NEVER HAVING EATEN BENGALI FOOD anywhere except The Calcutta Club, one has nothing to compare this quaint little restaurant in Oshiwara with, but what one can tell you is that Bengali cuisine is now one of the few one can seek comfort in without having to think. There aren’t many restaurants in Andheri that offer a soothing dining (or lunching) experience, and you know when you walk into the small place that you immediately want to be seated; the framed black-and-white pictures of old Calcutta are there to make Bengalis homesick, but they also charm you, the non-Bengali person, and as you wonder what it must be like to have been there, lived there, known that world, your eyes fall on Satyajit Ray smoking a pipe while playing a piano and on a poster of one of his movies starring Uttam Kumar and on a still from an Utpal Dutt film and suddenly it is no longer just about the food.
BUT IT IS THE FOOD for which you go back to The Calcutta Club, either to try a spicy gravy with the laccha paratha because you decided last time that next time you’d steer clear of mustard-based curries, or to eat the shukto (the delightful mixed vegetable curry) with a luchi (puri in Hindi and Gujarati) or four, or to wash down the vegetarian starters with countless glasses of aam poro shorbot (aam panna in Hindi, baflo in Gujarati) or to avoid the overrated alu posto (cooked with poppy seeds, they say, but it’s puri bhaji and that’s all it is). Yeah, most of the vegetarian dishes are vegan, and the loochees (poorees) are fried in oil and Bengalis use a lot of mustard, so you can have a cruelty-free heart attack at the age of 40. Everything about The Calcutta Club feels authentic, and one is amazed to sense it without knowing anything about the food or the culture beyond that much space, and the restaurant is adored by Bengalis who are amused at how much you appreciate it and by other non-Bengalis who never seem to mind going back to “that nice Bengali place.”