Thursday, August 11

New in Kolkata: The Glenburn Café offers tea, toasties and vintage elegance

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A green door and a little white sign saying The Glenburn Cafe guides the curious visitor in. “Should we place the smoothie and shakes menu a little higher?” asks owner Husna-Tara Prakash as she rearranges the boards on the wall in search of perfect symmetry. It has barely been a week since the café opened and the final touches and tastings are still on. There has been no major announcement of the opening or a sign on the main road pointing the way here. Those who land up here are either tipped off by Instagram or simply wander in by chance.

I ask for an iced tea. The mellow muscatel notes of the Darjeeling tea are well complemented by a squeeze of fresh gondhoraj lemon. The complex floral sweetness of the iced brew pairs perfectly with the delicate flavours of the chef’s version of the Yorkshire curd tart—a perfect footnote to a sweltering summer day in Kolkata. There are cheery yellow flowers peeking from the boxes below each window. The green and white colour palette and warm wooden accents channel a turn-of-the-century European tea room. Ensconced within the air-conditioned interiors, sampling tea and cake, one is hard-pressed to remember the humid weather or the chaotic bustle of the street right outside.

Inside The Glenburn Café, Kolkata

Tucked away behind the grand Edwardian facade of the 121-year-old Kanak Building on Russel Street is a smaller and more unassuming building that was once its warehouse space. Today, in its place, stands a smaller building housing one of the city’s most charming boutique hotels—The Glenburn Penthouse and the brand new The Glenburn Café. While the Penthouse offers unmatched views of Kolkata’s most notable structures from the Victoria Memorial to the Howrah Bridge, the café on the ground floor is ensconced in a quiet nook off the busy Russel Street. Its light-filled interiors, louvred white windows, chequered marble flooring and vintage decor channel Bengal’s history and colonial past.

For Prakash, this little 25-seater café is as much a labour of love as the elegant penthouse on the floors above or the sprawling Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling. And every last detail, from the vintage-style Marshall soundbox to an antique display cupboard, is heritage created from scratch.

The Glenburn Café could be as much of a fit in present-day London as it is in the Kolkata of 2022. The menu is a mix of European café fare and Chef Shaun Kenworthy’s whimsy. Born and bred near Manchester, Kenworthy has been a Kolkata resident for over two decades now and a vociferous champion of its seasonal produce and culinary heritage. “I don’t know what I would do without the gondhoraj lemon,” he says with a smile. And the menu follows cue with flourishes of this fragrant lime across dishes featuring Kolkata bekti and cooling iced teas. A curiously named Babli aunty’s spiced grilled chicken salad (the chef refuses to reveal her identity) shares space with regulation avo-toasts, a hearty Punjabi farmers’ breakfast (with fat aloo parathas and white butter), and classic English fish and chips. There are nostalgia-filled chilli cheese toasties, perfectly done soft-boiled eggs with whipped labneh cheese and truffle oil as well as a quick and easy CTM (chicken tikka masala) with steamed Basmati and kachumbar.

And then there is the tea—an extensive selection of 23 varieties of Darjeeling, Assam and flavoured blends from their tea estates in Darjeeling and Khongea (Assam) that you can drink there as well as take home with you. Aficionados can enjoy the Darjeeling first and second flushes, or savour the sweet, floral notes of the silver needle white tea. For those who want something simpler, there is a range of herbal teas and infusions to pick from Moroccan mint to a lemongrass green tea. A board with detailed tasting notes, helps first-timers navigate the teas on offer and make their choice. Coffee drinkers can pick from a tight menu of hot and cold drinks by Kolkata-based roastery—8th Day Café. And all of this at a price point that is in sync with the neighbourhood’s office-going crowd.

The Glenburn Café, Kanak Towers, 7A Russell Street, Kolkata. The teas start at Rs150 and the food is priced between Rs220-Rs500 a dish

Source: CNtraveller

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