Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Banglar thhek...

“Bangalira thhek-ei sekhe”. True. Thhek/Adda or whatever you call it, imparts life’s greatest lessons on a Bong. To add to the above statement, “thhek ta jodi hoy maaler, tahole to kothai nei”…Hence this post. About “Bangalider banglar thhek”.
      
1.      Broadway Hotel: The day I heard about it, my first impression was “Hotel?? Decent na toh?” (I guess the term ‘hotel’ added to its name, makes one raise an eyebrow). And then one day, for a colleague’s farewell ‘thhek’, we chose Broadway. Standing in the heart of the office-para with Dalhousie Square at a stone-throw, the exact location is bang opposite Chandni Chowk Metro Station, behind Air India’s main office.
Huge yellow shuttered windows (‘Charulata’-style) are guarded with soot-laden screens. Long ceiling fans hang from soaring ceilings and their whining sound dull the busy honking exteriors of Ganesh Chandra Avenue. The walls are paneled in primordial dark wood. Cherry-red leatherette wooden chairs circle the old wooden table tops. The waiters have “matching” burgundy coloured outfits, except the chairs have more polish. However in places, the leather has worn out from them with sponge peeping their ways through.
The dull yellow walls, the oversized ceiling fans of East-India Company finish, the faded wooden exteriors gave me one impression, the last and the first. It’s the Coffee House for drinkers. It would not remind you of any faded grandeur; it will give you the feeling that it was like this for ages and there lies its grandeur.
 What classes Broadway apart is its choice of snacks. Alcohol makes you fat but the embellishments add to it. Broadway serves cucumber instead of peanuts and Bhujia (jhuri-bhaja). Chilled cucumber, sliced longitudinally into four with sprinkled black salt. Try it! Pure awesomeness.

2.      Blue and Beyond: Personally, my favourite drinking joint. It’s like, both Oly and this one were contenders and Oly lost one point for neatness. That way.
The roof-top bar-cum-restaurant of Hotel Lindsay stands tall on Lindsay Street, opposite Hogg Market (New Market).  No name could do more justice to it. Set on the 9th floor of the building, the view is breathtakingly beautiful. A picture of old Kolkata at its best. (Try the sunset) A bird’s eye view of the entire New Market, Corporation office along with Shahid Minar, High Court, Howrah Bridge, Statesman House, Birla Building, Indian Railway Office on one hand and Sudder Street, Ripon Street, a slice of Park Street on the other. The first time I saw my city from Blue and Beyond…the experience was of a thousand goose-bumps …totally.
There’s nothing to talk about the booze or the food, it’s just the over-all experience which snatches away the top position. I have been to B&B 180 times (plus-minus 5). On my first time, a senior in office was concerned and warned me, “It’s a Hotel. Men get girls drunk and then take them to a room. Be careful with whom you go”. “I am going with the gentleman I sleep with, everyday. I don’t mind sleeping with him one more time!” was my instant reply.
It’s infested with firangs and people assume that they pick up girls and use the Hotel for ‘ding-dong’ business. (The better-half says, “What Foreigners? Dekh bideshe ricksha chalay!”)
It’s true that these firangs often make passes at girls. It is the only place in the world where a man made a pass at me. And it added to the reasons why B&B is perceived with such great reverence. Had it not been for B&B, I would have never known my entire life, how to deal with such a situation.
Don’t be scandalised. If you haven’t visited B&B. you’ve missed a part of this city.
  
