The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The Durga idol in the making at Kumartuli, the idol hub. Shot by Sudip Biswas. #PujoBuildup

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The launch of Studio- the pan-Asian gallery at Novotel

Novotel at New Town (opposite Axis Mall) recently launched their specialty food & beverage outlet- Studio- the pan-Asian Gallery. It claims to be the first of its kind to offer live kitchens, live music, flamboyant cocktails and a wide array of food courses and desserts to the city.

Studio aspires to be the right hangout and dining place for the trendiest crowds. The evenings are designed to enthrall, amuse and excite the gourmand as well as the seasoned clubber. A show kitchen, private dining area, a well-designed bar, a permanent DJ console and poolside view complete the experience. It is geared to host food festivals, fashion shows and jazz evenings on a regular basis which are going to give it its USP as a ‘Gourmet theatre’. The menu has tapas-style mini eats and fusion cocktails on one side, and sushi and sashimi for the gourmand. It also promises to keep the well-traveled vegetarians of the city happy with a delectable range.

 I liked the seating by the glass wall overlooking the pool and the unique prismatic design of the show kitchen.

The kitchen

It was launched with a fashion show called Studio Charme on 26th September which I attended on invitation. The show presented the new apparel lines by three fashion designers from Lakme Fashion Week and Vogue India Fashion- Rimi Nayak, Amalraj Sengupta and Sayantan Sarkar with models form the city. The models walked on the floor from one end to the other with lights and musical set-up like any good fashion show and gave a taste of many more such shows to come which will integrate itself with the dining and drinking experience.

The pulsating music was created by DJ Smoke Signal which was masterly complimented by Frenchman Maarten Visser live on the saxophone. Maarten, to me, was the most pleasing experience of that evening.
DJ Smoke Signal 

Frenchman Maarten Visser

Finger foods were circulated frequently among the guests. Among them were Steamed Water Chestnut n Chives Dumpling, chicken dumpling, Lamb Satay with Grilled Pineapple and Asian Chicken Spring Roll with Glass Noodles. I liked the chicken dumpling.

Welcome drink- Mojito 

Chicken spring roll

#Kolkatafood #Kolkatarestaurants #Novotel #Studiotherestobar #NewTownrestaurants #Poolsiderestaurant

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Being secular

It’s easier preached than practiced. So it shook me up a little when I read this SMS. It was sent by my daughters’ school yesterday wishing for Eid ul Zuha (like it does on all occasions). It is a well-known missionary school in central Kolkata.

Here it is:
Dear Parents
May the guidance and blessings of Allah be with you and your family. May Allah bless you with peace and happiness.

Eid al-Adha Mubarak!

My respect for the school went up! By the way, it is Loreto Day School Sealdah.


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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Casa Healthy Fiesta at Casa Kitchen, 18th to 27th September

The onset of autumn calls for a healthy spin in diet to keep the monsoon pathogens away. And a vegetarian diet is spot on in this regard! With this core idea, Casa Kitchen, one of the leading gourmet vegetarian restaurants in town, is holding Casa Healthy Fiesta which aims to strike a fine balance between health and taste, and guilt and indulgence with select a la carte offerings in soupy noodles (as starters), salads, main course and dessert.

The dishes have been cooked in olive oil or even without oil and handpicked ingredients like zucchini and bell pepper (high in anti-oxidants), lemongrass, soya bean, oats oats (improves immune system and lowers bad cholesterol) and spinach have been used to take care of the health quotient.

The noodles section features Asian Soupy Noodles (with Chinese herbs and exotic vegetables), Thai Soupy Noodles (flavoured with Thai herbs and lemongrass) and the innovative Soya Dumpling Soupy Noodles (flavoured with herbs). 

 Soya Dumpling Soupy Noodles
Tabbouleh Salad 

In mains, apart from the indulgent Chole Masale, Paneer Tikka Rassedar and the slow-cooked Dal Bhanjara, the highlights are the signature preparation Spinach & Oats-based Hariyali Kofta and Thalipeeth- a popular Indian bread made with whole wheat, ragi, bajra and gram flour.

Dal Bhanjara

Spinach & Oats-based Hariyali Kofta and Thalipeeth

A sugar-free chocolate brownie will draw a close to a heartening meal, limiting the guilt.

The details of the festival:
18th to 27th  September
12:15pm – 3:30 pm & 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Cost for two- Approximately Rs 1200  approx+ taxes

Casa Kitchen
234/1 AJC Bose Road
Kolkata 700020

For table reservations call 033 40218050 or 8017088003.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

The Barrackpore railway station- a landmark in Sealdah main section

The station building looks strikingly different from all others passed by before it and waiting on the way on a local train journey on Sealdah main line. Its huge, imposing colonial structure stands out.

