✍️By Special Correspondent
Adding to the vibrant café culture of Hindustan Park and Southern Avenue, the second outlet of the well-known eatery Royal Bengal Tiger Café has recently opened its doors at 78 Lake Road spread over an area of 1500 square foot accommodating 60 seats.
The brainchild of architect Pranab Chatterjee, who first ventured into the food business in 2016, opening the flagship outlet in 91 Golf Club Road, the second outlet has different décor without compromising on the core ‘Bangaliana’ of the cafe. “If we can walk into an air-conditioned space and enjoy a hamburger or pizza in Kolkata, isn’t it unfair that we miss out on all the sumptuous Bengali street food just because there are no air-conditioned, clean cafes offering dimer devil or ghoogni?” he asks. It struck him that with the disappearance of Bengali food of the ilk – flavours, tastes, memories and nostalgia from an era that are deeply entrenched in the Bengali DNA – a significant aspect of Bengali heritage was also getting lost. At once, he sprung to action and conceptualized the Royal Bengal Tiger Café, his way of giving back to a city that has richly rewarded him.
As an avid Kolkatan who once meandered the streets of the city munching on signature Bengali fast-food, Chatterjee was heartbroken a few years ago to see fast-food joints from a past epoch getting wiped out from the city’s map. “City dwellers who have seen the economic and cultural landscape of Kolkata transform into a more cosmopolitan texture over the years will admit that they miss the aromatic moghlai porota of Anaadi Cabin or, say, Golbarir kosha mangsho. There was a time when we landed up unannounced at friends’ and relatives’ houses for Bijoya Dashami where we were invariably greeted with bowls of aromatic, Bengali-style ghoogni,” recalls Chatterjee.
Chatterjee’s uncompromising and diligent care in sticking to the original recipes by using generous amounts of quality ingredients has retained the original taste of specialties like Chicken Moglai, Egg Devil with Mutton, Chicken Piri Piri Sandwich, Laal Maas (Rajasthani Red Mutton) and paratha, Pork Vindaloo and pav. Owing to a more health-conscious crowd that has evolved over the past few years, he has minimized the use of oil. “We give the food a crispy texture using less oil as people do not like grease dripping from their cutlets and devils these days,” cautions Chatterjee.
Drinks’ menu includes flavourful Cappucino, Machiato, Khus Sherbet, Cold Brew and Blue Mountain Coffee that bring back decades-old memories of the juice-stands and carts in the alleyways of north Kolkata. The prices are quite unbelievable too – with a pocket pinch of just Rs. 500 for coffee and meals for two, this place is a dream-come-true for believers of value-for-money.
While the old outlet on Golf Green exudes a jovial, old-world aura, the new outlet on Lake Road is a business café equipped with comfortable seating and strong wifi. There are two enclosures within the café – one with a relaxed seating arrangement where the multi-talented Chatterjee, also the vocalist of a band, “Khola Hawa,” plans to start live bands.
Plans are on the anvil to begin a breakfast service everyday of the week that will comprise a comprehensive, old-school, British platter filled with beans, mushrooms and scrambled eggs on toast, fluffy omelettes, ham, cheese and bacon sandwiches rounded up with Irish coffee that promises a total expense of just Rs. 350 per person.
The other enclosure is designed for business travelers who come to the city for meetings and fly out the same day. “With Dire Straits, Eagles, old Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey songs playing softly in the background with an occasional bit of Bollywood thrown in, it is my whole-hearted attempt to give a slice of the old Kolkata ambience and food to these roughneck coffee-drinkers who come from various parts of India,” Pranab muses.
With live local bands to bring the space to life soon on Fridays, the Royal Bengal Tiger Café on Lake Road is emerging as one of the city’s most exciting joints for visitors of all age groups who want to enjoy heritage Kolkata street food, aromatic coffee and a range of hot drinks and mocktails infused with dollops of experiences from a monochrome and Eastmancolour tinted bygone era.