Kolkata Diaries: From Artistic Elegance To Cultural Heritage

Embark on a journey through Kolkata's cultural and artistic tapestry at Raajkutir, Taal Kutir and Taj City Centre New Town, where heritage and modern luxury harmoniously coexist
Taal Kutir Convention Centre is situated at the edge of a 100-acre lake
Taal Kutir Convention Centre is situated at the edge of a 100-acre lake

As I gasped for breath in between bites of the extravagant thali served to me at the East India Room, the signature eatery of Raajkutir, Kolkata - IHCL SeleQtions, Suvashish Mukherjee, executive sous chef, kept on briefing me about the 64-seater all-day diner.

“The East India Room is about giving you a taste of the unique colonial dining experience. It's like stepping back when British wives and their Indian cooks created this special fusion of flavours during the British Raj in India. We've taken those old-school recipes and given them a modern twist by incorporating influences from migrant cuisines like Jewish, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Anglo-Indian. It's a delicious blend of history and culture on your plate,” he said with pride in his eyes and voice.

The Thali at Raajkutir
The Thali at Raajkutir

My culinary adventure was a feast for the senses, with many dishes. The Chhanar Dalna, featuring cottage cheese dumplings in cashew gravy, set the stage for an incredible luncheon experience. The Cossimbazar Handi Paneer, a Mughal-inspired masterpiece with spiced tomato gravy and the essence of fenugreek, was a delight. The Narkel Diyaey Cholar Dal, a lentil dish seasoned with cumin, bay leaves, dry red chilli, and coconut flakes, added flavour to the meal. The Bandel Cheese Malakoff, a fusion of Portuguese and Bengali flavours, featured crumb-fried cheese and tomato resin chutney.

But the culinary journey didn't stop there. Murshid Quli Khan's Chanar Kofta, cheese dumplings in a luscious brown onion and cashew gravy, was a true gem. The Fulkopir Roast was a flavour explosion on the palate, featuring cauliflower florets with ginger, onions, tomatoes, poppy seeds, and cashew nuts. Bengali Aloo Dum was a comforting classic with fried potatoes in a rich tomato gravy. Accompanied by Phoolko Loochi, the deep-fried flatbreads, and the Colonial Vegetable Cutlet, a patty made from root vegetables and straw potatoes, served with a zesty tomato mustard sauce, this elaborate meal left me satisfied.

“And please pay attention: You are savouring all of this while being enveloped in the ambience of the restaurant's vintage setting, with its antique lamps, checkered marble floors, fountains, wooden furnishings, and old-fashioned hand-pulled fans dangle from the ceiling,” concluded Mukherjee.

Raajkutir
Raajkutir

After lunch, it was time for a tour of Raajkutir, located in Kankurgachi, a neighbourhood in northeast Kolkata. Having 48 rooms and 13.5 acres of lush green expanse, its design draws inspiration from the traditional Bengali "Raajbari" architecture, which characterised the spacious homes of prosperous landowners. The hotel centres around a large traditional “uthon” (courtyard). As you approach, you'll notice regal lion sculptures flanking the entrance, exuding an air of royalty.

Venturing further into the property, you'll come across sacred threads hanging from an ancient Banyan tree, accompanied by a Durga idol. This setting reflects the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the nineteenth century. Scattered throughout the property, vintage artefacts like a substantial brass pradip (diya) and a life-sized horse carriage serve as reminders of a bygone era, preserving the essence of the past.

“The cultural heritage of the Bengal Renaissance truly shines through in every aspect of Raajkutir. You can trace the era's influence in the intricate details—from the checkered marble flooring to the exquisite Kota stone tiling. As you wander through the hotel, you'll notice the legacy woven into the very fabric of its walls, with artworks from the Bengal School of Arts. And the experience goes beyond the visual and artistic, with the soulful melodies of folk Baul singers filling the air,” an employee said as he ended the tour.

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 Taj City Centre New Town
Taj City Centre New Town

I was in Kolkata upon an invite by the Taj City Centre New Town, barely 10 minutes drive from the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. Officially opening its doors in May 2022, the hotel, having 137 rooms and 10 suites, is next to the City Centre New Town Mall. This establishment marks the second Taj property in Kolkata, resulting from a collaborative effort between IHCL (Indian Hotels Company Limited) and the Ambuja Neotia Group.

Taj Club Room with a Jacuzzi
Taj Club Room with a Jacuzzi

I was accommodated in the "Taj Club Room with a Jacuzzi." As the name implies, this room featured its exclusive open-air jacuzzi, a rarity in the city. "The design incorporates subtle elements of Bengal, from the artwork to the room carpets, which intricately depict the map of Kolkata. The rattan-backed chairs and banker's lamps are an ode to reviving the art of writing letters," said the sari-clad young woman employee who escorted me to the room on my first day in the city.

