Why the North Kolkata Heritage Tour is a MUST

North Kolkata is a treasure trove of history and stories. It takes you back to the era when Kolkata, nay, Calcutta, was at the helm of affairs in India. From tales of royalty to those of the illustrious, from narrow bylanes to majestic ruins that once were majestic houses, from beautiful balustrades in those ruins to imposing courtyards that would have been witness to a chunk of history, you are sure to lose yourself while on an exploration mode here.

Although every other year during the merciless winters in Shillong, we would come away to our Mama-Bari (Grand-parents’ house) in North Kolkata, we somehow missed finding out about the area’s heritage. Guess you can blame the different times, different priorities of the 1980s era. And so, while we had seen the customary Victoria Memorial, Birla Planetorium, Boi Mela and the significant others, here was one piece that had stayed completely off our itinerary – we hadn’t seen North Kolkata beyond the shopping streets of Shyam Bazar and the book-filled streets of College Street. That changed, finally, during our last Kolkata trip – we singled out a mellow wintry morning, spoke to an all-knowing relation, booked a cab and set off to discover what was precious in thebylanes of North Kolkata. And this is what we found:

Jorasanko Thakur Bari — We had been enamoured by our trip to Shantiniketan (Read all about our Shantiniketan tour in our Shantiniketan Tour posts). Jorasanko, then, became an imperative to round up our ‘onsite’ education. Despite the traffic of the congested Girsh Park streets that lead you to the Thakur Bari, you are transported to the world of the Tagores as soon as you enter the premises of Bengal’s most famous house.

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The greater part of the house has been transformed into a museum – you will see here the room where Rabindranath Tagore was born, the room where he stayed, his set of pen, paint brushes, stories about him and his times, and more. We loitered around a long time, both in the museum and the enclosed courtyard, being completely numbed by the thought of walking the same grounds the Bard had once walked, touching the same walls He had once touched. And wished we could come over during the many festivals that Rabindra Bharati University observes here…..

Note: Photography inside the Jorasanko Thakur Bari is not allowed. You can, however, take photos of the grounds.

Marble Palace — This stumps you completely! One moment you will be meandering through extremely narrow lanes around the Shobha Bazaar area, and the next moment you will see this majestic palace with extremely lavish lawns!! And the first thought that will strike you is, “How?” You then find out that the Marble Palace was built in the first half of the 19th Century by a rich merchant, is filled with artifacts and sculptures from all around the world and is still owned by descendants of the family who debar you from taking any photographs of the inside of the mansion. And so we consoled ourselves with these few outdoor photos. The rest, for your eyes and memories only….

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A 3-storey mansion, Marble Palace has its walls and floors made of, what else, marbles! It is house to extremely elegant Victorian pieces of furniture and many many sculptures and paintings from around the world, a big courtyard, a temple that is open only for family members, well laid out grounds, a mini lake, a zoo and even a rock garden. The owner sure had a rich taste! Pity then, that you can’t take photos to your heart’s content. The Palace however charges no entry fee, and you can visit between 10 am to 4pm every day of the week other than Thursdays and Sundays.

Shobhabazar Rajbari — One of North Kolkata’s most popular destinations, Shobhabazar Rajbari is also famous for its annual Durga Puja celebrations. If you happen to go there during any other time of the year, as we did, you will have to contend with its towering columns and imposing courtyard. And some pieces of its history that proves its allegiance to the British rule, and it being one of the important seats of Bengal’s renaissance. The Rajbari also has a Nat Mandir adjacent to it. We spent a long time chatting to one of the descendants of the family, who now takes people for Heritage tours.

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ChatuBabu Latubabur Baari — Another of those Bonedi, meaning heritage, homes of Noth Kolkata, this house and the mandir belonged to one of Kolkata’s richest businessmen, Ram Dulal Babu. In modest condition presently, the house is still known for the Durga Puja it celebrates every October.

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Kumortuli — But of course! Kumortuli. Where Gods are made. Where you can lose yourself in the excitement of seeing the Kumors’ creations, creativity, patience and resilience. A place where photographers find endless subjects to shoot. I have a detailed post that describes our tour of Kumortuli. You may read it by clicking this link – Tour of Kumortuli.

