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Meeting an old friend must adhere to a simple checklist — long adda session, great food, few drinks and long-awaited selfies. And, of course, the best place where all these could be ticked-off together, the perfect friendly ambiance, just the right decibel of music and some view.
In this quest, we ventured into a new place in town – Monkey Bar. Located in the bustling streets of Camac Street one would be amazed to find a certain sense of tranquillity it offers. Kolkata, the city where the new and old co-exist in harmony can be seen outside the restaurant’s giant glass window. Yes, within the urban jungle Monkey Bar offers a view of the old iconic Calcutta, like an oasis viewed from a distance.
Be it the Victoria Memorial, St Paul’s Cathedral or the Vivekananda Setu, the second Hoogly Bridge, you can see it all. Through the urban maze, the sunset here is a delight.
Having been to the Monkey Bar in Delhi, the chain which started its journey from Bengaluru, I was pretty excited what it would offer in Kolkata in terms of ambiance and food. Though the interiors have been developed in the same style that defines the chain – brick walls, funky chalkboard and their dictionary-coasters, it has sprinkled bits of Kolkata too. You can’t miss Satyajit Ray’s Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne on a hand-pull rickshaw, that too in pyjamas!
But a restaurant must be known for its food, and we were done dilly-dallying. First, the drink. Amid a plethora of options, we decided to try something dedicated to our city and unique to their Kolkata chapter. We ordered ‘Toast to Calcutta’ (Rs 450), a classic combination of gin, lime cordial and basil but with the Bong flavour of our cherished lemon – the Gondhoraj Lebu. The slice of smoked lemon really brought out the flavour. But, this is not a drink to be left aside for a long time, as the burnt lemon slice might embitter the taste if kept too long.
The food menu was equally, if not more, exhaustive. The gastro-pub menu had the usuals (soups, burgers, sanwiches, et al.), as well as pizzas, with some Indian and Bong twist!
For starters we tried both veg and non-veg options, and each was unique. The recommended cheesy ‘Baked Bire’ (Rs 340) was delicious but could get a little cloyed but the fruit compote accompanying it was the winner. The finely chopped and seasoned melons, pineapples along with tinge of basil are the ones to look out for.
The ‘Liver on Toast’ (Rs 270) is a heavenly delight for all fond of liver. The crispy toast and sumptuous amount of liver chunks and mash will leave you craving for more. But if you want something on a lighter side, opt for their ‘Duck Pita Pockets’ (Rs 320). The duck was soft, juicy and balanced in flavour. The pickled cucumber and hoisin sauce introduces a symphony of flavours in just one bite. This dish itself is worthy of a second visit.
Monkey Bar is known for its starters, and here all you need is a pitcher or a few cocktails and you are set for the evening. The place also offers pork and beef and their ‘Galouti Killer’ (Rs 320) will melt your heart if you’re a beef fan. Though, mind you, don’t go about comparing it to what you would find in Old Delhi.
In the pizza menu, ‘Iti Aunty’s Daab Chingri’ caught our eye. The traditional dish of prawn cooked inside green coconut from Bengal is a winner. And for it to get an Italian twist was just overwhelming. However, since the dish is a weekend special, it was a miss for us. So, foodies, please take note.
The main course is a bit short for vegetarians, but a non-vegetarian could go on a culinary tour across India and world. We opted for ‘Pandi Curry and Pita’ (Rs 420), ‘Kerala Beef Fry’ (Rs 320) and their signature ‘Butter chicken Khichdi’ (Rs 400). The authentic sultry Coorg Pandi curry has been toned down here from its original version, but the flavour balance was spot on. The highlight, though, was the perfectly cooked coconut rice, served with onion barista. An authentic curry would also have heavy chunks of pork compared to the moderate pieces here.
The classic Kerala dish was a winner, the tantalising flavour of curry leaves and mustard seeds added the much-needed flavour, but again there wasn’t a burst of spices one expects. However, the pliable juicy beef melted in the mouth and was hard to resist. Served with tender bao uttapam, this food travelled a long way to entice us.
If you are fond of comfort food and are not up for risks, try their Butter Chicken Khichdi, which also has a veg variant in paneer. The Punjabi/Delhi-style dish is humble and poignant. Served with desi ghee, papad, raita and salad it will make you miss ‘ghar ka khaana’.
Almost full to the brim, we had just a sliver of space left for dessert (professional demands after all). We again opted for a Kolkata special menu – ‘Gandharaj Lime Tart’ (Rs 220). The lime curd and torched meringue served with pistachio cake, however, was too sour for a sweet dish. The petite meringue was creamy and sweet but it failed to balance the chunky lime curd. The frozen rose petals were an aide but could not rescue the dish. As a dessert this is a miss.
Overall, it seems Monkey Bar Kolkata’s strong points are its appetisers, followed by its mains. With the stunning view that it offers and a laid-back atmosphere, it still makes for a worthy addition to Kolkata’s culinary map.
Monkey Bar Kolkata
Address: 901 A, 9th Floor, Fort Knox, 6, Camac Street, Kolkata- 700017
Cost for two: Rs 1,200 without alcohol, Rs 1,800 with alcohol (excluding taxes)