Nostalgia, Stories and memories, that’s what the evergreen Indian Coffee House at College Street Kolkata has always been about. As age-old Manna Dey songs goes like “coffee house er sei adda ta ajj ar nei ajj ar nei, kothai hariye gelo shonali bikel gulo sei ajj ar nei” it shows how he happily reminisces those days that he used to spend at the Indian Coffee House.
It’s simply in the order Kolkata, College Street and Indian Coffee house for me! The set- up is perfect. The moment you walk pass those shops piled with books from every era, genres and subjects in College Street and take the stairs up brush passing those tattered electric meter boxes fitted on the walls and political posters alongside you step inside this Mecca for the Intellectuals, be ready for time travel. You have just steeped into a different era all together.
It was one such summer when I had first stepped inside this time-machine and had smelled nostalgia. During my growing up years my mother used to tell me stories of her college days and the adda that circled around a particular table at the iconic coffee house. The hub of the Presidency College students and Ma being from the city always said “Amader time e coffee houser kotha e alada chilo” ( During our days coffee house had a different charm) and I used to barely understand.
Highlighting a bit of history- the Indian Coffee House at College Street, its mention can be traced down to the Albert Hall, which was founded in April 1876. As I stepped in I knew, no Starbucks or Barista could compete to even match the charm, the luxury ( yes you read it right!) or even come close to the price point that this place offered.
Echoing history and heritage, the huge wooden doors, waiters in their pre-independence era uniform – full white along with the trademark feather look turbans, British architecture all around, is a testimony in itself that time stands still here. A home for most of the intellectuals in the city for ages, even today if you are looking for that moment of peace to flip through pages even in the middle of the madness that goes around there, believe you me you can easily do that.
I chose to sip my coffee and soak myself in the warmth of those smiles, I was one of that bespectacled spectator who just loved to see those giggles around. Some had bunked college, some were there to discuss their next play, while some just came to puff off sometimes. Whatever the reason my afternoon saw much happiness that day. A place where coffee costs Rs 20 and Kobiraji cutlet Rs 40, what more can one ask for.
Those who has seen the Indian Coffee House through ages like my Ma, Uncle and others they very well distinguish the “then” and “now” that the place has seen from those grey haired intellectual peeps to the young college goers who choose to bunk and drop by to exchange some love notes. The scent of Bengali culture is still intact.
The iconic Indian Coffee House also happens to be an academic hub been surrounded by the ever-bustling boi-para (book locality) that’s College Street, the Presidency University and the University of Calcutta – nothing less than heritage building in themselves.
Address: 15, Bankim Chatterjee Street, College Street
Cost for two: Rs 200