I hated canteen food when I was in college. For a few days my college lunch was usually a Mio Amore burger or chow from somewhere or a combo at a nearby restaurant if I had enough money to splurge. Then I found out about Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel in the by lanes beside Presidency College. I went for their mutton (mangsher jhol) and got stuck there for the fish. The intriguing name got me searching and a lot of stories about how this place was intricately linked with our freedom struggle tumbled out. From Netaji Subhash dining here to police raids here when freedom fighters took shelter to the scenes of euphoria on the day of Independence. This 100 year old restaurant has seen it all. So when I told my #bhat_buddies (new term alert!!) about a lunch here they were as excited as Bangalis when they see the first catch of ilish of the season. Here’s a glimpse of the meal where we came to the conclusion that Bangali cuisine is more intricate than the French!
We started off with a huge plate of steaming hot rice. The rice grains were neither too fancy nor the canteen style mota chaler bhaat. Shukto was nice. And a massive traditional Bangali meal was well and truly underway .Then came macher muro diye daal. It had a decent consistency with an ample amount of macher muro. The staff were particular about the fact that all of us received lebu, pyaaj and lonka with our rice and daal. Very attentive service indeed. Along with the dal we had one of the most amazing topshe fry. Fresh. Crisp. Perfect.
We wanted to have chittol but it was over for the day but our server who took unbelievably good care of us managed the last piece of chittol muthiya fry for us. We took a couple of bites each and we could not thank him enough for letting us have those bites.
Next the mach fest gathered pace. The chingri malai curry with three chunky bagda pieces was tailor made for us. The gravy lacked a bit in terms of the malai and the coconut but it was a decent start nonetheless. The pabda was up next and the jhol was not for the faint hearted. Bangals would love it. We unanimously loved the pabdar dim. Pabda loyalist Blah was impressed.
Thereafter when we laid our hands on the ilish, we had a huge grin on our faces. The ilish was super fresh. It was neither underdone nor deep fried. It retained its own sublime taste. The taste that makes ilish what it actually is. Absolutely spot on. This was such a welcome change from the glitz and glamour of ilish festivals of big name places that have become so common place.
If you think, we were done with this mach utsob, you are mistaken. We could not miss out on kosha mangsho could we? When the kosha mangsho arrived our server took up the role of our thakumas and forcefully served us some more bhaat. The mutton was amazing. It was so good that Ankur da ordered another plate to polish off the extra rice with. And this time we asked for some extra fatty pieces (our cardiologist be damned!!!) ! Another plate arrived and another plate was polished off . We did not know the last time we had this much rice. And fish. And mutton. Burp !
And we were not done yet. Aamer chhutney and papad completed one humongous and hugely satisfying meal. Ankur da was so much in the mood that he wanted doi and rosogolla as well! Although that wish remained unfulfilled, our tummies were content.
It was almost as if we were making up for all the sorrows of biye baris we could not attend. We went out and had paan afterwards but that is another story.
Btw, we have grown identical bhuris nurtured by bhat and bhat ghoom. Blah is a lady and doesn’t do bhuris but Ankur da and I are happy.