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The Chutney Co. & Piccadilly Square

There is a certain quirk about a place that dares to mishmash the Orient and the Occident the way Pooja Baid’s latest venture does! At one end is a South Indian eatery with its traditional, restrained yet colourful, demeanour and at the other a patisserie cum café with its post-colonial chic-brit get up nodding delightfully to the high-tea cupcake culture. Happy, carefree and laidback, The Chutney Co. & Piccadilly Square will happily do justice to your burger-idli-pizza-dosa cravings! The 30-something cover restaurant is located on the floor above Great Eastern Appliances in Calcutta’s CBD, Dalhousie, and together, the two make a delicious duo.

To reach, find your way opposite the Dalhousie side of The Great Eastern Hotel (The Lalit Great Eastern now, but we are going to pretend that that did not happen in the Calcutta we so fondly reminisce of) by walking towards The Raj Bhavan from the Esplanade crossing and then taking a right.

Décor

As you climb up the stairs, a cheerful neon-lit entrance spruced up by an assortment of bright red and green letterboxes greet you. Look closely you just might spot a letter signed, from Italy with love.

The Entrance

The Entrance

White interiors and you have me! Right at the first glance, you will be able to spot the difference between the two sides of the restaurant. The right half, looking onto the main road, is continental in spirit with framed illustrations of desserts frame a blackboard that mentions the day’s special. Reminiscent of train stations of 1930’s London were two very British and very elegant round-faced clocks. The pastry counter just opposite the live kitchen serves as an invitation into this rich and lush world of sugar and spices. At the other end, there are beautiful hand-painted wooden thalis featuring Kathakali dancers, women with jasmine in their hair, elephants and myriad others curated from the South adorning the wall. These along with coconut shell lamps, a bright green coffee grinder in a corner will take you on a trip down South. Don’t miss the gorgeous urni that has been turned into a washbasin! A large gelato and dessert corner together with a make-your-own salad bar is the centre-piece. The wall is lined with cupboards with pastel pink and green doors resembling slatted windows. Right opposite is the live kitchen that can be viewed through a glass casing. Fun to watch if you have a knack for watching chefs doing their stuff. We liked that there is adequate space to move around. Not too cluttered, not to bare- the carpet area has been well utilised. However, the lack of a washroom is a big minus. Folks, there is a washroom on the ground floor. We faced a strange case of the wobbly table syndrome though, where most of the four-legged tables weren’t able to decide which three legs they felt better to be standing on. But we did heart the single booths- probably the first in the city and a relief for people like me!

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Framed illustrations on the walls of Piccadilly Square

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The lovely single booths

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The Gelato Counter and the Salad Bar

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The decor

Ambiance

Frequented by office goers, students and families alike, this place has become a happy boon for those in the Dalhousie area. Mom and daughter, dad and son- this seems to be everybody’s favoured choice for a heart-to-heart. From groups of elderly ladies on a day out to kids slurping on ice-creams, this is family through and through! Despite being on an arterial road, the interiors are not plagued with the incessant horns and buzz of traffic below. What can be better than sipping on filter kaapi or digging into sinful desserts and watching in rain on the city outside! Courteous, polite service; ask for clarifications on the menu and the staff will be pleased to enlighten you. However although the servers are well mannered and well intention-ed, we did feel that a bit of inexperience could be taken care of with time.

Also note that you’ll have to climb two flights of stairs and there are no elevators- a sad but big no for those with wheelchairs. There is an elevator access through Great Eastern Appliances. Just ask at the entrance for directions.

Food

Before I start on our first review, let me confess that I am an extremely picky eater. Most of what is on my plate ends up being transferred to his (bad table manner, yes, but a picky eater has to do what a picky eater has to do) but at The Chutney Co., I devoured an entire Mysore Dosa myself! Achievement, yeah! Before going into how crisp and delectable it was, let’s talk on the chutneys, the very things that are the place’s USP. They have 9 varieties, of which 3 are complimentary with your dish. Together we could choose 6- the spiced coconut, raw mango, coriander, spicy tomato, curaikkey and Mysore and all except the coriander, which lacked both tanginess and seasonings, were excellent (though I strongly suspect they missed the raw mango and served us two bowls of coriander, and he denies that but never-mind, we are coming back to this place!) Our favourite was the Mysore and the spicy coconut and surprise, surprise- the curaikkey, the same humble lā’u that has led to battles on our dinner table.

