Oh Calcutta (Delhi, January 2014)

Once upon a time if you wanted to go out to eat in Delhi your options in terms of cuisines were Punjabi/Mughlai (the kind of stuff that’s on offer in most dire Indian restaurants in the West), Chinese or South Indian vegetarian food of the idli-dosa-vada variety. There were the odd exceptions, of course, but by and large this was the restaurant scene. Well, unless you had a lot of money to spend to eat dodgy “continental” food in five star hotel restaurants. At the time that I left Delhi for graduate school in the US in 1993 this was slowly beginning to shift and twenty years on the situation is completely different. I don’t really want to go into all that in this post as it would take a lot of time–I may devote a separate post in the coming week to a broader, impressionistic survey of the changes I’ve seen in Delhi on regular trips “home” over the last twenty years. For now, here’s a review of a meal at a Bengali restaurant, Oh Calcutta (in Nehru Place behind the Intercontinental hotel).

Oh Calcutta is the snazziest of the traditional Bengali restaurants that sprang up in Calcutta/Kolkata in the last decade and a bit more. It’s never been my favourite place to eat at in Cal (I preferred Kewpie’s and Bhojohori Manna–caveat: I haven’t been to Cal since 2007 and have no idea what the current state of these restaurants is) but the original there is not bad by any means–at any rate, it’s the only one of those traditional Bengali restaurants that’s gone national in a big way, with outposts in Bombay/Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi (with another in Gurgaon); there’s even one in Dhaka.

On our trips to Delhi eating out is both for the sake of eating out and for the purpose of meeting up with old friends; and so we always end up at Oh Calcutta at least once, as for my non-Bengali friends it’s a far more exotic option. They serve old-school Bengali Hindu food (the stuff that usually gets to skip the religious qualifier), Bengali Muslim food as well as occasional Anglo-Indian fare from the days of British colonialism (Bengalis, by and large, are unrepentant anglophiles). In other words, there’s enough stuff there that my mother and aunts don’t make (our family is Bengali) and so I’m always happy to eat there. It’s not the only Bengali show in town but it seems to still be dominant.

What we ate this time (click on the thumbnails to launch a larger slideshow with captions/details):

On the whole, a nice meal—the desserts were all very good. Not everything was great or even very good, but the non-Bengali may be less nitpicky. Certainly, if anything this good were available anywhere near me in the US I’d be very happy. In the meantime, while I don’t think eating at Oh Calcutta is essential for anyone who has access to meals in traditional Bengali homes, people interested in the variety of Indian cuisines who do not have that access should certainly seek it out in Delhi. In Cal there are lots of alternatives. Not a cheap meal, but I couldn’t tell you how much it cost as I was not allowed to touch the bill.

Next up: an acceptable Hyderabadi meal.

One thought on “Oh Calcutta (Delhi, January 2014)

  1. Pingback: Sweet Nothings: 29 Desserts From 29 States Of India To Kick-Start A Sweet ‘16 | Tripigator Travel Blog

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