Kolkata’s popular bar and restaurant zone, Park Street, may have taken a hit during the lockdown, but that has not prevented opening of new places since. One of the latest being OCTA. But for this new bar and restaurant, the challenge lay elsewhere – of creating its own identity. OCTA decided to play on the mood factor, by creating a relaxed dining space by day and a vibrant hotspot by night, luxurious yet casual.
“I was really keen on offering something new to the city, a space that is just not a lounge or a night club but an all-day bar and dining option for every age group, with good food and great ambience,” said owner Abhishek Kajaria.
Spread over 4,000 sq feet, with a double height ceiling, Octa consists of two levels. While the lower level consists of a regular seating zone with a well-stocked bar (serving premium pouring brands and signature cocktails) at one end, the mezzanine had a lounge feel with leathered upholstered seating, an open kitchen, and a small private dining area.
Tasked with creating a new destination, art designer and ace scenographer Swarup Dutta used a lot of industrial inputs, often repurposed, for the trendy look. “It was important to keep in mind the mood changing aspect of the place,” said Dutta.
Industrial grids were used for the lower area and the bar, and industrial ceiling to tame the uneven surfaces and wiring from the nightclub days. Exposed brick structures and neon signage juxtaposed with the overall colour palette consisting of grey with yellow overtones.
What was striking was the digital montages (executed by Sumanta Chakravorty) celebrating the aspects of fun and play in people’s lives. Those at the mezzanine level consisted of series depicting women glammed up with everyday household utensils, a reflection of the state of affair during the pandemic, balancing the mundane with people’s desire to dress up and enjoy, according to the artist.
The menu is split equally between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, with options for those who prefer eggs, or want Jain or vegan food. To ensure OCTA’s exclusive presence, noted chef Shaun Kenworthy (also in charge of Hammer’s kitchen) focused on a menu curated around small plates and large bowls, exploiting Asian flavours, balancing the traditional with experimental. “Great Asian small plates as we know everyone loves to share, a great bar and larger bowls for the solo hungry eater,” was how chef Kenworthy explained it.
The Edamame Bonbons (Rs 350), a savoury mix of sushi rice, edamame, spicy mayo, black truffle, was a perfect starter for us. If you love munchies, the salt and pepper squid (Rs 450) is a must. Other small plate favourites included curried mushroom buns, crispy water chestnuts, sesame grilled New Zealand lamb chop, spicy crab cakes with Bengal’s very own Gondhoraj lemon. One of the most popular small plates that was emptied fast was the spinach wrapped prawn paturi (Rs 490) spiced up with Asian pesto and Kasundi Miso.
If you are looking for large portions, you may try the Japanese Caesar Salad (Rs 380) with Romaine lettuce, crispy tofu, cherry tomatoes, miso dressing, and crisp nori, or the Asian Chicken Salad (Rs 380) with Napa cabbage, Romaine lettuce, tofu, coriander, and sesame ginger dressing. Depending on your food style, you may try the mixed vegetables in Malay curry or the Mutton Rendang in a thick flavourful gravy; both dishes come with a side of Malay Paratha or Jasmine Rice.
Choice of desserts include Yuzu Cheesecake, Apple pie and Custard bao paired with vanilla ice cream, Matcha tiramisu with Lotus biscuit, Ginger Chocolate Fondant - raspberry sauce, wasabi ice cream, to name a few.