ere is a distinct clamour to Kolkata. Trams still run in some areas of the city and are something of an attraction to visitors. Where the roads seem to almost always be crowded, the footpaths are no less congested. e local dialect loudly follows you around, as is uncommon in most Indian metropolises where cultural diversity is more apparent. Most tourists don’t mind the sound because for many, Bengali sounds sweet to the ears with its rounded syllables. Its people pride themselves on being the intellectual population of India, adept in literature, poetry and the arts. Food is o en prepared in mustard oil, and the selection of sweets is seemingly endless.
At Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences, local avours are introduced to guests right from arrival. One is welcomed with a virgin mojito prepared with Gondhoraj Lebu that is lemon typical to West Bengal. In the room, Bengali sweets such as nolen gurer, shondesh, kachch golla and kheer kodom welcome guests. At the breakfast, lunch and dinner bu ets there are typical Bengali delicacies such as fried bread and potatoes, varieties of local sh in mustard and other preparations, and types of dal, to list a few.
Kolkata, the erstwhile capital of British India is also known for its colonial architecture. ese stand in clear contrast to the modern structures next to them. For example, in Central Kolkata new commercial buildings surround the Victorian-style High Court, General Post O ce and the Writer’s Building.
is is also the address of the heritage property — e LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata — a prominent part of Kolkata’s story. In 1840, an English baker opened it as Wilson’s Hotel, named a er himself, until 1865 when it came to be known as the Great Eastern Hotel. e luxury hotel, the rst in Asia was the trendiest place to be seen at. It was the favourite of the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, ueen Elizabeth II, Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain. In 2005, e LaLiT Suri Hospitality Group bought it from the West Bengal government and closed it for a seven-year long renovation.
Today, this luxurious property in West Bengal’s capital is a showcase of three styles — Victorian, Edwardian and
contemporary, re ected in Heritage Block 1, Heritage Block 2 and the New Block respectively. e rst block is still under restoration. It has the old favourite haunt — Maxim’s bar and restaurant — that will reopen shortly, hopefully emulating a similar charm. e Bakery in Block 2 is a restoration of its earlier form. ough its oven isn’t functional anymore, it remains the focal point of the restaurant. e dough-kneading containers are planters, ancient bread cans are table decorations and one of the original walls remains as a tribute to the original bakery. e New Block has the lobby with the century-old piano restored to its former glory. A stroll through the property is an interesting recollection of how the celebrities of Kolkata used to enjoy their time here.
The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata hotel is a prominent part of Kolkata's history
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The lobby of The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata; Vidyasagar Setu; and Kolkata is known for sweet treats like Shondesh and Rasgulla