And when in North Kolkata, there is no way you should miss having Sandesh at Girish-Nakur. Here’s where you can find them — Girish-Nakur — For the best Sandesh in Kolkata







Restaurant Review: Hunger Pangs in Bandra, Mumbai

The Burger scene in Bandra is very hot. The other day, we hit Hunger Pangs in Bandra’s bustling Hill Road. And got a table! Thank God! For, this was our 3rd try. In the last two attempts, either we didn’t get parking space (it’s Hill Road, after all), or we didn’t get a table. This time round though, we were lucky. And we thanked our stars!!

Another of those tiny joints that cook up a storm and are loved by all, we had a delightful experience right from the start. That’s when the owner offered to help park our car since they don’t offer valet parking. The staff take your orders, serve you, come enquire about the food – all with a smile. We had obviously gone there for burgers – Jayanta, a big-sized one; I, a regular-sized one. And we ordered a plate of Penne Arrabiatta for our daughter, since she can’t manage burgers and often end up making a mess and eating just half.

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We had the Lamb Burgers and boy, were they simply out of the world!!! The Pasta was good too, but tell you what, I’d go back only for the Burgers again. Fantastic lamb cutlets and super soft bread…I almost regretted not ordering the big-sized one. But that’s out of pure greed and not hunger, mind you!

At upwards of Rs 350 per Burger, they are certainly not cheap. But think – you are at Bandra and here is one of the best joints! You wouldn’t mind the bill, really :-)

Restaurant Review: Feeast@East in Mahim, Mumbai

Let me start from the beginning – how many times have I complained of the absence of a good restaurant in the Mahim/Shivaji Park area after watching a play or concert in Veer Savarkar Auditorium? Tertullia is always full when shows get over around 10.30pm, and we have no option but to go to Kakori House. For, we have to drive back to Powai. Many a times we have even done the rounds of Bandra lanes, but to no avail, since most joint are packed at that hour with long waiting time. But now, no more. Feeast @East has opened a restaurant in Mahim.

Their first sit-down restaurant, Feeast at East, offers a new experience in the Mahim area starved of good restaurants. From a predominantly Bengal cuisine earlier, they now offer an excellent range of tandoor options both in Chicken and Mutton. And yes, Paneer and Mushrooms too. Replacing the Lazeez restaurant, the new outlet offers mouth-melting Reshmi Kebabs, Mutton Sheekhs, Chicken Tengri, Mutton Kebabas alongwith their iconic Biryanis and Bengali dishes.

What I fell in love with was their new-age décor showcasing the metting of Kolkata and Mumbai. Absolutely awesome! And what adds to the fun are the quirky cartoons across the two side walls with humorous quotes. The other thing that could be one of Feeast @ East’s biggest draw is the fact that ther offer FREE WiFi! And every table has a charging point. How thoughtful and how in line with today’s times…..!

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And now, let’s get back to the food. We had a whole range of kebabs that we mentioned above and each one of them were excellent. The mutton sheekh kebab is one of the juiciest i have had in Mumbai. Make sure you order the Reshmi Kebabs and Tengri too. They are out of the world! The Cheese Chicken Kebab was a little too heavy and dry for us though. And then, the incorrigible Bongs that we are, we requested Fish Fry, Kosha Mangsho-Luchi and Mutton Biryani Bengali style. Their Fish Fry and Biryani are one of the BEST in town – have called for the same at home too in the past, much to the delight of guests who came over. Desserts include Bengali Chutneys, Mishti Doi and Rasagulla. Perfect end to an awesome meal, I say.

They are value for money, well-located and serve awesome food. We’d strongly ask you to GO. Go Go Go!

Restaurant Review: Sigree Global Grill in Powai, Mumbai

Had very high expectations from Sigree owing to its pedigree, but afraid, it was somewhat disappointing. What they have achieved in excellent décor, a large seating area in the heart of Hiranandani Gardens,Powai, a good sophisticated crowd, they have lost in both the service and food. Both leaves a lot to be desired.

Starters took ages to arrive and after multiple reminders. Same story with drinks. They got the drinks for half of us while the other half waited. And they were still waiting when we were already down with one drink! They are clearly understaffed to handle peak time diners…

On the food front, they had 8 starters and most of them were served only once!! The staff, both waiting and in the kitchen, were grappling with the people present, had to constantly remind them to get a seconds despite the whole concept of Sigree being ‘unlimited’! For a place that charges a premium over similar ‘concept restaurants’, the quality of service leaves a lot to be desired.

