Somehow, I’ve seen people having a strange suspicious outlook towards any singing bar. Now, let’s be honest. There are many singing bars in city, any city in that matter and they’re hardly any shady ones. These bars normally have few singers, both male and female for live singing with generally a loud music arrangement. The idea is to entertain the guests. Now, whether they get entertained or not, is a dicey question altogether. And, the general preconceived notion is that these type of bars hardly serve good food- edible food I mean to say.
So, when I was telling my friends that there is Duke, just beside the old classic Chung-Wah on Central avenue, which serves good food, the reaction was strange. It looked like, I have something written (starting with “C”) on my forehead and in fact, one guy was asking for the same staff that I was thought to be having. But, it’s a reality. This joint serves good food, in fact some unusual food and here’s the story …
The place is situated almost behind the Chandni Chowk metro station and opposite to E-Mall shopping mall on Central avenue, and operative on standard business hours till the last order at 10 PM.
Now, if one is regular to these places, there is a typical characteristics there. You can witness the actual city underbelly here. No pretention and no faltu show-offs are entertained here. The clientle ranges from all spheres of life. Normal people from nearby offices, college goers, junior to mid level executives, businessmen- they all come down. Its more like a adda-khana with booze thrown in. Rather it’s more like a small version of the city herself, in its brilliant diverse state. Snobs are not welcome here. Regulars do exist and though tables are not reserved, certain people do get a preference. On the first floor, the singing part takes place, off course with booze and food- and luckily, the ground floor is just like an adda-khana with some booze and good food. I won’t talk about the singing quality here, judgements do vary. But would love to mention that there are serious regulars here who come just to hear one special singer and the number’s aplenty. The AC is chilled on both the floors and frankly, nobody minds that. Certain places are meant to represent a city- its insider stories and this is one of them…..
Once you settle down, you’ll be offered a menu card, but but but, you’re supposed to know your drinks and otherwise, you may chance to lose the respect in the eyes of the server. For food, it’s a different issue. The good part is, being in a fishy city and the owners hell bent on changing the menu for betterment, they are serving a good assortment of fish dishes. And, why not ? The clientle is such that, it’s like an Kolkattan adda joint and machhbhaja always pairs well with spirits. And, I have seen this trait in most of the central Kolkata office para bars.
With drinks, comes the ginger/ lemon/ rock salt comboand chanachur and as per me, this combo rocks. You need to roll the lemon juice sprinkled ginger slice in rock salt and it works wonder for your spirit burnt palate. Wherein, chanachur works to soothe the taste buds.
Do yourself a favor and rather than checking the menu card, ask for their choice of fish. And, in all probabilities, while checking the comforting smile of your server, go for the local delicacy, Mourola. I prefer the Mourola Veritas. Now, please don’t ask me the origin of the name. It’s basically, deep fried mourola or Anchovy tossed with bell peeper and spicy chilly-tomato-fish sauce combo. The end result is deadly. The slight bitter taste of the small fish paired with a spicy sauce, works wonders as the quintessential fishy bar menu,
And, while you’re finishing the plate, go for their Fish Salami (basically small Kolkata Betki Darne marinated with spices and deep fried) and Green Betki. Now, only the owner can tell the story behind the naming convention, but probably the coriander stuffing is the reason for Green Vetki. A whole baby Betki weighing around 700 grms is stuffed with mint/ coriander paste and again deep fried. The owner is quite apologetic that he hardly gets the chance to steam it and confirmed that on prior order it can be done.
I guess, you’ll be bored with the all-fish offering by now and the server had recognized you as a foodie. So, Indian styled chilly shrimp will be offered and of course, you’ll oblige. Trust me, along with this, order for their liver kosha. The chilly shrimp will feed your tongue but the liver curry will feed your carnivore soul. While a bowlful of the freshest of shrimps are tossed with some brown gravy and chilly paste, the liver curry is just the type what used to be cooked in the bengali household even a few decades back- dry, strong and heavy- with mutton liver cubes- cooked in the Kosha gravy. Okay, don’t salivate and you can thank me later.
Spicy food works well as a bar menu, generally and here also, it’s no exception. The owner Mr Sabyasachi Chaterjee ensures that the ingredients are fresh and his brother ensures a good cooking is done.
If you’re okay with some good food at pocket friendly price and in the mood for watching the typical Kolkata office crowd, Duke is the place for you. Certain places are meant to represent a city- its insider stories and this is one of them….. Needless to say, my joint asking friend is a regular at this joint now.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome !!!
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