Putiram's breakfast is one of the most iconic in the city.
Revisit the city’s traditional eateries that have been doling out delicious breakfast for decades.
Until a few years ago, Calcuttans often rued the dearth of breakfast joints in the city, other than Flurys of course, and the five star hotels. What the city actually missed was perhaps breakfast joints along the lines of European cafes or American diners serving eggs benedict and pancakes with maple syrup, where one could spend some alone time over a cuppa or catch up with friends over an English breakfast. For there was never really a dearth of eateries serving traditional Indian breakfasts in the city.
In recent years, Kolkata has witnessed an unprecedented mushrooming of cafes and restaurants serving European and American-style breakfast. So, it is perhaps a good time to revisit a few of the city’s iconic traditional eateries that have been doling out delicious breakfast for decades. And they continue to pull crowds, the torrent of newcomers notwithstanding. For the thing with Kolkata is that the city embraces and romances the new without letting go of the old.
Putiram Sweets, Surya Sen Street
Putiram Sweets, on Surya Sen Street, adjacent to College square, is one of the city’s most coveted destinations for a traditional Bengali breakfast fix. Their kochuri (fried bread stuffed with lentils) served with their inimitable panch phoron flavoured potato curry, is stuff of legends. You can also go for their phulkopir shingara, a winter speciality, or the flaky, layered nimkee, all fried in pure ghee. Pair them with a couple of crisp, sugary jilipis or jalebis that typically run out by 8 in the morning. In case you miss the jilipi, Putiram’s darbesh, soft, cardamom-scented laddoos made with boondi, khoya, nuts and raisins, is an absolute winner too.
A Mughlai breakfast feast at Sabir's.
Sabir’s, Chandni Chowk
If the idea of gorging on rich curried meats and fried breads early in the morning does not intimidate you, land up at Sabir’s in Chandni Chowk for an extensive Mughlai breakfast feast. How this sexagenarian eatery has wooed generations with their inimitable rezala and distinctly sweet, soft and flaky parathas, is one of the city’s enduring culinary legends, but their breakfast specialties like dal gosht and mutton korma also rope in quite a crowd every morning. Paired with soft tandoori rotis or Sabir’s famous parathas, these make for a delightful way to start your day. In fact, just the parathas with a steaming mug of their special chai rumoured to be endowed with addictive qualities, make for a fantastic morning meal. If you enjoy offal, there is mutton gurda (kidney) and kaleji (liver), magaz (brain) and zuban (tongue) for you. This one is for hardcore meat lovers.
India Hotel, Kidderpore
Alternatively, you could head to the India Restaurant in Kidderpore. Though it is their biryani (especially the Dariyabadi and the Kachhi) that makes them the talk of the town, their Mughlai breakfast spread is equally impressive. You could opt for the decidedly rich and spicy mutton bhuna, chunks of meat braised with warm aromatic spices, or the lighter mutton tomato stew. Order for some naan or lachha paratha to scoop up the gravy and you are sorted. However, in the winters we suggest you to ignore these and go straight for the mutton paya, a luscious slow-cooked stew made with lamb trotters, that will warm your soul.
Saffron infused 'bhanr er cha' at Balwant Singh's Eating House.
Haridas Modak, Shyambazar
Another vintage North Kolkata mishtanna bhandar with shoddy interiors, age-old glass showcases, rickety wooden chairs and wobbly tables with discoloured marble tops, the century old Haridas Modak is a place charged with nostalgia. Breakfast here means the quintessential Bangali jolkhabar–phulko luchi and aloor torkari. The luchi is served smoking hot, and comes with the typical spicy curried potatoes, skin et al, and are served on kola pata (banana leaves) for that extra dose of Bangaliyana.
Annaras, Shakespeare Sarani
Annaras, on Shakespeare Sarani, does brisk business every morning dishing out typical Gujarati breakfast items like khaman, khandvi, thepla, fafra, paneer dhokla and gathiya in addition to their sought-after kachori-sabzi. Annaras is one of the few places in the city that makes white rice dhokla and it is worth trying out. However, if you are someone who doesn’t mind polishing off a plateful of chaat any time of the day, you must give their feted dhokla and samosa chaats a try. The snacks come with an assortment of chutneys – mint, tamarind and garlic – which is something to look forward to.
Breakfast service at Balwant Singh's Eating House starts at 4AM.
This is where the city’s party animals flock for an early morning hunger fix after a night of pub hopping. At Balwant Singh’s Eating House on Harish Mukherjee Road, you can feast on a plate of piping hot club kachoris served with a spicy, soupy potato curry and chopped green chilies laced in spices, as early as 4 in the morning. A much-loved accompaniment is the Doodh Cola, a curious concoction of milk and cola, sweet and served cold in plastic jugs. If you want to play it safe, go for a steaming ‘bhanr’ of kesari chai (saffron tea in earthen cups) – works wonders to recharge your drained batteries or cure a nasty hangover.
Radhuni, Mirza Ghalib Street
But who says Bengali breakfast is all about kochuri and luchi torkari? At Radhuni, an unpretentious little establishment on Mirza Ghalib Street, which serves typical opar Bangla (erstwhile East Bengal) specialities, the breakfast menu gets a lot more exciting. And meaty. Try the mutton (or egg) bhuno khichuri, which is more like a pilaf made with meat (or eggs), rice and lentils, and the zesty chicken masala, best paired with a couple of crisp parathas. However, if you want to stick to vegetarian options there is chholar dal or mixed vegetable to go with rotis or parathas.
Tasty Corner, Ballygunge
One of the city’s lesser-known gems, this snack parlour in Mandeville Gardens dishes out delicious heengkachoris served with a sweet and spicy chholar dal or aloo dum. Besides, their shingara, khasta kachoris, jalebis and imarti are favourites among the regulars. You could also take your pick from an assortment of stuffed parathas – aloo, hara matar, paneer and gobi.
A south Indian breakfast at Rama Krishna Lunch Home.
Rama Krishna Lunch Home, Sarat Bose Road
An unassuming, almost austere little place on Sarat Bose Road, the Rama Krishna Lunch Home is especially popular among morning walkers and joggers who head there for a filling breakfast after the morning’s fitness routine at the nearby lakes. The top breakfast picks are the pillowy, soft idlis and crisp, fluffy, medu vadas served with a delicious chutney, podi and sambhar. Ask for the special coconut chutney if you like your chutney thick. Wash it all down with some filter coffee.
Rao’s Udipi Home, Southern Avenue
A short walk from Rama Krishna Lunch Home is Rao’s Udipi Home, another iconic South Indian eatery in the city. While there Mysore dosa, idlis and vadas are quite highly extolled, their breakfast specialties are pure ghee laced upma and savoury pongal. To finish off your meal, you can either opt for the obligatory filter coffee or take your pick from among an assortment of flavoured milkshakes.