3.    Oly-pub: Technically the Olympia Bar & Restaurant (Daaknam: “Oly”) is considered one of the foremost watering holes of Calcutta. It’s not a hip place by any stretch of imagination and light-years away from being called a “pub”. But it oozes oomph like none other. Nested in the food-capital of the city, Park Street, it is the perfect destination to get real value for your hard-earned money (‘rokto-jol-kora rojgaar’), the greatest place to unwind for office-goers, students, first time drinkers, race-course bookies, poets, film critics, Ad-men, journalists and the like. It is said that Oly has been the breeding ground for some of the greatest poetries, films scripts and advertisements that Calcutta has seen. [Reminds me of the most common phrase at Oly: “Tumi ki koro bhai?” Answer: “Ami Creative”.]
Oly is without restrictions (except that the ground floor is only for men). You can sit there for hours, talk loudly, share seats with strangers and befriend them, not feel embarrassed even when the smoking section is positioned right next to the Ladies washroom and everytime you come across some ‘toilet-jokes’ shared by middle-aged men. If you are sharing a table with strangers, they will not ask you for your name, where you work or stay and how much is your ‘take-home’. You will bond on the basis of “Feluda, Neruda and Derrida”.
For the food. If Peter Cat stands for Chelo Kebab, Oly is synonymous with Beef Steak with pepper sauce. If you haven’t visited Oly, it’s an offence, but you have visited and not had their beef steak, it’s non-bailable. The other taste-bud-tickling items on the menu are Mixed Grill, Chicken ala-kiev, Chicken ala-oly, pork chops and ‘dalmut’ (the last one comes free with the alcohol). The French fries are delicious and it’s fun to share them with the friendly mice/rats when they pass below your tables occasionally.
For the alcohol. It is THE most generous alcohol joint in Kolkata. Not only in terms of price but in terms of the waiters (read angels) and their service. Pegs are measured religiously right infront of your eyes with a peg measurer as the waiter lets it spill over with your poison while being poured into the glass.
In addition, what sets Oly apart, is its non-pretence, earthy, no-frills approach. Check their ice-buckets! They are large, stainless steel made!! Oly is the perfect example of ‘All that is gold, does not always glitter’.

4.      New Cathay: It is surely not one of those places where you take a woman. It is typically a bar for office-goers, stags, college kids who have bunked college. I am being told by a Man, that New Cathay’s popularity reached such heights due to its close proximity to Regal, Elite, Society and Tiger. During their college days, men would head there for cheap booze after watching X-rated movies in the above theatres. Situated below the Grand Hotel on Chowringhee Road, it is a place which most will label as rowdy. ...filled with men who have X-Ray eyes.
But there’s a reason why it finds a place in my list. It is THE place where I first drank publicly. With college friends. We had to drink (for most, it was the first time) and New Cathay was the cheapest of them all. In addition, every place has its own specialties. Their liver curry and the fish-snacks are truly authentic and rare too. Also, the Nehru-cap clad waiters. Hard to find nowadays.
Rare also reminds me that they have live music! Live music, that lacks sophistication (unlike Someplace Else) and is way below Trinca’s standards. A little sleazy. But I loved it. Just like Old Monk never loses its charm in the midst of Jonnie Walkers. Like that.

5.      China Town: Situate in the eastern corner of Kolkata, on your way towards the Science City, is the China Town. Aroma of authentic Chinese food combined with the obnoxious stink of tanneries. That’s China Town/Tangra for you. Other than food and awesome quantities of it, you get booze in an amazing fashion. You can buy bottles instead of pegs. In any modest bar, a peg of an Antiquity or Royal Stag would cost you 150 bucks. Just imagine having/sharing 12 pegs. A flat 1800. On the other hand, here, you are given a bottle for 900 bucks. Those same 12 pegs for half the price! Isn’t that cool?    
There are more than 50 Chinese restaurants in China Town, the top picks being, Hot Wok, Beijing, Big Boss, Canton and Kim Ling. Most of them provide you separate rooms (for 15/20/30 people) if you are throwing private booze-parties.


