This year, with family (yes, with my own wife), I’ve been on a trip to north bengal. and I’ve managed to find out few lesser-known god-foresaken places.
Now, once we came down to Siliguri, it was like a homecoming for my mother. She was literally dying to watch her favorite tele-soap-operas and in the comfort of her hotel room, she was simply more than happy. As suggested and thankfully arranged by my friend Chaitali, we were put up in a hotel called Tourist Inn. I don’t know how she managed to bargain, but at that price range, it was a steal.
With all the basic amenities in place and situated in the heart of the city (opp to West side mall and P. C Mittal bus terminus), this hotel is definitely in my list of places to stay in Siliguri the next time I visit. But, frankly, this post is not about this hotel. It’s about 2 places in Siliguri where I’ve had food and had kinda mixed reaction.
For lunch, my wife suggested that I go to a pice hotel in Siliguri. From Samaresh Majumder’s books, she was under the impression that Siliguri had the best options of fish served in its pice hotels and she was not ready to give it a miss. And like all good Indian husbands, her wish was my command and so we set off to one of the most hyped pice hotels in town- Kalpataru Pice Hotel. Location-wise, it’s superb. Just at the Panitanki More on Sevoke Road and below HDFC Bank, it’s almost impossible to miss. Now, the catch is, in the same location, there are 2 outlets of the same name but make no mistake. Enter the right sided one and check the interior with the pics below.
Being a bengali পেটুক, born in Kolkata, I have a certain mental blockage against eating bengali food at a restaurant. I always calculate mentally which fish costs what at the fish market and what price I am paying for it at the eatery. Solely, due to this reason, I prefer a Pice Hotel than a posh “authentic bengali restaurant” anyday.
Now, why its called a pice hotel ? As far as my knowledge goes, this concept started a few decades back, in the era where things were available in paisa and then a full meal here (the basic ones) were available at the cost of a few paisa. Hence, people used to call them paisa hotel- pais hotel- pice hotel.
Rules in a pice hotel
- There is no formal menu card. You get in a, see what’s available and get your food. Rice, dal, aloo bhaja is standard fare and other items, you’ve to order seperately
- Do not faint if someone comes and shares your table-space. Here, tables do get shared
- If you are a vegetarian, you may opt off one such place. The jewels of this place are its non-veg dishes
- Tip the waiter generously while leaving. He’ll remember you on your next visit (important for the size of the fish piece)
In entie north-bengal (well almost), in any good bengali hotel, the food is served on a kansa plate and that’s a standard norm and this place was no exception. All the items are put on a la carte menu (pinned on the wall) and the server will come to you with an array of vegetable dishes on a tray for you to choose. Please go for the fine rice and dal here (they served us moong dal on that day) and we chose few fried vegetables and enchor (green jackfruit) cooked with shrimps. The dishes (almost all of them are slightly spicy here) but as your devour your affair to be spicy, so are these.
Almost immediately after it’s served, they’ll present their non-veg dishes in the same fashion (so that you can get a fair idea of the sizes) and we chose Chitol peti for my wife, mutton (4 pcs of almost boneless pieces and without the mandatory potato) for me and prawn malai-curry (again 4 pcs of medium sized prawns) for my son. The taste was good and size-wise perfect. Please don’t hesitate to ask the waiter shamelessly for some extra gravy and actually they don’t mind that. The chutney was there to finish the meal and sadly the sweet curd was over.
Overall, I’d say the food is great (though a little spicy) and portion-size is nice- but this joint is pretty high-priced. I mean to say, I am used to get the same items at a pice hotel in Kolkata at almost 60% of the rate. But, if you can spend and want good food, you’ll love this.
For dinner, we were invited to Chaitali’s place and frankly nothing can beat a good home-cooked food. But, I was looking for the next day lunch. The canteen at first floor, Bagdogra airport has always been a place of lust for me. They serve plain home-styled multi-cuisine food. Please be aware, order for their chinese and Indian food at your own risk (it tends to be quite rubbish on a good day), but safely go ahead and order for their continental food. Even on a very bad day, it can give many biggies a run for their money. Its a neat place with decent seating and has got AC. Though the location and the management have changed recently, the continental food quality is still the same.
Somebody will come to take your order and in all probabilities, will forget it and will again ask for it. I’d suggest (forgive myself being opinionated) to order their grilled fish with vegetables, fowl cutlet and chicken sandwich and if you have room for anything else, their fish fry. They use bombay betki for their fish dishes. Though I miss the kolkata betki but no Basa, thankfully. Now, I can assure you of certain things here.
- The grilled fish is damn sexy. It’s huge and can easily satisfy one hungry soul over lunch/ dinner. It’s a lightly batter fried chunk of fish slightly overburdened with a tomato-based sauce, but never mind. It’s still good. Do remember to squeeze the lemon slice lightly on it …
- You’ll hardly find another good old-school chicken sandwich (without the rubbish mayonnaise based stuffing) anywhere else. I always try to pack some for home whenever I visit there
- The fowl cutlet is something which is value for money. 2 pieces and some hand-cut french-fries- put in some mustard and you;re good to go
- The fish fry is the backbencher. It’s okay-ish (not bad though) and can be tried just once.
You can always order for the fried rice (which my son ordered), but please be prepared to face a disaster after the great food you’ve just tasted.
So, finish up, pay the bill and off you go to sleep on your aircraft- that’s Bagdogra for you. North Bengal has always been my favorite place and definitely I’ll come back again. Till then- adios !!!
Bon apetite !!!
Comments and critics welcome …
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