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So does the spread of food — 4 starters are chicken, obviously to save input costs. 2 prawn dishes, for which there are hardly any second helpings, one terrible Basa Tikka and lastly, Mutton Sheekh Kebabs. Secondly, they even fail the taste test — of the 8, only 4-5 are decent, can’t say great.  They have Dimsuns & Sui Mai’s but again only the seafood one was good. The prawn on the skewers were overdone, hard and dry. The pan-fried ones were the only saving grace.

Skipped the main course completely as didn’t find anything interesting. The deserts section was, again, very average. The pan-flavored ice cream was nice. The mousses so-so and the Indian section, very average.

Charges: Mon to Thu Dinner – Non-Veg @ 740++; Veg @ 679++

Am not sure I will be back noting the multitude of options now open in Mumbai. Sigree needs to seriously improve the quality of food and service. The only saving grace is the ambience, but then, in Powai, every restaurant has a good ambience. Why, Chillis and Pizza Express, just ne floor below, is so lovely…and then you have Mia Cucina, Mirchi and Mime just a little ahead…Why go to Sigree which makes you feel that you are not a valued diner?


Restaurant Review: Nafees in Indore, Madhya Pradesh (India)

Supposedly, Nafees is the best place for non-veg in Indore, after Sayaji of course. And it did not disappoint. An iconic restaurant in Indore known for its Kebabs and Biryani, it lived up to its name and fame. 

I was there for lunch with my team — we managed to reach only around 3:30pm after our meetings. Although still quite full at that hour, service was very quick. What I found very practical was their practise of giving small servings of Biryani, called Eco. It is just the right quantity for one person, thereby ensuring no wastage and also allowing the Biryani lover to not miss out on what he loves…
We ordered a small plate of Chicken and Mutton Biryani each and a plate of Brain (bheja) Masala. They have a nice technique of serving the Biryani from small pots… They twirl a spoon inside a few times to get all the masalas from the sides, ensure that the rice mixes well with the spices and serve it only then. The Biryani is ‘Dum’ one. It is more like the gravy style mixed with rice, of which I am not much of a fan. But then, found the Nafees Biryani to be quite good. Nice, not too spicy and well flavoured. The Bheja Masala was excellent – well marinated in the spicy gravy — had spoon fulls of them and ended up with acidity later in the day. But hey, no regrets!

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The rates of Nafees is probably the real clincher – all of the above was for Rs 450! Only! They charge only Rs 140 for a plate of Biryani!! God, that can spoil us Mumbaikars.
Will surely go back!

Restaurant Review: Bombay Barbeque in Thane, Mumbai

A very very wet Sunday morning, and I was sure I wanted to stay at home, call for some good food, curl up with the Amitabh Ghosh I am reading and later in the day, watch a movie. What a perfect Sunday plan, wasn’t it? But no, Jayanta wanted to brave the rains, head northwards and try our Bombay Barbeque, the newly opened barbeque buffet restaurant in Thane. All for the love of kebabs, barbeques and biryanis!!!

Set out we did, took us under 30 minutes to reach, for Bombay Barbeque is right on the Cadbury junction in Thane. Not a distance at all and the best part was, hardly any traffic. At 1pm that wet Sunday afternoon, there were 3-4 more food enthusiasts like us. We were bowled over by the size of the place – huge by regular Mumbai standards.

A pucca grill and barbeque place, they have the famous chicken-prawn skewers on your table, a huge main course section and another big salad and desserts section. And they have two very novel offerings – live station that makes you a quick snack or puts together a salad, and a chaat section selling paani-puris and an assortment of pakodas. Boy, did I fall for the paani-puris – the most unusual thing to fall for in a barbeque restaurant. My mouth is watering as I write this…wish had a few to devour right now.

Grills on your table include Chicken Tengri, Reshmi Kebabs, Sheekh Kebab, Prawns, Paneer, Mushrooms and Fish. Mention your preference for chillies and spices and they prepare your skewers according to your taste. We also got bowls of Garlic Shrimps and Lamb Shreds from the live counter. Awesome taste. Try also their crunchy corns. You will long for them while watching a movie!!

Main course had an array of items – biryani, Dhania Gosht, Chicken, Paneer, Pulao, a bevy of Chinese items such as noodles and Manchurians. This was over and above the salad, soup and the live counter!! Truly a huge spread. Jayanta took some Biryani, while I settle for Mutton with Roti. Very very tasty…made the Bong’s Sunday that Mutton dish!