6.      Shaw’s: Also known as Chhota Bristol and placed at one end of Metro-gali (off Lenin Sarani) the Shaw’s Bar does not encourage women, tyaansh pub-hoppers or snooty executives. In an age where drinking is often associated with sleaze and flesh trade, this bar claims to have kept its image Nirma-clean. The most humble of the bars discussed here, where tipplers share narrow benches (like tea-stalls) and hawkers hover around the tables ferrying snacks. Snacks include sliced ginger, aloo kabli, ghugni and chops. Oh yes, you cannot reserve a table here exclusively for yourself!!
Prices of alcohol are significantly low with an electric board displaying prices of brands on offer with relentless monotony. You have to pay for each peg as soon as they arrive your table, eradicating the chances for potential trouble-making once you are drunk.
I have heard that Ritwik Ghatak was a faithful patron. He would land at Chhota Bristol, whenever he was short of funds or was dissatisfied with a script.  
I have also heard that Shaw’s used to serve alcohol in earthen pots (“bhanr”). But am sure it’s a rumour. For that raw tipsiness, please visit.
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     There are so many more. Someplace Else and Trincas are perceived by me with great admiration. However their failure to bag positions in this list, is because of the music. Wonderful to listen to, but unfit for addas, loud cheers and clatters, enthusiastic debates, inhibition-less laughter and fights.
      And, there are many more. Like Abcos, Triptis (my man affectionately call it ‘Strip-tease’ for reasons best known to him), Green Palace etc etc. Some other time, may be. 
     Till then, Cheers!!
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Photo courtesy: Internet

21 comments:

  1. New Cathay. Green Palace.
    Aha... chokh chhol chhol korey uthlo!

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    Replies
    1. joydeep will vehemently share your views. jamar kona die chokher jol mojhate asbe

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  2. Why do you tempt me? I have quit alcohol two years back. X(

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    1. even i have, abhishek. so chill. its important to realise that you dont always need alcohol to get high :)

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  3. The non-bailable offence at Oly is so true!!.... And great suggestions regarding the other places!

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    1. thank u kunal da. try whichever u want :)

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  4. My pub-hopping friends also sing great praises for Fairlawn Hotel. Have you been there????

    My personal favourite is Blue & Beyond. I have great memories of that place, too :) :)

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    1. of course, I have been to fairlawn. many a times. Sudder street. But fairlawn is far from being called a pub. I love fairlawn for their conti-food. Like Blue Sky Cafe and spanish cafes in Sudder Street. So didnt put it in the list here. may be in some other "best breakfast joints" list of Kolkata :)
      i think I have a blue and beyond memory with almost all my friends. You too!!

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  5. Shaw's is a fantastic choice. But you should include Raul's at Bhawanipur.

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    Replies
    1. i haven't been to Raul's. Am sure my husband has. Will ask him :)

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  6. Very informative..
    lovely writing yet again..was waiting for some for a while now..kept checking ur blog for more, and finally u obliged :)
    <3 Banhea

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sukno pith-chaprano chaina..kobe boshbe bolo? khub jamega jab mil baithenge teen yaar..hum tum aur bagpiper :P

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    2. ujhho'ta bujhle jodi, sakshat dekha kore theek kori cholo..friday evening..
      ;)

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  7. Khalashitola baad gelo kano?ektu hardcore botey but without doubt the only banglar thek (literally) to be steeped with 'creative' history

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    1. konodin jaini..tobe prochur sunechi. sunil ganguly okhane mod kheten. true ekdom bangla bolte ja bojhay setar thhek and has a creative history as well :)

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  8. ami aj sotti khetam na........soja bari chole jetam......

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    1. :) hic! hic! noy ektu eke bekei bari geli soja na giye ;) besh to!

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  9. The dark, hedonistic Kolkata!

    Due to my poverty & lack of friends then, did not get to know that side much while I lived there..

    will have to explore it if i ever stay for more than a couple of days!!

    thanks for all the info parama!:-)

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    Replies
    1. yes, you must visit most of these places and drop a line to thank me again :)
      Also, in the event, you are running short of time, let me know. I shall advise you on which place to visit on priority basis. :)

      oh yes, your name?

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  10. বেশ মূল্যবান সংকলন । কলকাতার জনজীবন ও সাংসকৃতিক জগতে ছোটা থেকে বড়া কারো ভুমিকা কম নয় । আপনাকে অনেক ধন্যবাদ।

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    Replies
    1. apnakeo dhonnobad. apni lekha porlen bole. :) khub khushi holam

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