Barrackpore railway station, the lifeline of the suburban town Barrackpore, which is the headquarters of Barrackpore sub-division of North 24 Parganas district, was built by the British in the nineteenth century. It was a follow-up to their building India’s first ever cantonment in this town in 1772, which is still up and running.

With time the station has been extended to more and longer platforms from the initial two. It was set up with basic infrastructure- platform no. one for up trains (from Sealdah) and no. two for down trains. Presently it has five. It helps in running a Barrackpore local train service (Barrackpore to Sealdah/ BBD Bag) which serves several thousands of daily commuters in and near Barrackpore. There are people living in Palta, the next station (or even a little further) who arrive at Barrackpore station on road or by train to catch a comfortable journey to work in Barrackpore local.

Which catching an ‘Up’ train to Barrackpore from Sealdah or Dum Dum one doesn’t have to bother whether will stop there. There is no local train that doesn’t stop at Barrackpore, such is its importance in the main section.

The platforms are different from each other in characteristics. Platform no. 1 is the busiest in terms of train frequency. It gets 'Up' trains (from Sealdah and other terminal stations like Majherhat etc) and flags off  'Down' Barrackpore local to Sealdah. Several small shops are at its southern end, selling flower, cosmetics, imitation jewellery, tea etc. There is an old newspaper and magazine stall on this platform. A no. of station offices are located here, unlike other stations, apart from a large booking office on the outer side.  It also houses a reservation counter at the northern end.

Platform no. 1

There is a medium-sized Hanuman temple set up adjacent to platform no. 1 decades back, which contributes to the unique character of this station. The temple commands a large following. It observes a big puja on occasions drawing scores of devotees. There is a section of passengers who chant Hanuman’s name (“Bolo bolo Pawanputra Hanuman ki jai”) whenever a Barrackpore local leaves the station.

The mural work and burnt clay sculptures on the wall also contribute to its unique character.

The wall art- mural

The wall art

Platform no. 1A, which is the youngest, passes ‘Up’ trains and flags off Barrackpore locals. This platform has very few shops. A lot of vendors sit on this platform selling fruits and food items like chanachur, boiled egg, ruti-tarkari etc. The last two items are available only in the evening. The fruit vendors sell one fruit each and their attraction is that they offer quality at cheaper rates compared to market.

 Platform 1A

Platform no. 2 and 3 are attached. The former passes ‘Down’ trains to Sealdah and the latter ‘Up’ trains from mainly Sealdah, and BBD Bag, Majherhat and Budge Budge. There is a tiny bookstall also selling newspaper and magazines, an authorized shop selling tea, coffee, lassi and snacks from kochuri to patties, cakes & pastries. Very few stations have such a shop with a wide range of offerings. It faces both platforms. There are many other shops, mainly selling food, across its length.

 Platforms 2 &3

Platform no. 4 is the least busy. It gets select down trains going to Sealdah, BBD Bag, Majherhat and Budge Budge. Hence it has a laidback nature. Many local residents of various age groups regularly come here and sit on the numerous constructed seats dotting its length for an afternoon or evening adda (chat session). It has, along with platform no. 1, one of the longest platforms in the main section- perfect for arrival and departure of express trains as a terminal station. 

There are two over bridges to handle the larger passenger outflow and platform to platform movement compared to other stations. A third has been recently built towards the northern end.

 Platform no. 4
The long stretch (Platform no. 1) and the third overbridge

The unique character of the station also borrows from the birds that inhabit it. Hundreds of pigeons and Indian myna (Shalik) could be seen at the roof at night even some years back. Their collective chirps could be heard and give the place a unique sound. The number has much diminished now.

A slice of history from a reliable source tells me that Barrackpore had a race course behind the criminal court (far away from the station) and a special single rail track took steam engine-driven trains there, carrying British passengers who would attend the race.

Two different worlds can be seen at the two sides of the station. The eastern side is like any small suburban town, with small makeshift shops and rickshaw stand. The western side looks like a district headquarter. A small market opposite the station, a couple of restaurants including the famous Dada Boudi (for its biriyani), V Café, a row of decent shops and the municipal auditorium  Sukanta Sadan on SN Banerjee Road put it in sharp contrast of the eastern side. The latest addition is a branch of the brand new Bandhan Bank. The area just outside the station is a lassi hub and a roll hub put together, thanks to a stream of lassi shops on one side and another of roll shops on another side.

The station has good road connectivity. SN Banerjee Road is one of the main roads with buses connecting the places down north, Barasat and Kolkata along with auto rickshaws on local and longer routes. BT Road meets this road at Chiria More down about half a kilometre from the station.

I was born and brought up in Barrackpore and have seen the station evolve. It has gotten better with time despite passenger population increasing in leaps and bounds in the last ten years. 