Desserts options at the Bombay Barbeque spoil you to the core!! My daughter got a plateful of pastries, mouse and ice-cream, while Jayanta hovered between the pastries and the Basundi. I stuck to my favourites – Phirni and Jalebi with Rabri. Aesome stuff. They even packed two packets of Jalebis for home. As if all those calories at the restaurant wasn’t enough!

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Before I sign off, need to mention that the staff is very very good at the Bombay Barbeque – they go out of their way to ensure you have a good time and eat the food of your choice and taste. They younger ones even break into a jig in the middle of al that hogging. Why! They even asked me if it was a special day in our family that day – birthday, anniversary, etc? When we said No, they were disappointed. They wanted to gift us a cake! And they do that for everyone.

Rates are Rs 850+ for weekday dinners and Rs 1050 over weekend dinners. We felt they were a tad high…but true that their spread is very big….

Perfect place for family or office get-togethers…or even even you are in a good mood to binge…:-)

Restaurant Review: Kewpie’s in Kolkata

Kolkata means extended family, good food, shopping and old-world charm for us.  You never tire of the Phuchkas, the Rolls, the variety of fishes, the curries, the sweets, do you? The modus operandi we employ to deal with our insatiable urge to ‘eat it all’ when at Kolkata, is by making an meticulous list and by sticking to it strictly. Bohemian, Bhojohori Manna, 6 Ballygunj Place, Kewpie’s, Mitra Café, Bedouin – that’s how they are conquered….

This post is about the famous famous Kewpies. But before I begin to write about the food, here are two warnings – Number 1, Kewpies is difficult to find. Located on a narrow by-lane of the famous Elgin Road, we had to go round and round in our cab many times until we found it. Guess that’s because we were there for the first time. For Kolkata residents, it shouldn’t be difficult to locate. It did help that our taxi-driver wasn’t from that part of town. We almost resorted to GPS.

Number 2 – you’d be forgiven to think that Kewpie’s serves continental food. The name, after all, is hardly India. But surprises of surprises, their’s is a spread of typical Bengali food. Awesome Bengali food! Read along to find out how awesome…

On the food front, Kewpie’s virtually covers everything that a Bengali kitchen ever came up with. From an array of delectable veggies to almost every fish in the pond to the meats, Kewpie’s has a jhol or jhal (Bengali words for gravies of varying thickness) around them all. We, by the way, were royally confused. And so crazy hungry from all that hunting for the restaurant, that we could hear the growling of our stomachs. Filled to the brim at that hour, the busy staff informed us that the orders could take another 45 minutes to hit the table if we ordered anything exotic. “No No”, we blurted out in alarm, “We shall settle for the ordinary”. And ordered the ‘Thalas’ – the assortment of rice, luchi, veggies, dal and fish and desserts, all in one huge plate.

Well, what arrived at our table, was by no means ordinary – Illish bhanpa, Chitol Maacher Muitha, Chingri, Shukto, Alur Dom, Dal, Bhaja, Chutney, Papor, Mishti Doi, Mishti — we were in the seventh heaven. That Chitol Muitha was probably one of the best I have ever had. We went back home that evening deeply satiated.

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The ambience at Kewpie’s is most homely…it is almost as if you are seated in someone’s living room. A small cosy place done up in beautiful colours and art décor items on the walls, we especially loved their crockery. The plates, bowls and even the glasses were all earthen ware, and disposed after every meal. Served on banana leaves on these plates, you almost feel you have been transported to your great-granny’s kitchen!

If in Kolkata, miss Kewpie’s at your own loss….an enormous loss!!!

Best Shantiniketan Itinerary and Blogs

Is it mandatory to be in love with the Bard in order to visit Shantiniketan? Or is the traveller’s lust enough justification for booking your tickets for the place? I wondered, noticing the deluge of visitors when we were there during the famous Poush Mela in December. The little town is taken over by the Bard’s lovers and those too who are drawn in by curiosity.

Poush Mela had been a dream since childhood. And so was Shantiniketan.  Over a 3-day trip in the last week of December, this dream finally turned into reality. Reproduced here, in a series of posts, are my experiences from the ‘ranga maati’ (red soil) of the Bard’s home. Should you plan to take one such trip, these posts will help you plan the best time, the best home-stay, the best way to discover him all over again…

Simply click on the links to read the post.

All about Poush Mela

Sight-seeing around Bolepur

Tour of Bolepur’s villages

Happy planning!


