At Madam G in Kolkata, cocktails come alive with an inventive twist

Explore the odd pairings that surprisingly work at Madam G, Kolkata’s swanky new progressive diner

February 16, 2024 05:05 pm | Updated 05:05 pm IST

They say you truly appreciate the scent of home after spending some time away. I do not know who first noticed this, but they were definitely onto something. Kolkata is my home. Even though I left the city in 2016 to pursue a career in journalism in Mumbai, I have always felt drawn to it. And rightfully so. It is where my family brings me back to reality every time I visit. It is where the food reminds me that I will not find the same taste anywhere else (no offence, Mumbai).

In mid-January, I reacquainted with the city this time, albeit as a visitor. Nothing much has changed apart from a few blue and white accents and the mushrooming of the F&B scene. One establishment, in particular, has everyone talking — Madam G, a contemporary dining space by entrepreneur Drishleen Sethi, which specialises in progressive Indian cuisine. Drishleen started her entrepreneurial career in the F&B space by joining hands with Rakshay Dhariwal, co-owner of Passcode Hospitality. She went on to launch Ping’s Café Orient in the city in 2017 and SAZ — American Brasserie in 2019.

Interior Photography by Kunal Bhatia, of Madam G Kolkata by Prune & Pony Hospitality LLP. Editorial and Commercial Usage rights granted to Prune & Pony Hospitality LLP, with photo credits to “Kunal Bhatia” mentioned alongside with every instance of editorial and social media usage. No rights to any third party. Copyrights belong to photographer.

Interior Photography by Kunal Bhatia, of Madam G Kolkata by Prune & Pony Hospitality LLP. Editorial and Commercial Usage rights granted to Prune & Pony Hospitality LLP, with photo credits to “Kunal Bhatia” mentioned alongside with every instance of editorial and social media usage. No rights to any third party. Copyrights belong to photographer. | Photo Credit: Kunal Bhatia

“I’ve observed the success of establishments offering a variety of Southeast Asian cuisines under one roof. We wanted to bring that concept to Indian food but in a chic way, where people could also enjoy cocktails. While Asian and Italian cuisines have successfully achieved this, Indian cuisine seemed to lack that niche in the city,” says Drishleen.

After some brainstorming, the team decided to focus on coastal cuisine because they personally love the flavours. “We explored various places in Goa, Coorg, New Delhi, and Mumbai — from local eateries to fine-dine restaurants. That’s when we finalised our plan to create a place that emphasises coastal and South Indian flavours while incorporating different tastes from all over India,” she says.

With Madame G, Drishleen, along with multidisciplinary artist Eeshaan Kashyap, who designed the unique tableware, has skilfully integrated the restaurant’s narrative into its design. The balanced colour palette, opulent yet understated, sets the backdrop for an extensive menu. 

Twist in the tale

What stood out for me was the inventive bar program. The neemcho negroni was a winner with the use of homemade neem liqueur instead of campari, providing a unique bitterness. The Malabari highball is distinctive with its homemade curry leaf bitters. And then there were the unconventional cocktails, including the ball at Banaras, a potent drink dedicated to the holy city with an unexpected paan garnish stuffed with gulkand. Tribute to the Mughals features in-house preserved gondhoraj marmalade on toast for a touch of Bengal freshness. An evening at Victoria is a refreshing pick with a unique combination of gin, celery, and watermelon shrub. 

One notable choice for the night was call me, Madam G – a sour yet refreshing concoction of gin, passion fruit, citrus, vanilla, coconut milk, and amra foam.

“For our bar programme, we brought in a cocktail consultant named Nilesh Kachdiya from Mumbai. The research and development process involved figuring out how to make classic cocktails unique and surprising. It’s similar to how a traditional dish like our tuna khakara takes a familiar concept but adds a surprising twist. The idea was to keep the drinks familiar enough for people to recognise, yet surprising and flavourful in a way that sets them apart,” says Drishleen.

The bar bites complement the cocktails, with khakaras paired with various homemade hummus flavours like curry leaf, molgapodi (gunpowder), soy keema, and even chorizo. There are surprises like Gujrati khaman, a dhokla-chaat with a twist, and a savoury ghewar with burrata. Additionally, there is a kulcha bar that puts a twist on classic Indian bread, using in-house sourdough bread with a unique assortment of toppings. 

What sets Madame G apart is that despite the inventive menu, it does not overwhelm the diner. This is noteworthy, considering that many progressive restaurants in the country tend to go overboard with their offerings.

Madam G is located at 2, Lee Road, Altitude-The Business Park, 2nd Floor, Bhowanipore, Kolkata. A meal for two costs ₹1,800

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