It was around two centuries back, yes, long time … One Mr Philip Miner Dacres used to meet sailors over meals in this place. And today, though British has left our country, the tradition remained. Loads of men and women from nearby office area meet their friends and foes over meal in this place. Yes, it’s Dacres Lane, the blue-eyed boy of Kolkata street food scenario and this is its story.
How to reach
Get down at the Esplanade Metro Station. And just when you start getting a little tired from the hustle and bustle at the metro, you might start looking for some drinks to start with. Look no further, walk towards Dacres lane from K C Das shop at the Esplanade junction. In 2 min, you’ll find this shop selling these amazing Lassi right on the footpath. Forget about the dust and other mundane things in life. Grab one mug (yes, you read it right) of mango Lassi (in season, otherwise special lassi only) and thank me (LOL).
But why Dacres Lane
Around two centuries back, one Mr. Philip Miner Dacres used to meet his sailor friends over meals here. And to pay a tribute to the gentleman, this place was named after him- Dacres Lane. But as they say, change is the only thing constant. And in time, the name was changed to James Hickey Sarani. Please don’t frown. this gentleman was the pioneer with his creation- Hickey’s Bengal Gazette– probably the first newspaper in Asia. But let me be honest here. I am bad with history and if something goes wrong also, please curse me softly.
Just as you enter the Dacres Lane, this shop or rather stall will be there on your right-hand side. It’s a non-noticeable shop, but they do not compromise on their tea quality. A good mixup of Darjeeling and Assam tea leaves is used for the liquor. And you can actually customize your cup- less milk, more mile, with/ without sugar- the list is simply endless. And secondly, the tea is served in a proper cup-dish, unlike the crap paper cups. There will be a food-cart churning out an endless number of idli-Dosa etc- south Indian snacks. This cart is managed by the famous Sheetala Udipi House beside LIC building, Central Avenue. But it’s nothing special and you can surely ignore it.
Well, next to the tea stall at the entrance of the Dacres Lane, there are these two chowmin stalls. And trust me, they both come out with brilliant stuff. It’s nothing fancy, pure roadside Hakka chowmin, to be paired with some gravy Chilly Chicken. If you don’t mind sitting on a rickety bench, this is something you must have. Oh yes, they put some sliced onion on top of the chowmin-chilly, if they think you’re somebody special and I suggest you enjoy the combo with that. The crudeness of the onion adds a punch to the taste. For the chowmin masala, from spring onion to readymade chicken masala, everything goes in and ends up as something utterly different- a true Dacres Lane roadside chowmin. The stalls do sell some other combos such as Pulao/ Chicken Kosha, But frankly, chowmin chilly chicken is my favorite combo here …
Apanjan- Dacres Lane chapter
As you enter the Dacres Lane, you’ll come across the stall of Apanjan. Yes, it’s the same stall, which has got its mother branch at Sadananda Road, South Kolkata. Food quality is the same, but here they have a lot more items. In the main counter, the main emphasis was on fried items. But in this Dacres Lane counter, they serve a full array of lunch items. Pulao- Mixed veg combo / Fried Rice Chilly chicken combo– but honestly, I still prefer their old hole-in-the-wall joint.
And finally Chitto da’s stall
If we may take the liberty of calling Dacres Lane as the blue-eyed boy of Kolkata street food scenario, Chitto Da’s stall can safely be called the same inside Dacres Lane.
In around 1940s, one young chap- Chittaranjan Roy reached Kolkata from Narayanganj, Dhaka. and within 20 years, Chitto Da’s stall was there. The starting was humble- a tea-stall in the Kolkata maidan, then a small shop in Radhabazar and once he got his saving of some capital, this stall came into existence. In earlier days, there used to be only two items- tea and toast (buttered or plain). And today, it has grown into an institution.
They have a number of must-try items, which is almost impossible to enjoy on one visit. But, the first thing that you must try, is their chicken or mutton stew and toast. Due to the magic of slow cooking, the meat is super soft and the sliced thick quartered bread is toasted on charcoal, lending its smoky aroma. Though I prefer the chicken stew at the Referee club Maidan, this is also a superior product.
For the combo, they have this brilliant combo of Khichuri with labra (runny mixed veg), pore bhaja (veg fritters), chutney-papad and payesh. And all at 30/- a plate. It’s unbelievable but true. even during winters, they put cauliflower pieces in the khichuri. Please remember, you’ll have to fight for your space on those rickety benches with unknown ones, but in the end, it’s worth the fight.
But if, at Dacres Lane, you’re looking for the same superior food with a good place to sit, there’s Suruchee restaurant- run by the cousin of Chitto Da.
After all this food, you’ll need some dessert at Dacres Lane. Though the place is not really known for its sweetness, there’s always something for everyone. In between Chitto Da and Apanjan stall, this stall sells a good Lassi and Gajar Ka Halwa. Also, some boiling thick full cream (with sugar put in) is there, but the halwa is quite good.
But whatever said and done, one can never confirm the hygiene standard in the Dacres Lane. I must confess that I’ve never had any problem here in all my life, but if still someone feels like having some healthy food, Aaheli Xpress from Peerless Hotels has started its operation here. They serve the same street-food at a pocket-friendly price and made with proper care. You may check the details here.
All in all, I personally feel, Dacres Lane has something for everyone. And it’s basically a great social leveler. It doesn’t care whether you’re a millionaire or a mediocre person, it gives you good food at a decent/ modest price. And if you need an interesting place for booze, there’s always the Police Bar tucked inside Dacres Lane. But that’s another story.
But do you have any special place that I’ve missed here? Do let me know in the comments section.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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