Nestled in a quaint winding lane in the heart of Kolkata’s bustling north is an unexpected treasure. A restored 1920s townhouse named Calcutta Bungalow, with a rare, unique old-school charm.
It’s brought to us by the people behind Calcutta Walks, a company now synonymous with exploring the most enthralling nooks and crannies of the oldest parts of the city. Founder Iftekar Ahsan says, “As we walked our guests through the meandering streets, they looked at all the interesting homes, often wondering what they were like inside. It gave me the idea to take a house full of character, restore it, and open it to all. Our walks gave people an immersive experience of the city but there were no hotels that could continue that story. So I created a property in which people could really experience the idea of Calcutta.”
Him and interior designer Swarup Dutta set out to restore a 90-year-old home. The results are breathtaking. Exposed brick, antique furniture, wooden ceiling beams, arched shuttered windows, and quirky bric-a-brac characterise this charming heritage bed and breakfast. Each of its six rooms, with little balconies that invite you to gaze out on street life, is themed after one of Kolkata’s distinctive neighbourhoods, or ‘paras’. Boi-para, literally “book neighbourhood,” for example, is a tribute to Kolkata’s College Street, loved by bibliophiles for its pavements lined with book stalls peddling well-thumbed treasures. True to its name, this suite boasts of shelves of books and a quaint writing desk with a manual typewriter in working condition. Ideal for a writer’s retreat; in fact this entire property is perfect for a little R&R.
Iftekar explained, “We wanted to bring the city into the space, and the best way to do that was to curate the neighbourhoods into the rooms.” I also loved ‘Jatra-para’, named after Bengal’s popular folk theatre, with its dramatic pop art elements and folksy figures that seem to be in mid performance mounted on the wall. The others are ‘Patua-para’, named after artisan scroll painters of colourful scenes from mythology and folklore, ‘Mochi-para’, a salute to the disappearing street cobbler, ‘Sahib-para’, a nod to the city’s colonial past, and ‘Darzi-para’, honouring the talented tailors of the city.
Fostering the intimate charm of the place is a community dining room where guests mingle over meals, while the rooftop kitchen caters to a more private dining experience. Your morning starts with a fresh green coconut. I recommend the Bengali breakfast of fluffy Luchis and flavourful Chholaar dal, served with legendary sweets like rosogolla, seasonal fruit, and freshly squeezed juice or lassi. They also offer the conventional eggs to order and sausages. And cups of hot Masala Chai can be ordered through the day. Though the focus is on breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available on prior notice, and the popular consensus is that the fresh homestyle Bengali cooking is not to be missed.
The aim is to ensure as authentic an experience as possible. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the decor so that it looks artistic but is still homey and comfortable. We were careful to only tease people with enough artefacts and not reveal too much so that they go out and explore the city for more,” said Iftekar, who also advises guests about must-try local experiences. Since it opened a year ago the response has been remarkable from both locals and foreigners. Calcutta Bungalow is an immersive Kolkata experience like no other.
Address: Calcutta Bungalow, 5 Radha Kanta Jeu Street, Kolkata 700004 (Near Deshbandhu Park in Shyambazar)
Price: From Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,499, taxes extra