This sweet shop’s name is quite a mouthful, but say Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick (above) to your taxi driver, and you will be driven towards sweeter, more luxuriant mouthfuls. They’ve been around since 1885, and if that isn’t testimonial enough, the 4pm queues at one of their outlets (for that’s when the people of Kolkata feel peckish for mishti (local confections) is. You will be spoilt for choice – should you try the roshogolla (cottage cheese dumplings in sugar syrup), mishti doi (yogurt sweetened with jaggery), the nalen gur sandesh (jaggery and cottage cheese sweets) or the baked mihidana (fried rice flour balls, baked with sweetened cream)? The descriptions do not do these confections any justice, you need to try them for yourself.
Frankly, the best Bengali food in Kolkata should be had in someone’s home. But Kewpie’s (2 Elgin Ln; above) kitchen comes a close second; maybe because you have to seek out this restaurant in a sleepy little residential neighbourhood, or the cosiness of the decor. The thala is a prepared platter of vegetable and meat dishes, paired with ghee-laced rice, fried luchi (puffed bread) and sweet yogurt. The flavours are pungent with mustard oil, and the signature dishes are betki paturi (river fish steamed with coconut in banana leaf parcels) and a mixed vegetable curry called shukto. The vibe may be homely, but the meal is nothing short of princely.
Order the coffee at Indian Coffee House (15 Bankim Chatterjee St, College Square; above) as an excuse to be able to soak in the ambience at the cavernous hall that has been in existence since 1876. Rumoured to be the spot where political debate and intellectual discussions have been held – possibly even those where Bengal’s freedom fighters converged to strategise. The Indian Coffee House is a restaurant chain in India, run by a series of worker co-operative societies. There are nearly 400 coffee houses across the country, and this outlet is possibly the most iconic.