at modest rates. Years passed, Anjan Chatterjee made his mark with Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta, and finally inaugurated the first outlet in Calcutta in the last decade. It was still inaccessible to a student like me with its posh location and exorbitant prices. It was only when I left home ten years ago, the Western concept of eating out slowly imbibed into my being. Mainland China was still beyond my reach with its à-la-carte prices that could slash my wallet brutally. I’m not sure about the year of inception of a buffet or ‘set meal’ (as referred in the China buffets all around US & UK) in Mainland China, but I was over the moon that the bill could fit in my wallet in lieu of some great food. Summing up my experiences of over five years at Mainland China outlets in three Indian cities hitherto.

The Decor

One of the most attractive features of Mainland China (MC) is the decor. I’ve been to four different MC outlets and the decor is always soothing, oriental, calm and soft to the eyes. The entrance of every outlet has been a mishmash of designer wooden panels as dividers that impart a feeling of passing into a private space. The lights are dim and tables are very strategically placed, so that you don’t overhear conversations, get irritated by inane people nearby or stumble into someone else while filling your plate from the buffet counters. Seats are quite comfortable and tables are adequately spaced to fit in your satchel or purse. The decor at each outlet I’ve visited fetched a big thumbs up, and here’s a glimpse of my favourite piece at any eatery, the ceiling lamp.

At the South City Mall outlet, Calcutta

At the South City Mall outlet, Calcutta

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Oly Pub

What started in 1947 as Olympia Bar and Restaurant has evolved as a refute to innumerable Calcuttans and tourists alike. The Oly Pub we know changed its avatar from Olympia in 1981, shrinking its name into a cooler and international version. For my parents’ generation, it was still Olympia in their college years, for most of them, it was the ultimate inexpensive hangout. Besides the cheap liquor and food, Oly Pub’s USP was the Beef Steak at an affordable price and lip-smacking taste. Times have changed, Olympia has changed to Oly Pub, which has been renovated again post the fire last year. I haven’t been then pre-fire, hence I can’t vouch for what it used to be, but I can give you a sneak peek of what it is in circa 2015.

Image Courtesy: Kolkataonwheels dot com

Image Courtesy: Kolkataonwheels dot com

The Decor – From friends who were regulars at Oly Pub since college, I’ve heard it was never acclaimed for its decor. The ground floor was shabby and a smoking zone, which in my opinion is very suffocating, though it is ideal for smokers and dopers. Post-fire renovation, the ground floor has been turned into a non-smoking zone with centralised air conditioning. The decor is still shabby, but quite comfortable now with optimally spaced tables and waiters dribbling in the narrow slits between them. The lights are ordinary fluorescent ones, and if you’re looking for a fancy or romantic date, it’s certainly not the place. The floor above has poshier tables and dim lights, oh, and the coveted ‘Ladies Toilet’ that is absent downstairs.

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