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Mysore Dosa

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Lemon Sevai with Coriander, Mysore & Curraikey Chutneys

Mysore dosas are characterised by a thin layer of spice-paste on the inside and it was extremely well executed. Light, crispy, low on oil and served with an excellent sambar, it makes for a good breakfast. Savoury sevai sounded intriguing. We went for the lemon sevai- you also have tomato and coconut– .With properly balanced flavours and a sprinkling of nuts, which I found a bit too bitter and hard, this dish is light on the palate and is a good option for the health conscious. However, the quantity is just enough for one. We skipped the filter coffee and tried sukka coffee inside. Served in a traditional tumbler and dabara, this is a gingery, runny concoction of coffee and spices. Our taste-buds didn’t much appreciate it much though!

Piccadilly Square- oh-those-cute-little-pastries-and-cake-pops-and-gelato-and—-Piccadilly Square! I can be a chocolate fanatic on days but my man will pick the savoury item from the menu. So there was a classic Spaghetti Aglio Olio, a Belgian Mudslide and a Caribbean Breeze on the table. The pasta, light and drenched generously with olive oil, stood out for the subtle hint of spices & pepper. A good Aglio Olio has its garlic slices perfectly roasted a golden brown in the olive oil and our dish had this the signature perfect. Although the waffles served with the Belgian Mudslide were a tad too thick and not too crunchy, the gelato with the drizzled chocolate sauce was sinful. The Caribbean Breeze is thin crepes filled with pineapples and cream and drizzled with strawberry sauce- an excellent dish! The sweetness of cream complimented the tart pineapples wonderfully, and the strawberry sauce had an enviable consistency and taste balancing perfectly on the sweet-sour divide.

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The Belgian Mudslide

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Spaghetti Aglio Olio

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The Caribbean Breeze

Looking back, this little escapade into the far south and the far west was a one of a kind but a fulfilling & rich experience. With a unique style, the twins are successful into putting together an experience that is both aesthetically appealing and sensually wholesome. The fact that the food they serve is tasty & hearty only adds to the fondness that we feel for the place. For those pizzas and burgers and Mysore idlis and salads, we are definitely returning to redevour—err, rediscover this place!

Hey, did you just say desserts?

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Ticking off His Wishlist: Joey’s Pub, Darjeeling

I don’t know the history of Joey’s Pub. I should have but I had heard about Joey and his pub years back in a song named Nepali by Anjan Dutta. The song spoke about this quaint little place in faraway Darjeeling where Puran Daju has a small pub done up in dark woodwork paneling with classic rock playing out like angels placing serene little kisses on your lips. The interior is moody and steeped in stories and memories. It draws you in, cradling you worn soul in the warmth of the familial atmosphere and it strikes you that you are no longer just who you were but someone who has found a place to belong again.

On the way to Joey’s

Joey’s Pub, Darjeeling

Joey’s Pub- a father’s labour of love christened after his beloved son. Where friendship matters more than what you drink. Where the customers are the kids Puran went to school with. Where when the time is right, he picks up a guitar & strums his love out in a voice that Jim Reeves would be jealous of. I had made a promise to myself over the years. To visit this place. To talk to this man. To feel his world. I could have gone to Kurseong, to Mirik. I could have turned up at a small hamlet tucked in the hillside and asked someone to keep me in for two nights. But I chose Darjeeling- overcrowded at times, alarmingly commercialized, filled with the wrong breed of tourists, loud, filthy and yet swathed in what feels like nostalgia- the very place that had this little promise I made to myself. And let me tell you, I loved it. I loved it in the truest sense of the word. I was happy & I felt like crying listening to Peete Seeger singing ‘Michael row the boat ashore’ on a cold starlit night. I was drunk but not on alcohol. I was drunk on happiness; happiness that made me write this 4 am in the morning after staying awake the entire night. I talked to Puran. He has hair like Elvis. And he hates cell phones & selling out. He cares for the people of the place. He cares for the mountains. And he was a friend to me.

Joey’s Pub. Near the Post Office. Awaits you.

Listen to Anjan Dutta’s Nepali: