Kolkata, the city known for its penchant for Mughlai and Chinese food is slowly but surely discovering the popularity of theme cafes. Here are three cafes inspired by Lord of the Rings, Tintin comics and the Game of Thrones.
“There was an arched door at the front, a heart-shaped window carved next to it and inside it was tiny but not tight. To us it looked like a perfect hobbit’s hole, and that means comfort, right?” said Arkanava Bal, who co-owns the Hobbit’s Café with friend Manzil Maitra. Located in a narrow lane not far from the Golpark roundabout in south Kolkata, the place was easy to reach yet far from the noise of traffic. The kind of Middle Earth that the duo were looking for. “We decided to set up a café and were scouring for the right place,” said Maitra, “when we chanced upon this quaint corner.” It was the place rather than fandom that helped the two friends name the café.
The brightly painted exterior of Hobbit’s Café is a sharp contrast to the mute shades of residential buildings around it. A bunch of orchids hang from the heart-shaped window. Inside, it is low-roofed and small but not stuffy. Décor is minimal but enough to make a hobbit feel at home – framed quotes from Tolkien, a map of the Middle Kingdom painted on the wee door that leads to the kitchen, a bunch of creepers in a corner, the hint of an exposed wall (paper) in an alcove. A long sofa with bright cushions. Tables and chairs arranged in a manner that you will not feel crowded out during full house.
The duo – they had given up their cushy jobs to work independently – take care of the entire operations, from buying ingredients to order taking to cooking. All the sauces and dips are handmade by them. The café serves mainly continental food along with a choice of beverages and desserts. Tolkienites will find names of dishes inspired by the various denizens of the Middle Kingdom a delight. There is Bilbo Magnificent sandwich, Patty Lumpkin, Frodo’s Meal, Aragon’s Oreo, among others. Even if you are not a Hobbit or LoTR fan, you will not find it difficult to surf the menu as all the dishes are explained in detail. The menu is divided into several sections and offers a wide choice, including sandwiches, burgers and sliders, croquettes and fritters, pastas, tacos, stroganoff among others. In the non-vegetarian section, you will find fish, egg, chicken, lamb and pork. “In fact, we experimented and perfected the dishes at home before putting them on the menu,” said Maitra. By their own admission and according to reviews on popular websites, some of the popular dishes are cheesy chicken cigars, classic ham and cheese sandwich, pork chops, fish tacos, Jamaican jerk chicken, black bean nachos, corn and mushroom quesadilla, paneer steak, etc.
Where: 42/8A Gariahat Road, Kolkata 700029; near Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Gate no 4.
Timing: Open daily, except Sunday; from 12.30pm to 9pm. Expect a queue during weekends and holidays.
Tintin & The Brussels Club
Hindustan Park, off the busy Gariahat junction, is such a typical old south Kolkata street, that you are bound to pull short as your eyes fall on a cut-out of Tintin and his dog Snowy standing against a tree. Almost immediately you notice the signboard, Tintin & The Brussels Club. Usually, there is a small blackboard at the bottom of the tree hinting at any special menu laid out for an event or a food festival. Take the narrow lane that leads inside. On one side is a long poster with line drawings from the famous Adventures of Tintin comic series.
Push the door to enter a tiny foyer. Be careful or you are likely to bang into Nestor, the butler from Marlinspike Hall, standing in his signature pose, bearing a tray with bottles. A second door lets you into the Professor Calculus room where the absent-minded man is standing in a corner, pendulum in hand. From here, you may choose to step into Captain Haddock’s room or the Tintin room with its brilliant wall paper of a café street scene from Brussels.
“My husband and I love to travel,” said Barnali Sensarma Ghosh, owner, “and wherever we go, we always eat local food. We eat where locals eat for an authentic experience. We also toyed with the idea of opening a specialty restaurant in Kolkata to give our patrons an authentic taste of a global cuisine.”
With their son living in Brussels, Belgium, the couple thoroughly enjoyed the food scene there. “Belgium had so much to offer beyond waffles,” said Ghosh. But it was a visit to the Hergé Museum that helped them make up their mind. Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé, was the creator of the comic albums that together make up The Adventures of Tintin, the young reporter and adventurer. The comic series has been translated in over 70 languages and adapted for radio, television, theatre and film.
“We realised that people of all ages are fond of Tintin” said Ghosh, “and what better than using him as an icon of Belgian food.” They also filled the place with Tintin memorabilia sourced from the museum.
