The faux nature resorts, the stilted folk-singers sticking to only handful of tunes, heaps of garbage in Kopai river bank and decaying ecology apart, Shantiniketan has little to offer these days. Or it has, but they only appear in flashes. A dilapidated book-shop called ‘Subarnorekha’ that sells vintage books, the unpretentious tea and sandwich at Chhayaghar Café, the sprawling university campus with its stillness and- the authentic food at Bonolakshmi.
Eating at this (now) semi-iconic restaurant-cum-resort does two things for you-
- You get to pig out on delectably cooked Bengali food
- You get to buy truckloads of condiments, sweets and handcrafted jewelry from the adjacent shop.
A hot, crispy noon saw us at the entryway of Bonolakshmi. Remember- if you want to dine out here; do make a prior appointment. Possibly, on the day before. Do it especially during weekend or any public holiday.
Anyway, upon reaching there, you might have to wait for minimum half-an-hour, depending upon the length of the queue before you. Optimize the time by taking a quick tour around. The kitchen garden, the cattle and the pet geese will surely give your urban eyes a slice of rustic Bengal, however make-shift it looks.
Once seated inside the vast dining hall, you can expect prompt service and ‘eat-as-much-as-you-can’ for the basic thali. Do you dote over the eternal combo of ghee-rice and jhirijhiri alu bhaja (grated potato fry)? Then have plenty of them in Rs100 only.
You can see from my thali below how neatly it is presented-
Apart from alu bhaja, daal and ghee bhat, you will be served shukto and one vegetable curry – enchor dalna (green jackfruit curry) or dhokar dalna (lentil cakes in gravy). Besides the main thali, you may order fish, goat-meat or chicken. We had requested for rui mach (rohu fish stew) and jumbo prawn malaikari.
What I cherish most about Bonolakshmi’s food is that- it reminds you of your mom’s cooking (as sappy as it may sound). Also, once you whiff the organic ghee (made at home), or take a morsel of fresh, richly flavored fish- it is bound to make you sorry for the formalin-laden veggies and fish we tend to buy from metro markets.
The lunch ends on a sweet note with a small bowl of tomato chutney. It’s thick, tart and regretfully lesser in amount (at least it happened to us)! Last time, they had served one rosogolla alongside chutney. But this time, no such luck. Might be the demonetization effect.
As I said before, you can buy fresh, home-made condiments from Bonolakshmi. So these were our after-lunch gains at Bonolakshmi-
Imperative points to note:
Direction: Located at the edge of Bolpur, you can reach at Bonolakshmi by bus or toto rickshaw from the main city. It shall take roughly half-an-hour.
Price: If you only stick to basic thali, then it will cost Rs.100 as specified above. Otherwise, one plate of Hilsa (two pieces) may come at Rs.450, prawn malai curry at Rs 230 (approx) and so forth. It’s best to ring up the desk and ask for the detailed price list on the day of booking.