Touring Srijani Shilpagram in Shantiniketan

Srijani Shilpagram is a place that showcases the homes, lifestyle, handicrafts of the Eastern and North-Eastern states in India. Spread across sprawling grounds, the place is designed to be a hub for rural artisans to sell their fabrics, handicrafts. A government initiative, Srijani Shilpagram started in 2008 and includes representation from states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Sikkim, the seven sisters in North-East and Andaman Nicobar islands too.

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We’d recommend you go to Srijani Shilpagram to get a taste of East and North-East India’s richness and diversity. Here is what to expect:

  1. What is most striking about Srijani Shilpagram are the traditional huts of all the different states in East and North-East India. It is an absolute delight to see the mud, bamboo, straw huts with beautiful murals on the walls and exhibits of daily life in the grounds outside.
  2. Fabrics, sarees, dresses and handicrafts of these states are available at the stalls close by. The rates are negotiable.
  3. A tour of the whole place takes about 2 hours. And no, you do not need a guide for Shilpagram.
  4. Shilpagram is not very far. And rickshaw-puller can bring you here for about Rs 100.
  5. There is a stall where you can buy snacks and water.

 Also read: Where & What of Shopping in Shantiniketan

Sight-Seeing in Shantiniketan

Tour of the Vishwa Bharti in Shantiniketan, India

A tour of the Vishwa Bharati takes almost the entire day. Spread out in sprawling grounds, there is so much to see and know, that you will be forgiven if you feel overwhelmed at the end of it all.

Vishwa Bharti had been founded by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, with the aim to be a centre of learning for both Indian and foreign cultures. Some of its most notable alumni over the years include Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, author Mahasweta Devi, eminent artist A Ramachandran and more.

We help you plan your tryst with the bard, his family and his abode…

Uttarayan Complex: This is where Tagore lived with his family. The complex is a popular tourist attraction, for here, you can see the five houses of the family – Udichi, Udayan, Konark, Shyamoli and Punascha, set in beautiful olden days’ architecture. And there is a rose garden too. You can take a tour of all the house and see how and where the family lived, where they sang and danced and recited, where they prayed…

You need to buy tickets for an entry to the Uttarayan Complex. Save the ticket, for it is valid for the Rabindra Bhavan Museum tooo. Photography in this complex is prohibited. You will find a counter outside at Udayan’s verandah that sells portrait of Tagore and his life. Rates are extremely reasonable. Remember, Uttarayan complex is closed on Wednesdays.

Rabindra Bhavan Museum: Famous for housing the now stolen Nobel medal, this is a treasure trove of Tagore’s works and stories of his times. The many paintings, photographs letters, manuscripts, documents, etc say it all of an era so rich and so precious.

Like the Uttarayan, the Museum too is closed on Wednesdays. On other days, they open from 10.30am to 4.30pm. We found a deluge of people, for, we were there during the Poush Mela!

Upasana Griha, Prayer House: Constructed by his father, Devendranath Tagore, the Upasana Griha is a huge hall made of glass and has a garden all around it. Set in the greens, the place almost sets you free of your stress and worries. Prayers are held here every Wednesday, which is why the Uttarayan Comples and Museum is closed.

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Chatimtala Tree: Or, the alstonia tree under which Devendranath Tagore used to meditate. Prayers are held even now during the convocation of the students of Vishwa Bharati.

Departments of Vishwa Bharti: The numerous departments of Vishwa Bharti are referred to a Bhavans, and so you will find the Patha Bhavan (the secondary school), the Sangeet (music) Bhavan, the Kala (fine arts) Bhavan, the Vidya (college of Humanities) Bhavan, the Hindi Bhavan, the Chini (China) Bhavan and more.

A walk around the various departments will bring you face to face with creativity and simplicity. Sculptures, frescos abound in the natural surroundings and in the walls of the schools and colleges. Be ready to give yourself up to simplicity and nature. The reason I told you that you might end up spending an entire day here is because somehow you won’t tire of what you see and hear about how the Bard built the place so thoughtfully and painstakingly.

Before you take the Vishwa-Bharti Tour, make sure:

  • You have a good guide with you who can bring alive the place for you.
  • Remember, you have to walk a lot. In case you are not up to it, hire cycles or cycle-rickshaws.
  • Carry enough water with you

Also Read:

  1. Sight-seeing in Shantiniketan
  2. Visit Khoai in Shantiniketan

Travel and food stories from around the world, through the eyes/lenses of a Mumbai-based husband-wife-daughter trio…


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