Insider’s guide to the best budget eats in Kolkata

THERE are few cities which wear their hearts on their sleeve as much as Kolkata – it’s my city and I’m probably biased – but of all the things Kolkatans are passionate about, food ranks very, very high on that list.

Ask anyone in Kolkata and they’ll be indignant if you’re surprised that hours can be spent debating over which place serves the best iteration of a favourite dish. Food, friendship and conversation – Kolkata believes in serving them all together. The following list of places are some of my personal favourites. I hope , if you’re in my city anytime, that you’ll enjoy heading there too.

Eau Chew, Ganesh Chandra Avenue
One of the hard-to-find entrants on this list, the place, name notwithstanding, is well worth the effort. To be fair, the place only ranks on the budget list because of the large portions – go hungry or as a group! Chinese food is something which may or may not be something of an acquired taste but for those who love it, this place is an excellent stop. Special mentions have to go to the Chimney soup (though only if you’re in a group or on a diet), the black bean sauce fish and the chilli pork. Alternatively, let the place surprise you and order something at random from the menu!

Russel’s Dhaba, Russel’s Street
Once one gets past the lack of imagination involved in the name, this place is one of my favourite late-night haunts for simple food cooked just right. There’s little pretension here but oh, the food. Favourites here include the massive pots (bhar) of lassi and tea, the butter rotis and the tadkas.

Hindu Hotel, College Street
This place came strongly recommended for its Bengali food by a cousin and for good reason. Perfect for the wallet and the taste buds, this is a good place to head to for lunch.  College street is also a fantastic place to go book hunting whether for the academic titles or, for those with a keen eye, the non-academic sort.

Chitto-da’s Tea Stall, Esplanade
Tea-drinking is one of the favourite ways of whiling away the time in Kolkata, and this well-frequented tea-stall stands as testament to the fact. Talking to strangers is always easy over shared pleasures and you’ll soon discover, if you haven’t already, that there are few topics which Kolkatans will refuse to discuss. Case in point? My recent conversation about the Mayan 2012 doomsday prophecy with a regular. Perfectly random and just right.

Bijoli Grill, multiple locations
A Kolkata classic, the unpretentious interiors mask the fact that they are one of the most expensive and in demand caterers in the city – their fish rolls and fish cutlets get honourable mentions without even trying.