Kolkata’s Jhaal Farezi impresses with its rich ambience and delectable menu where a speciality from Bucharest competes with a dessert from Monte Carlo
Every now and then, you have a food experience that you hold on to. And I think such experiences go beyond the food. I remember one such event in Delhi some years ago. It was a warm winter night, and a mild drizzle of rain had ushered in a promise of a cold breeze. We were dining in a restaurant and had asked for a table in the open. They had one – which was a covered pagoda – like structure with a low seating arrangement, next to a lotus pond. I have forgotten what we ate, but can’t forget the experience.
Something similar happened in Kolkata the other day. I was on a short visit to the city, and our friends there had promised to take us to a new restaurant that everybody was talking about. And after a meal there, I am doing just that – talking about it.
The restaurant is called Jhaal Farezi, and it’s on Circus Avenue. What’s wonderful about the restaurant is the ambience.
The owners have taken a bungalow and converted it into a very chic restaurant. So when you walk in, it’s like you are visiting somebody’s house. But when you walk up the floors, you realise how beautifully the place has been done up as a restaurant.
The rooms and the halls act as the dining areas. The ground floor is a café, where youngsters gather by the day, and mull over life and love (no doubt!) while they sip their tea and coffee (Rs. 20-Rs.90) and masala scrambled eggs on toast (Rs.75).
We went to the restaurant on the first floor. The décor in each room is different. One of the dining halls, for instance, has a spectacular ceiling lighting consisting of 1700 beer bottles with the bottoms chopped off, and each holding a light, creating a dazzling multi-hued effect. Our room, which could seat eight people, had posters on the walls celebrating some famous lines from Hindi films (such as “hai tauba” and “ooi maa”). The table was an old machine, with matching off white chairs.
We were a group of six and ordered mulligatawny soup (Rs.150), stream roller fried chicken (Rs.245) and prawn cocktail (Rs.290) in the first course.
Then, for the entrees, we had bangers and mash (Rs.275), fish and chips (Rs.425), chicken sicilienne (Rs.375), Anglo Indian ball curry and lamb dumplings, served with yellow rice (Rs 450) and gobindo bhog khichuri with brinjal and wax gourd fritters (Rs.160).
Some of the dishes were very good, and some were passable. I would have liked pork in my bangers, but these were essentially masala chicken sausages in brown gravy served with mashed potatoes and crispy onions.
The friend’s fried fish served with tartar sauce and malt vinegar was excellent, as was the Bengali khichuri. But the chicken Sicilienne – apparently a Bucharest speciality, a dish of paprika chicken with butter onions and mushroom and asparagus – was disappointing.
The minced dumplings in a tomato and onion gravy were good. I loved the stream roller chicken – flat fried pieces of crumbed chicken – and our Calcutta friends thought the prawn cocktail was different but very nice indeed.
The desserts – from Monte Carlo (a creamy, chocolaty concoction) to chocolate and hazelnut soufflé, served with nolen guru ice cream (Rs.175), and rabri and mihidana (Rs.175) – were brilliant.
Chef Sumanta Chakrabarti (whom I have known from his earlier days at The Park) had indeed done a great job.
But I think what made the overall dining experience so special was the place. I would love to go back there. And if I am visiting Kolkata in winter, I hope to sit out on the terrace and contemplate the city lights over another memorable meal.