There are many gems in my city yet some always remain to be discovered and experienced again. Discovery is a wrong word and will be condemned by many. How do you discover a place in the year 2021 which has been in existence since 1937? How do you call a place a gem where there are wait staff as well as customers who have been interacting with each other across generations? You don’t discover a place like that. One reconfirms its charm. Reaffirmation is needed so that your next generation can also come and experience the same. Broadway Hotel Kolkata is one such.
From Lala Amarnath to Sachin Tendulkar at Broadway Hotel Kolkata
That was the corner where Lala Amarnath used to sit down with his drink – owner Mr. Sandeep Sehgal confirmed me, as I turn around I see a group of young folks trying to capture the best angle of the selfie. That’s the journey of Broadway and that’s why it is so unique and a jewel of Kolkata.
Did you know, Sachin Tendulkar had stayed here too? Mr. Sehgal didn’t allow me to ask any further questions but confirmed that in the early phase of his career as a Ranji player, he came and stayed in this hotel.
Everything is so unique, so nonconfirmatory yet so charming. There is no loud music, super high bass level speakers, there is no forced industrial look interior, no branded crockery, and cutlery, and no corner to take selfies to get “broadwayfied” ( as a recently opened gastropub in the city promotes).
Yet it’s the place where you will feel like coming back.
The Cubicle entrance, the nuts, ginger slices, and the warmth
Broadway has two entrances, one through the main hotel and the other through a rather dark cubicle which gives you a feeling of entering a maze. Count your blessings to get a table. The black cubicle at the entrance on G C Avenue is a rare feature with red low-level tables and blue and yellow upholstery encased chairs. Order a drink, in case you are a regular you will be taken care of, if not, they will take care of you affectionately.
Conversations form the best music to the ears here. New script, radio station plans, sales numbers, daughter’s marriage, share market update and some ‘kobita’ also – you can hear them all. Conversations inspire conversations. In this day and age when our heads are always sunk into a digital device, this place is all about looking eye to eye and opening your heart out. There is no TV in the room, forget live screening. One of the last places other than the clubs perhaps where we can customize the accompaniments – slices of ginger with rock salt, some nuts, green chilies. You can get it all.
Brief History of Broadway Hotel and transfer of ownership
They opened in 1937, in the office para of Kolkata. Broadway Hotel Kolkata has stood the test of time. While most of its contemporaries have given their way to becoming shady crooning joints, this is still a toast to Calcutta which we grew up and fell in love with. I had a discussion with Ad-man Swapan Seth – who used to stay around the place. He mentions – G.C. Avenue was legendary with Broadway, Mission cafe, Kent House, Mehra House and Aventine. I haven’t even heard these names. Perhaps some of the lost gems which we will never come to know. Every Sunday, from 7.30 PM onwards, there is a live band. Till 2016, this place was owned and run by the Singhs who were a musical family, says Mr. Sehgal. Who Singh? It will take people of my generation on another memory lane. Remember Skinny Alley, the band that rocked the scene in Kolkata? Remember the popular bass player Gyan Singh, who along with Jayashree and Amyt Dutta enthralled so many people over many evenings? That was him!
The road ahead for Broadway Hotel Kolkata
When the stalwarts have thrown the towel during the pandemic, much credit to the place to survive. Sandeep Sehgal is very excited and enthusiastic about the future. He wants to convert this into a boutique European hotel and more importantly, keep the interiors of the restaurant/pub and the rooms. The regulars thank Mr. Sehgal for the small yet major change that he brought about. It’s in recent times the place has AC and they still serve water in Old Monk or Blender’s Pride Bottles.
In Calcutta it’s one degree of separation always
As Swapan says – In Kolkata everyone is separated by one degree. While Mr. Sehgal is Swapan’s senior, his mother has been a good friend of his mother. Vinita C Jacinto, who is a storyteller and has this very interesting website called The Spice whisperer, had gone to school together with Jayashri di and for her, Singhs are family. These were just two of them while many shared their memories on Twitter too. I am sure if we open a Broadway Fan club, we will get more such common links and friends.
Tips and tricks on the food
- Trust the waiter and share your needs – from warm water to baked papad, all can be customized
- While many suggested trying out the chili chicken, it was a disaster. Check out the chicken pakoda (one of the best in this range)
- Ample options for vegetarians and you can get daal bhaja and chanachur also
- One of the delicacies to check out for is Machh Bhaja (no not fish fry if you translate the same), clean-cut fish pieces deep fried
Long ago, when IT industry and sector V, Salt Lake was not there, G C Avenue, Mango Lane, Dalhousie was the business hub, next few parallel lanes had Great Eastern Hotels, Trincas, and other places boasting of the roaring nightlife of then Calcutta. A lot has changed yet Broadway Hotel Kolkata is a few last places that will carry ahead the legacy.
Down the lane of Broadway Hotel Kolkata is Eau Chew the oldest family run Chinese restaurant in India
Address of Broadway Hotel Kolkata – 27A, Ganesh Chandra Ave, Bowbazar, Kolkata, West Bengal 700013, Phone – 033 2236 3390
You can find some more images here –