So, in March 2018, the first restaurant offering Belgian cuisine opened in Kolkata and almost immediately became a great hit. As soon as you are seated, a hefty menu card will be put before you. Out of deference for their patrons who eat only vegetarian, they have a separate menu card for them.
Menu card in hand, order a plate of Belgian frites (fries), the staple street food of the country, also served as a side to many other dishes, such as fish and frites, and then decide on what you want to order from the range of pastas, pizzas, soups and salads, sandwiches and sizzlers before moving to the main course, rounding up with waffles and desserts. Each segment has marked by its own Belgian speciality. In the non-vegetarian section, the restaurant offers a wide choice, including fish, chicken, duck, seafood, lamb, pork and beef. The recipes have been prepared after consulting Belgian chefs and foodies. Many of the ingredients are either sourced from Belgium or other countries (such as mussels from New Zealand) because Ghosh is keen to retain the original look and taste.
One of the signature dishes here is the Belgian Bitterballen (beef meat ball) served with mustard sauce. Or you may try the Pork Sausages with Stoemp (a Belgian version of mashed potato), Beef Stew with exotic vegetables and spaghetti noodles, Ostende fish, Belgian Chicory or one of their weekend specials, such as the pot roast lamb.
Where: 52D Hindustan Park, Kolkata 700029; look for the road sign indicating the residence of one of Bengal’s popular poets (late) Jatindramohan Bagchi. The restaurant is located in a refurbished portion of the poet’s house.
Timing: Open every day, noon to 11pm. Advance booking recommended. They also have piano recitals on Saturdays.
| Read about Chai Places To Visit In Kolkata
Seven Kingdom Café and Grill
The moment you walk into the Seven Kingdom Café and Grill, tucked inside a relatively quiet neighbourhood in Salt Lake, on the eastern fringe in Kolkata, you immediately know that it has been set up by a die-hard Game of Thrones fan. Filled with props and paintings from the Game of Thrones, the television drama series adapted from ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ the first of George R. R. Martin's series of fantasy novels.
There are seven tables, each named after a house – Arryn, Baratheon, Greyjoy, Lannister, Stark, Targaryen and Tyrell. Dragons, maps and symbols adorning the walls. Flags. Portraits of the major characters. GoT theme music playing in the background. And there is the Throne, made of sharp swords with golden hilts and the bejewelled crown. A GoT fan is bound to feel at home here.
Son of an entrepreneur mother, Anish Gupta wanted to go into business too. So one fine morning, he quit his job in an American IT firm in Bengaluru, packed his bag and returned to Kolkata with a dream to set up a café based on his favourite fantasy drama. Because he felt it was not right that Kolkata did not have GoT themed café while Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, even Srinagar, had one.
“Setting up the restaurant was a test of patience,” said Gupta. “We had to plan everything in great detail.” And executing those plans was easier said than done. Finally, the Seven Kingdom Café and Grill was thrown open in June 2018. The staff is young and energetic. “We have a lot of millennials coming and having a young staff helps in bonding with my patrons,” Gupta said. Kolkata’s IT hub is he café’s neighbour.
Once you are seated, you will be handed four menu cards – beverages, Oriental, Continental, and Chef’s Special. Order the house version of Dornish wine (non-alcoholic) as you flip through the pages. Yes, nearly every dish has a twist in the name but non-GoT fans have nothing to fear as the dishes are explained in detail. On the menu, they have soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, bao, combo meals, desserts, mocktails, etc. One of their popular dish is Khal’s Platter, which includes Jerk chicken, Chicken nuggets, chilli bacon, sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. Sometimes, even a regular dishes turn exotic with the name, for example, Arya N Nymeria is Singapore Fried Rice while Brothers Clegane is Veg Pasta and Garlic Bread. Going by the reviews on some of the popular websites, some of the much-ordered dishes include Joffrey the Jerk Chicken, Seven Kingdom Double Decker Burger, Chilly Pork, Chicken Taipei, momo or dumplings, etc.
On your way out, you may also take a look at their GoT themed merchandise.
Where: BH- 40, Sector 2, Salt Lake (Bidhannagar), Kolkata 700091; not far from the Karunamoyee bus depot or ask for the Kathgola roundabout. Wi-fi available.
Timing: Open all days, 11am to 10pm.