Thursday, 21 March 2013

Thought for food, food for thought…

The man and I are true blue-blooded Bongs (yes, if you have no other striking attribute to boast about yourself, you resort to words like “blue blooded” for that extra glitter to your character.)

We live to eat and no meal is complete without fish. Speaking for myself, the love extends as generously to Mourola, Pnuti, Lotey and Shuntki as it does for Hilsa (Ilish), Salmon, Bhetki or Pomfret. Also, the two of us prefer fish to lambs, hens, ducks, pigs, cows, emus, pigeons, turtles…..any day. (Did I say turtles? Of course, that’s a lie; bunk it.) (Also, I am not claiming our unfaltering, untiring and voluntary subjugation in the hands/fins of the silver-bodied vertebrate on account of writing this post. We actually are fish-fanatics).

The basic point is, we are the perfect representatives of fish-indulgent, blue blooded quintessential Bongs. *thundering sounds of one’s own trumpets* (also, repeated use of glittery words make me feel as if I am not faking it; I actually belong to some royal Zamindari clan of Bengal).

So, you see, we visited this fishy little restaurant called “Fish Fish” (at 13/5 Swinhoe Street, Ballygunge) and that’s exactly what this post has to do with.

And, we were happy. Very happy.

The menu is stuffed with fish. Only fish. If you are looking for sweet corn soup for an appetizer, chicken drum sticks for starters, fraayed raice and chilly chicken for the main course, then “Fish Fish” is not the place you are looking for. Also, “Fish Fish” is not the place looking for people like you.

What delighted me most was, right from the salads and soups (which otherwise sore my eyes and taste buds) are non-pretentiously non-vegetarian. There is absolutely NOTHING vegetarian on 99.9% items on the menu. (0.1% concession for water, mocktails, desserts and mouth-fresheners. I mean it’s impossible to have prawn tooti fruity, bhetki firni or salmon in a blue lagoon, right?)

We tried Chitol Machher Sheik kebab for starters. In addition to that, they have a huge assortment of starters which includes Lotey Machher Bora, Fried Calamari with French mustard cocktail, Seafood pops with burnt garlic salsa, Topshe Machh fry, Ilish bhaja, Tuna Crosstini and the like. (I noted words like French mustard cocktail, garlic salsa and crosstini on the phone to use them at opportune moments like this! For this syndrome, there’s a word in Bengali: ‘Adekhla’!)

What arrived next on our table was Stuffed whole Bhetki and Sea food pasta with creamy garlic sauce (squid, bhetki and prawn embedded in dollops of cheesy sauce). (You mean minds, I know what you are thinking. My answer: Vidya Balan is my inspiration and ‘fat’ is the new hot.)  Anyways, food was delicious and while clicking these pictures, I had put Punjab to shame. I had a saliva flow mightier than its five rivers taken together.

Delightful combos: “Fish Fish” has an array of combo meals which include Khichuri with Ilish bhaja and ghee, Ghee bhaat with Topshe bhhaja and Chingri (prawn) Bhhapa/Malaikari, Mandarin Fish with Crab fried rice and many more. If you have a firang guest, just take him/her there for the Bengali combos. For naak-uchu (snob) Bengalis, Ilish Bhaja-Khichuri combo is strictly home food and trying it at a restaurant is as inexcusable as committing suicide on a Metro Rail track during ‘awpish-time’.

One tiny suggestion: Ilish Machher dim-bhaja (Fried Hilsa-eggs) would just be THE icing on the cake. Wish, they include it in their menu during the Kolkata monsoon.

One not-so-tiny suggestion: Introduce alcohol. Please. People, who haven’t tossed down Ilish Bhaja with Beer, have not lived life in a way it should have been. Same for whiskey and Mourola machh bhaja. (I just had a mini orgasm cum heart attack).

Precautionary note: The quantity is more than enough for two. By ordering separate dishes for each, we had to walk heads held high. Every time, we looked down, a shrimp or a squid would jump off the mouth. So, please don’t behave as if you just landed here straight from Somalia. Don’t order as if there’s no tomorrow. (My jokes may be bad, but my suggestions aren’t. Remember!)

One such unsolicited suggestion: The décor. They do have a glass-engraved fish-door, fish nets and wooden oars to go with the fish-theme but it could have been so much better. I remember a lunch at the ‘Ganges’ in Ballygunge (a break-away of Bibi’s Taaja). The theme got me spell bound. Instead of tables and chairs, each sitting area was an actual wooden boat! The ceilings were covered with fish net and fishermen-lanterns lit the walls. Another set of sitting arrangement was aquarium-tables. While you eat, you can see a swarm of colourful fish flocking below the plate.  The otherwise perfect “Fish Fish” can draw some inspirations or innovate new décor ideas.

A useless footnote: I feel, if smile is the best thing you can do with your mouth and kiss, the second best, then conversing would surely be the third. (Eating is a close fourth. Yes, a little strange that eating comes fourth! I am shocked myself). At “Fish Fish”, I had a conversation and a discovery of a fact which I didn’t know even after 15 years of knowing him. It may sound totally insignificant for anyone else, but for me, the simplest (and the stupidest) reasons of joy are the ever-lasting ones.

In the midst of a conversation relating to the best bikini bods of Bollywood,
Me: “Ei, janish chhotobelay ami bhabtam Parveen Babi aar Zeenat Aman eki lok.” (You know, as a little girl, I used to think that Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman are the same person)

“Chotobelay?” (As a little girl?)

