From roadside jhalmuri, puchkas to egg rolls and biryani, Kolkata is a haven of gastronomical delights. From rustic street food to modern fine dining, Kolkata's culinary landscape has many secrets up its sleeve. We dig out the latest gastronomic additions at the recently opened ITC Royal Bengal. The 27-storeyed hotel currently houses Grand Market Pavilion that offers food from the Northeast for lunch; ITC’s signature Italian restaurant Ottimo–Cucina Italiana; Royal Vega that serves vegetarian cuisine of Murshidabad and The Bass Room, which hosts high-energy gigs attracting city’s music lovers. However, it is the impressive Darjeeling Lounge that stands out as an ode to tea-loving Bengalis and the adda culture.
Old World Decor
While the grand structure of ITC Royal Bengal is modern and minimalist with art that has been sourced from local artists, the Darjeeling Lounge stands out with its old-world charm. The cyan hues of the decor are paired elegantly with the decor elements—sink-in sofa sets and well supplied tea bar—reminiscent of the burgeoning British-era hillside tea plantations. Inside the lounge, you are taken back to the winters in the mountains with decadent China and floral rugs.
Tea for Two
The tea selection at the Darjeeling Lounge is a labour of love. The extensive menu pans through Darjeeling’s favourite first flush by Margaret’s Hope gardens and moves on to the malty black tea by Harmutty from Assam. There is also exotic Summer Solstice Muscatel-Organic Darjeeling second flush black tea, Darjoolong-Oolong tea and Second Flush Muscatel from Namring to name a few.
The international selection includes brews such as Chinese Jasmine Monkey King tea from Hunan region, and Japanese Gyokuro Samurai, Ti Kuan Yin Superior from Fujian Province of China along with a long list of signature blends. They also offer the Theine-Free tea blends such as Vanilla Bourbon Tea and Creme Caramel Tea.
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For the uninitiated, teas also have many styles and profiles like wines. A lot of this is to do with the geography of the tea plantation. It is easy to oscillate between pure joy and genuine bewilderment. If you’re veering towards the latter and prefer your chai the desi way, then you can opt from their cutting chai, tulsi tea or the kadak masala chai!
But when in Kolkata, do what the locals do and try the Stock Market Chai named after the tea served outside the city’s stock market and was famous for keeping the traders at the top of their game. The tea has a potent spice mix inclusive of ginger, fennel, green cardamom, holy basil and carom seeds. The only thing to remember is that there is no sugar-free option to this one as the traditional recipe warrants the cuppa to be super sweet.
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As a 24x7 lounge, the food menu at Darjeeling Lounge is rather extensive. You can opt for salads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, curries and a range of decadent desserts from the in-house studio.
While ITC doesn't disappoint with their traditional Indian fare, what comes as a pleasant surprise is a non-traditional twist that they lend to their dishes. The Black Sesame Pork served with sticky rice is ITC’s take on popular dish by the Khasi tribe in Northeast and a satiating meal for any occasion.
The Japanese-inspired Chicken Katsu Burger served with pepper jam is a quirky combination. The heaviness of the deep-fried chicken cutlet is cut through with the sweet-piquant combination of the jam. No dessert menu in Kolkata can be complete without mishti doi. Darjeeling Lounge tweaks in a Mishti Doi Baked Cheesecake if you care for a fun twist to the all-time classic.
If you are looking for a place where you could nurture your love for fine teas then Darjeeling Lounge should be on your radar as this one does complete justice to the idea by bringing together some of the finest blends available in the country in inimitable ITC style.
ITC Royal Bengal, 1 JBS Haldane Avenue, Kolkata - 700046 | +91 (33) 44464646