#Barrackpore #Barrackporestation #DadaBoudiBarrackpore #DadaBoudiBiriyani

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reasons to watch Rajkahini

Few reasons why I want to catch Srijit Mukherji’s eagerly awaited Pujo release Rajkahini:

1. It has a delectable ensemble cast of eleven actresses including Rituparna, Sudipta and some other fine performers. Nothing of this sort comes in living memory.
2. It is a period drama with partition of Bengal as a backdrop. Expectations from the director are higher after Jatiswar.
3. It has an equally delectable ensemble cast of actors, with established names.
4. The big canvas of the film, its mounting. It’s his most ambitious project so far as admitted by the director. 
5. The trailer has fanned the eager wait.

An additional attraction: Avik Mukhopadhyay, one of our finest talents and one of my favourites, is the Director of Photography in a first time collaboration with Srijit. I trust him to not only do complete justice to the period piece but also elevate it at a visual level.

The first poster of the film

#Rajkahini #SrijitMukherji #BanglaCinema #BengaliCinema #BengaliCinema2015 #PujoRelease #Pujo #KolkataPujo #Pujo 2015 #PartitionofBengal 

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

A long-awaited debut

As Bauddhayan Mukherji’s keenly expected debut film Teenkahon released on 11th September 2015, I had a sense of déjà vu as an audience member.

It is because of the similarities between the film with another debut that took place about nine years back. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Anuranan made a mark and gave birth to a filmmaker in the talent-starved Bangla film industry.

Let’s look at the common chord of the two films-

  1. Both the filmmakers, Bauddhayan and Aniruddha are successful ad filmmakers working for national brands in Mumbai and had a long cherished wish of debuting in filmmaking with a Bengali film. Their experience of making ad films has resulted in good production value of their films without an indulgent budget at disposal.
  2. Both have diligently saved money to produce their own film (as it was least likely to find the right producer who would support a debutant’s vision and let him make the film his way). Bauddhayan has even gone to the extent of saying that filmmaking was the end and ad filmmaking was the means to it.
  3. Indrani Mukherjee, the wife of Aniruddha was one of the producers, while Monalisa Mukhopadhyay, the better half of Bauddhayan took charge of production of Teenkahon and broke a few of her fixed deposits in the process.    
  4. Both the films star Rituparna Sengupta.
  5. Both the films are relationship tale.
  6. Both the directors have written their films with a co-writer. Abhinandan Banerjee collaborated with Buddhayan on screenplay and dialogue and Aniruddha’s co-wrote his film with Gaurav Shukno Lanka Pandey.
  7. The films are backed by big houses from Hindi film industry. While Anuranan was presented by Shemaroo, Viacom 18 is distributing Teenkahon.
  8. Now the least of the similarities- While Teenkahon has won accolades in film festivals all over the world, unlike Anuranan, both the directors won the Aravindan Puraskaram from Thiruvananthapuram before release.

Looking forward to how Teenkahon is received by the audience.
#Teenkahon #BauddhayanMukherji #BanglaCinema

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Raksha Bandhan gift packs at Yauatcha

The colourful macaroons at Yauatcha, the fine dining oriental cuisine den at Quest, is one of its charms. And now they are waiting nicely packed in boxes for the brothers to be picked up this Rakhi/ Raksha Bandhan as the gift to sisters. Presenting a pack of delicious macaroons to celebrate the love and bond, especially to a sister with a sweet tooth, sounds like a good and new idea that stands out among numerous gifting options.

A box of six macaroons costs Rs 350. They come in vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, chocolate and more flavours.

There’s more- Yauatcha starts gift vouchers at denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. So now it’s easy to send anyone to the restaurant to savor its delicacies as per own liking.

Both are available from 11.30 am to 11.30 pm. Call 922 22 22800 for enquiry.

#RakshaBandhan #RakshaBandhangifts #Rakhi #Rakhigifts #YauatchaRakshaBandhanSpecial #Yauatchagiftvoucher

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tea Treasures- the tea festival at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata

The approach to tea at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata is different from other star hotels. The way tea is served at its tea lounge reflects it (read this post). Its aim is to promote tea tourism in the city as it loves its tea and the beverage is an integral part of its rich history and heritage. World’s oldest tea auction house is from this city.

To mark the essence of tea and to revive the tea culture in India, it organized Tea Treasures, a three-day tea festival at its premises over 16th to 18th August. The festival was dedicated to tea lovers and tea connoisseurs and offered a platform to tea producers, tea marketers, tea shops, tea tourism operators and tea joints in the city.