A view of the Taj Club Room
A view of the Taj Club Room

Moreover, art plays an essential role in Kolkata's culture and is prominently displayed throughout the property. This includes several paintings by promising artists from Bengal, terracotta walls created by artist Tamal Bhattacharya, metal art forms like the Pegasus crafted from bicycle parts, a wall adorned by Suvaprasanna, traditional dancing dolls of Bengal, carpets bearing the image of the Royal Bengal Tiger, and various other artistic elements.

"This is a transit hotel catering to many international travellers. Art serves as a means to give them an initial glimpse into Bengal's rich art and culture," explained Indranil Ray, the General Manager of Taj City Centre New Town.

When it comes to food, Shamiana and Wykiki are two distinctive dining destinations within Taj City Centre New Town, each offering a unique culinary experience.

Shamiana
Shamiana

Shamiana, the all-day dining haven, is renowned for its diverse menu. It is known for its extensive buffet options, catering to various tastes with many Indian and international cuisines. From breakfast spreads to dinners, it ensures a delightful dining experience for hotel guests and visitors alike.

"We take pride in offering a dining experience committed to sustainability, where all ingredients are responsibly sourced from nearby farmers. We place a strong emphasis on utilising local and seasonal produce. Shamiana's 124-seat setting features a sun-drenched atrium adorned with greenery and glass walls on one side, creating an airy and open atmosphere within the space," said Subrata Debnath, executive chef of Taj City Centre New Town.

Wykiki
Wykiki

On the other hand, Wykiki is a swanky Asian dining haven. It offers a sophisticated and modern atmosphere, perfect for those seeking a fusion of Asian flavours. The restaurant boasts a diverse menu that combines traditional and contemporary Asian dishes, making it a go-to spot for lovers of sushi, dim sum, and more. Its cocktail menu is equally impressive, featuring creative concoctions that perfectly complement the culinary delights.

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On my visit to the city, I was also taken to the Taal Kutir Convention Centre, located inside Eco Park in the New Town area of Kolkata. Just 3 kilometres from Taj City Centre New Town, the centre opened in December 2021 and offers 5,100 square metres of flexible space across six signature venues (Sunset Terrace, The Lawn, Rose Room, Regal, Grand View Terrace, and Royal Pavilion) and is situated at the edge of a 100-acre lake. 

Taal Kutir Convention Centre
Taal Kutir Convention Centre

Upon your arrival at this lakeside destination, you'll be greeted by a majestic red-brick façade that honours the region's colonial history and the skills of its local artisans. The seamlessly integrated indoor and outdoor spaces, adorned with rich greenery and abundant natural light, create an atmosphere of vibrant liveliness. The architectural design and intricate details provide a splendid backdrop for memorable events.

"Whether it's a product launch, a cultural exhibition, or a wedding, every gathering is elevated to a grandiose scale thanks to the soaring ceilings, expansive areas, and vistas of the glistening lake. Carefully curated artworks and artistic installations are scattered throughout the property as a visual tribute to India's invaluable artistic legacy," said an employee at Taal Kutir. 

Not only this, you can take a moment to unwind and savour the scenery of Eco Park's lake while immersing yourself in the soul-stirring melodies at Rhyddim, the bar nestled within Taal Kutir. This establishment boasts a timeless interior design, spanning an impressive 750 square feet and offering seating for approximately 60 people. Adorned in maroon hues complemented by golden highlights, the bar features meticulous woodwork, a traditional wooden staircase, and a chandelier that enhances the overall ambience of this venue.

The cuisine here draws its inspiration from Creole culinary traditions. Its food philosophy can be described as an international take on small plates, with the menu showcasing a range of Creole-inspired dishes tailored to the local taste. Each plate blends seasonal ingredients, flavours, diverse textures, and aromas. 

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Howrah Bridge
Howrah BridgeKartikeya Shankar

As I bade farewell to Kolkata, I couldn't resist visiting the majestic Howrah Bridge—just before catching my flight back home. Standing tall and timeless on the banks of the mighty Hooghly River, this iconic structure serves as the heart of a city where vibrant lives and stories are beautifully entwined. Kolkata's pulse beats in rhythm with the Howrah Bridge, and as I gazed upon its grandeur, I couldn't help but feel connected to the city. As I walked away from this symbol of the city's spirit, I carried a piece of Kolkata's magic to cherish for a lifetime.

The Information

Address: City Centre Newtown, Action Area II D, Plot no. 11/5 Newtown, Rajarhat, Kolkata

Getting There: To reach Taj City Centre New Town from Kolkata Airport, opt for a taxi or ride-hailing service, a hotel shuttle, or a pre-arranged private transfer. Public transport like buses or metro might require multiple transfers and are less direct. Consider renting a car for flexibility. The journey takes 15-30 minutes (around 8 kilometres), subject to traffic.

For booking and tariff, click here.

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