Me: “Na, mane onek boro boyesh obdio bhul hoto…” (I mean, even after I grew up, I did the same mistake several times)

“Same pinch!!” *making a shy kissable face*


“I have hardly told this to anyone.”

Me (to myself): I always thought that my human IMDB was flawless! I am so glad he isn't.

You know what? Discovering something new about your partner, whom you know since ages, is more fulfilling than the discovery of that last cube of sauce-soaked mutton inside the wrapper of a roll.


My best friend was in town. We tried Mrs. Magpie (570, Lake Terrace Road, Near Southern Avenue) since their pictures on Facebook had made us Pavlov’s dog for quite some time.  

We are ice age people. We have grown up in an era where Jolojog and Kathleen were doorways to heaven. On birthdays, it was good old Nahoums (with pretty pink marzipan flowers…..slurp!). And, for lunch at school, Double Bite or Farrini cakes. (Strawberry-Chocolate Double Bite cake was my favourite, FYI)

With the advent of Monginis, we were introduced to muffins. Choco-chip studded muffins (also called tea cakes). However, we were alien to the concept of cupcakes for a very long time. It was something between a muffin and a tart was all that we knew. I was (and bet my life, she was too) happy with our favourites: Rum ball from Kathleen, Chocolate Éclairs and brownies from Nahoums, lemon and Macaroon tart from Kookie Jar (because they were comparatively expensive and hence, rare), Date-walnut brownies and butterscotch pastries from Monginis, Cream Roll from Priya/ Nandan/ New Empire and Barua Bakery cakes and Swiss Rolls from the local shops. Yes, we belong to that class of people who find Flury’s quite expensive and hence no favourites mentioned here. 

About Mrs. Magpie, all I can say is, it is a fairy tale cake shop. Personally, I am not very fond of pink as a colour, but this place awed me to no ends. The flowery walls, the décor, the vibgyor-ed glass windows, the little chairs, rose-printed paper napkins and precisely, the overall charm seemed straight from story books. We turned Alices in a wonderland….a wonderland that was so wonderful.

The cupcakes at Mrs. Magpie are a delight for the eyes and turned delightful for the mouth as well. They looked so cute that we wanted to eat all of them. Yes, we salivate at cute babies, cute cakes and the like. The mention of ‘cute babies’ reminds me of something. Have you seen the recent Shahrukh Khan-Frooti ad? Perfectly describes our condition when we see food, especially good looking ones.

We tried Lemon Surprise, Marshmallow, Toffee Coffee and After 8’ish. Priced at 35, they will melt into your mouth and all you would want to do is make “aaahhhh” expressions like Katrina Kaif in the Aamasutra-Rasiya advertisement.  Exaggerations apart, you surely would love them.

I was also amazed at the made-to-order cakes that adorned the show case. It seemed they were lifted straight from pages of a Hansel and Gretel story book. Infact, the entire store will remind you of that book too.

Other than the cupcakes, they have a yummy selection of sandwiches. They also provide for tea-scones-cupcakes, fruitcake combos which are priced at 400 to 500 and sufficient for two.

We bought raisin and oat buns. Four for 30. Value for the pocket and the tastebuds.

Caution/ Alert: The theme, the décor, the overall ambience is a little girly. Like, if I take the gentleman mentioned in the above note to this cupcake shop, chances are that he will faint on account of an overdose of ‘pink’ and ‘cute’. He is allergic to both the words. So, it’s better to choose the right company before you head to Mrs. Magpie.

Here are some pictures I clicked which I see whenever I am feel low or miss my best friend.  



I visited Nahoums day before yesterday to buy a plumcake for my senior’s birthday and was filled with nostalgia that not only filled my body, my senses but also my eyes with drops of water. Their owner, Mr. David Elias Nahoum passed away on March 8th. I had not visited them since. (there was a time when visiting Nahoum's at least once a week was a ritual)

Each and every person working at the Nahoums cake shop knows me atleast by my face. (There is no sense of pride involved in the statement, because I can vouch the same for 90% of shops in New Market). What was extremely special about Nahoums was their personal touch. “I adore the Easter eggs. How much are they for?”. The reply: “You mad girl, those are for kids. Chinir dela ogulo, rong kora. Khobordar kino na.” (Rough translation: the shopkeeper himself is asking me not to buy those sugary, artificially-coloured Easter eggs). They are so disturbingly honest. Can anyone not fall in love?

There’s another incident which I shall remember for a long time. I chose a chocolate cake for Ma and handed over to the Kaku who usually writes birthday messages on cakes. I told him to write “Happy Birthday Ma”. I was busy choosing other eatables from the shop while he wrote. When finished, I saw “Subho Janmodin, Ma” written in Bengali!!! I was in the verge of hugging him. He said, “You are a Bengali. Isn’t this better than an English Birthday wish?” (I don’t know about Ma, but Nahoum’s Confectionary Private Limited, you’ll remain my most favourite cake shop in the world for ages to come.)

At times, I have also been very lucky to receive the last cheese muffin or the last lemon tart on their tray for free with the pastries or patties I had bought. (Free is a wrong word. Affection can never be free.)

Here are two photographs: the former from my first birthday and the latter from my last. For all these 29 years, the most expensive thing I have boasted about for a birthday present was a Nahoum’s cake. It shall always be that way.

Dear Mr. David Nahoums, I give you all the smiles your shop has relentlessly given me for so many years. May they keep you happy. May the heaven, if there be any, smell like your cake shop. It is one of the best smells in the world, you know.