Mr. Rakesh Mitra, General Manager, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group summed it up as, “The Great Eastern Hotel, way back, during the colonial era was a major hub for tea trading, and various activities related to tea. With the aim of bringing forth the legacy of tea trading to people and sensitizing them about tea auctions, tea tourism, tea tasting and significance of tea in the Indian market, we have organized the festival.  Top tea trading companies, tea estates and tea auctioneers have associated with us to discuss about the different nitty-gritties of tea. We would dedicate the festival, in the years to come, to all tea lovers, tea traders and the entire tea industry, bringing all of them under one umbrella and present Indian tea to the rest of the world.”

The festival comprised of talk on various aspects of tea by experts, panel discussions, tea tasting sessions, tea workshop, tea auction and celebrity chats over tea (coinciding with trailer launch/ film release) with an exhibition with various stalls by tea brands, tea estates, tea joints/ boutiques, cafes, bakery, tea tourism players and associated products. An interesting proposition for those who love their tea and wish to explore it.

I attended the second day’s tea tasting session at the tea lounge in the evening. Mr Ravi Suchanti, Vice Chairman and MD of J Thomas & Company, world’s oldest and largest tea auctioneer (from Kolkata), with twenty seven years of tea tasting experience behind him, conducted the highly interactive session participated by distinguished people and a few bloggers. Tables with five varieties of tea and their leaves in multiple sets were placed at a distance for each audience member to taste the tea as guided by the speaker. We tasted the teas by themselves and adding milk and sugar. He spoke passionately and engagingly about the growing and manufacturing of tea, throwing in interesting insights. For example, no two teas will have the same quality even if they are plucked at the same time from the same bush. The quality is comprised of texture, mineral content, flavour and taste.

Few excerpts from the talk:

1. There are a few months between the first flush and the second flush tea. Compared to first flush, second flush is yellow, has more absorbed resources in leaves, mellower in flavour and smoother in taste.

2. Darjeeling tea, being hill tea, gets harder treatment in production than, say, valley tea like Assam tea.

3. There are  three stages of tea production-
     a. Rolling or withering- When tea leaves are plucked, they contain 77% moisture. It is         
     brought down significantly by three stages of rolling
     b. Fermenting or oxidation
     c. Drying- Air is pushed in. The leaves, still green, turn dark.    
4. The time for brewing tea is an individual choice. It should ideally be 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong a brew one wants. But for green tea, which is a self-drinking tea as he called it because it doesn’t need milk or sugar, the brewing time shouldn’t be more than 2-3 minutes, and the water should not be boiling but about to boil to get the best of the tea.
Post the talk Mr Suchanti took questions from the audience. Such a session was for the first time for him, but he handled it with ease.

 Mr Ravi Suchanti in the session

I took a walkthrough of the exhibition happening in a banquet on the ground floor.  The Assam 1860 stall reflected the new age approach with which James Warren Tea Ltd.,  is marketing this new tea brand which is their first consumer product. This one hundred fifty years old tea company has so far supplied tea to businesses like hotels & restaurants and tea brands. The Assam 1860 tea cart is travelling across the city to make people taste it on the streets. They are also signing up corporates to serve freshly made hot tea daily to their employees. Read its review in this post.

Also dropped in at the stall of Melete- a new start-up by home baker Anjee Bhatia from New Alipore offering handmade chocolates, chocolate cakes and truffles, brownies and savouries (pizza cup, quiche, ramekins etc). She started as a home baker like many others in the city and now has a workshop to cater to the increasing orders. As I like brownies, it was nice to see a variety of it in the stall. Melete doesn’t have a retail outlet yet, it takes orders. It also customizes desserts for its customers. Those interested may visit

The Melete stall (Anjee at the left)

The handmade chocolates at Melete

Zee Bangla Cinema used the platform to talk about their new venture Zee Bangla Cinema Originals, which is a series of full-length movies made for television. They are unlike telefilms and have higher production value like a feature film. All the movies are premiering on television and censored for a big screen release later. ZBC launched the trailer of Bonolata, the upcoming film by young director Rik. Saw television director Anindya Sarkar talking about his film Choturanga which has been premiered on 23rd August. Rajorshi Dey, Programming Head spoke about the initiative and Rik’s film. Saw director duo Sudeshna Roy-Abhijit Guha who came on stage later for the launch which I couldn’t check out.  

There was a discussion on the movie Natoker Moto, the film on well-known theatre actress late Keya Chakraborty’s life directed by theatre director Debesh Chattopadhyay on 18th August. The director and cast were present. 

Tea auctions by J Thomas were also held as part of the festival to bring an experience of it to the visitors.

Such a festival paves the way to make the city a tea tourism destination and nurtures the tea culture that’s part of the city’s heritage.

#Tea #Teaculture  #Teafestival #Teaauction #Teatourism #Teamarketing