My classes started at 8.30 AM . Address was 6 Waterloo Street .
At that point of time I stayed in Chandannagore so in order to attend the classes from 8.30 AM onwards I had to catch a train around 6.50 AM from Chandannagore. By the time I reached back home it used to be 6 earliest . So the tiffin which Ma used to pack for me could not be elaborate considering so much of travelling by train, bus and then walking I did not want to carry a large tiffin box or something which can spill inside my bag . I was 21 and felt like back to school with not liking the home cooked tiffin every day.
This was the time when this place embraced me. Our institute was near the other end of the street which was the waterloo street . So we started of with sitting and sipping tea of Panditji which was just opposite to our Institute . Endless cup of teas with occasional puffs of cigarettes was the first date with the street .
The small bylane connecting Waterloo Street on North to Easplanade Row (East) on south is formally known as James Hickey Sarani but popularly as Dacres Lane.
The history of this lane goes over more than 200 years, where Dacres Lane named after Philip Milner Dacres the then collector for Calcutta used to be a hangout place for sailors over great meals. The British went off but the tradition in Dacres Lane continued with some great food over make shift arrangements and a place where everyone can have meal to their hearts content .
Until it was a good friend and one of these best foodies (no he doesnt believe in blogging but eating) I have met, Amarnath literally handheld me for the exploration of the lane. Soon we started heading towards south towards Esplanade Row and each day was a new thrill and excitement . We started with Dacres corner which is one of the rarest place here to seat and have food and like a true bengali I ordered Chowmein from here and they have a real spicy Cilli Chicken ( thats the way chili chicken is pronounced in most places in Kolkata).
The fun in Dacres lane is not sitting inside the comfort of a restaurant ( you can forget AC and other than Chadni Bar (?) which is also on the same lane and have live crooners in the evening no other place has AC here) but to eat on streets as this is THE street food Mecca of Kolkata. Wooden benches shared with fellow eater is the one of the best fun of community eating . In 1999, I remember there have been so many times I had lunch within 10 Rupees which comprised freshly made Rotis with chicken stew comprising of a leg piece, one piece of potato, one piece of carrot . A little spicier alternative was Egg/ chicken/ Dal tadka .
There are plenty of options to choose from here and the place promises a complete full course meal with handpicked items from North Indian, Bengali, Mughlai, South Indian, Chinese (you can never think of a meal in Kolkata without having the chinese option) to authentic bengali mishti (sweets) you get everything here.
At one end you will find a number of Chinese stalls selling freshly made chow chow (the local name of chowmein) along with some chili chicken, momos, chicken lollypop and fried rice in all varieties. Then there are a few stalls where there are hot kachoris being deep fried served with ghughni (white peas or yellow peas stew) and some fluffly chole bature. Cut to Sharma milk shop selling hot and cold milk, rich and creamy lassi, rabri, some kalakand and in the winters, the gajar halwa comes to play. There are a couple of sweet shops towards the middle and end of the lane selling Bengali sweets as well as pedas and some north Indian specialities.
Baba had fond memories of Dacres Lane as his office was nearby and from day one when I started visiting the place I was clearly instructed to have the famous fish fry of Chittoda. A 70 year old shop which started with a roadside stall at a roadside joint towards esplanade row, opened up Suruchee later and is now an institution in itself in this lane. Long stretches of benches where people sit side by side irrespective of age, profession and background shows that food is a great leveller. Other than fish fry, try out fish finger, ghugni or chicken pakoda.
Few other recommendations in this street will be Bebo Sandwich ( it was not there in 1998 – 2000) , Aponjon ( this was also not there) which serves Khichudi in winters with couple of fried vegetables, papad and tomato chutney at a price of 20 INR, Metropole Roll centre ( They had a bar then and its still there , but I never visited it) .
Read – The best places to have roll in Kolkata . Which one is your favourite roll outlet?
Some hidden gems are Vaishali on one of the bylanes for the best SouthIndian Coffee served in traditional stainless steel glass and bowl, sweet shops on Esplanade row where some of the vendors get fresh sweets everyday from Bandel, from Chandannagore and from other suburb towns.
Lot of rainy afternoons with rain drops almost falling into the steaming cup of tea ( bhand or the earthen claypot in this case), celebration of summer project completion in Aalia which is at the end of the waterloo street, Placement season and celebrations of batchmates getting placed, thankfully I did not have any love story then so no love lost here.
Read – The best tea joints in Kolkata
Sandeep Srivastava the batchmate of mine from UP was an ever smiling guy who was very nervous before the final presentation of his summer project and we had to cool his nerves down . Still then not being a huge fan of beer I had to accompany him for beer in Manthan Bar which is in Waterloo Street. Took all the positive measures so that we didnt smell of beer. For me I was in audience so it did not matter much but for him he was the presenter . Sandeep sailed through successfully and after that there hasnt been a single occasion when we have not had a hearty laughter over that episode.
Sandeep passed away couple of years back after a heart attack. Cannot think of Sandeep with his large frame and hugely built and the characteristic loud laughter remaining silent . So I wont say Rest in peace, I will wait for that opportunity to meet him, hug him and ask – F*&^^er do you remember what happened in your summer presentation ?
Sandeep I am guilty of not calling you once for last 16 years but am sure we will meet somewhere for that hug and those selective abuses between us.