Kolkata's Zoom TeaOgraphy is a modern cafe that offers nostalgia on a platter
With pandemic hitting the hotel and food industry severely, news of several small but interesting cafes that had mushroomed in the bylanes of Kolkata, downing their shutters for good comes intermittently. In this context, the story of Zoom TeaOgraphy deserves a special mention. This small cafe tucked away on Mahanirban Road in the southern part of the city was started by Shankhadeep Mitra in January this year. “I always wanted to offer the city a quaint and cosy place to chill with friends over a cup of tea. Since I am a passionate photographer, this place offers similar-minded people space to bond over tea and photography. But just when the cafe started getting some traction COVID-19 struck and turned everything topsy turvy,” says the 45-year-old, who left a flourishing career in banking to pursue his dream.
But with no Plan-B in hand, Mitra remained unfazed and determined to run the cafe come what may. “I restarted operations from mid-June once the blanket lockdown was lifted. Though footfalls are yet to get back to normal, I am resolute to continue operations and sustain through home delivery also,” says the entrepreneur.
When we visited the cafe to check the safety measures, we were satisfied with the staff, who were wearing the required COVID-19 protective gear and promptly offered us sanitisers and checked our body temperatures, before we comfortably settled ourselves in a black settee at the corner. Shankhadeep ensures us that the 280 sq ft property with seating arrangements for about 15 people gets thoroughly sanitised every two hours. There’s also a lovely patio replete with graffitis, which offers an option for an extended adda with friends on balmy late afternoons or pleasant winter evenings.
As we were busy appreciating the smattering of photographs clicked by amateur shutterbugs adorning the overlooking wall, Shankhadeep brings us the much-in-demand Highway tea in cutting chai glasses. Made with milk and Indian spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger, the tea is accompanied by some freshly baked vanilla cookies splattered with choco chips.
As the conversation drifted from the future of the F&B industry to photography and fashion, Shankhadeep stressed that he always wanted to serve roadside or fast-moving items at the cafe. “I wanted to bring the typical North Kolkata fish fry, chicken wings, Maggi, pasta, pizza and phuchka to the table but with a twist,” he explains. We had a taste of the Fish fry coated with bread crumbs and were impressed that he used bekti instead of the ubiquitous basa fish, which made all the difference to the taste.
The next dish comprised the very crunchy chicken wings, which too lived up to our expectations. But the fusion chicken keema phuchkas emerged as the clear winner of the day. The spicy well-cooked chicken paste with a hint of fresh coriander leaves and topped with a small blob of plain curd inside the crispy balls simply tasted heavenly when had with the accompanying sweet and spicy water. We bet it would be difficult for you to guess the composition of the water. Mitra spilled the beans. “We made this water by boiling Fanta with pepper, salt and chilli flakes”.
You can try other dishes from their special menu as well that includes a variety of wraps burgers and sandwiches, Wai Wai Bhel, Egg Cobb Salad, Sticky Chicken and more. Affordable and tasty, the fare will surely not disappoint a budget-conscious customer.
Price for two: Rs 500