It’s 2019 and we can see a huge number of restaurants serving Bengali food in Kolkata. Or rather why Kolkata, Mustard is doing fantastic in Mumbai and Goa. Bengali food is getting its due recognition in India and abroad. But where did it all start? Which was the first fine dining Bengali restaurant? This story is about Aaheli in The Peerless Inn Kolkata, which had started the ball rolling almost 25 years back.
No Bengali specialty fine dining restaurant ???
Personally, I am a bit biased and skeptic while eating Bengali food outside my home, barring those pice hotels. I somehow feel that Bengali food is best enjoyed while I am sitting in my favorite chair, enjoying the rice from my decade old steel plate and this sort of silly stuff. But the problem starts when I have a guest from outside and he/ she wants to taste Bengali food, in a good ambiance. The problem becomes even more embarrassing when the guest asks sheepishly “why can’t I find a good Bengali specialty restaurant in the luxury hotels of Kolkata? “Yes, there is a problem, I understand.
When did it start
Long back in 1993, Mr S K Roy was hell-bent on opening a specialty Bengali restaurant That time, the option for a proper Bengali restaurant in Kolkata was Suruchi, run by a group of women from self-help groups. Though the food was great, it was not really a fine dining place. If somebody wanted to invite someone for a Bengali meal in a good restaurant, there was nothing. Aaheli came up to fill that gap.
Aaheli is located on the first floor of The Peerless Inn Kolkata, Esplanade. There is ample parking space available and the place is adjacent to the metro station. So, commuting is never a problem. Aaheli is open from 12-3 PM over lunch and 730-1030 PM for dinner. Alcohol is not served in the Peerless Inn Kolkata Hotel outlet. But Aaheli has got a branch in Axis Mall, New Town and they do serve alcohol there.
They serve a la carte items besides the jumbo thali at Aaheli. Let me tell you beforehand, the food is not cheap, no. But once you compare it with the portion size and ambiance, it definitely justifies. Different food festivals are organized from time to time to showcase Bengali food. Food is served in traditional metal plates and bowls, adding to the experience. even the waiters and waitresses are dressed in traditional dhoti punjabi and Saree.
What to order
There are a few standard items when I go to Aaheli. The first one being their chingri machher Malai curry. Yes, it’s a cliched item, but they make it really well here. The prawn used is Galda, so that one can have the primitive pleasure of chewing the head and that adds to the taste. The Kosha Mangsho is another gem here. But during the season, the Hilsa Bhape and Paturi is something not to be missed, surely. Hilsa is served in both the forms at Aaheli- with and without bones and you can have your pick. But though the a la carte items are fantastic, the non-veg thali is what I love here at Aaheli.
No Bengali meal can end without sweets and Aaheli is no exception. They make some very typical sweet items here, which I love. The first one is Sarer Naru. And how do I describe it with my bad English? It’s those lovely small roundels made out of pure milk extracts and let’s just say, you SHOULD try it here. Definitely, my second favorite item is the Chhanar Payesh. It’s totally worth every penny. And during summer, they have a lovely cut mango platter…
But if you want to have a look-around at Aaheli, do try the Foodka video here.
And the Aaheli Xpress
But frankly, Aaheli is not everybody’s cup of tea. It’s mostly a place for special celebrations and parties. So, what about us, the common mango people? Peerless Inn management has got the solution for that, in terms of their QSR outlet, Aaheli Xpress.
At the end of 2017, Aaheli Xpress was opened at the Dacres Lane. Yes, it’s the same place, where Mr. Philip Dacre used to meet his sailor friends a couple of centuries ago. The place is the blue-eyed boy of Kolkata street food. There are numerous government and private offices around and the small lane serves the office crowd with its numerous offerings. The stalls range from the famous Khichuri combo and Stew of Chitto Da’s stall to the stalls serving chowmien- Chilly Chicken. There is a shop serving fantastic halwa and Lassi even.
But from long, there was a gap. For someone who wants a hygienic food at a pocket-friendly price, there was almost no option in the Dacres Lane and Aaheli Xpress came just there. It serves basically the street food at almost the same price, as the roadside stalls, but made hygienically. The prices range from 30-250/- and most of the items are priced at around 80-120/-.
There is no sitting arrangement, except for some racks for keeping the plates and some wooden benches. But it serves the purpose.
Regarding food at Aaheli Xpress
The food is surprisingly good, even at that price range. Vetki is used for Fish fry, which is a rarity in Kolkata restaurants nowadays, for some unknown reason. The chicken stew is pretty good and the surprise package is the Mutton Kosha Rice combo. Recently the price is slightly hiked, but still, at 195/-, the combo with 2 decent pcs of mutton, mandatory potato and rice is still a steal.
for someone who wants to have a taste of Kolkata street food, but is looking at a more hygienic option, Aahelie Xpress with its multiple counters is definitely an option. Do try it and let me know what was your take, in the comments section.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome !!!
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