Coffee House-e adda!
Having spent most of my life in Kolkata, Coffee House has always held a special interest. But somehow I have never had the chance to visit the iconic cafeteria.
It was not until I chanced upon an article about the Indian Coffee House chain, that I realised how ‘epic’ the Kolkata outlet was. Along with the iconic Kolkata outlet, the write-up is a rather visceral insight into all other Coffee Houses across the length and breadth of the country. What the Mint article misses out on, however, is its presence in Jaipur!
It’s kind of odd given the city’s popularity as a tourist spot. All the Coffee Houses seem to be a favorite haunt of both domestic and foreign tourists; well at least the discerning ones. Even Wiki doesn’t mention this rather popular joint located in MI Road. Maybe Jaipur – or Rajasthan for that matter – is not the atypical place you associate the Coffee House(s) with: smoke filled interiors with shaggy, bearded men and severe looking women – the poets, writers, thinkers, artists, academicians, and now the activists – deep in intellectual discourses and conversations. Apparently, the waiters at College Street used to partake in these conversations, at one point of time. I hear they are extremely snappy these days though.
There certainly isn’t anything overtly intellectual about the Jaipur outlet. You step inside a cobbled alleyway through a large wooden gate which was once a deep shade of green with fine carvings on it. The most conspicuous bearings of this massive gate – today – are rusty old iron frames. The grimy walls on either side of the alleyway almost sag beneath the weight of precariously hanging fat electrical wires jutting out of ancient switchboards and boxes.
The cafe is housed on the ground floor of a decrepit two storey building standing unapologetically on an open courtyard. Exposed metal plumbing – on the first floor – shines against the sun hurting the eye. It’s not a particularly welcoming sight to begin with but it grows on to you.
It’s a different world once you enter. Bright green walls, a main seating area with private cabins and a photo of Chacha Nehru smiling down at you from high up above. Formica topped tables with low chairs and a bustling crowd occupying almost all of them.
You see all kinds here. The ultra chic to the regular college crowd; couples looking for a cheap but decent bite; moustachioed old gents huddling in a secluded corner with their chais languidly conversing in ‘theth Marwari’; the wide-eyed white man taking in the old architecture and ambience and giggling young girls gleefully taking him in! There’s also the loud self-proclaimed pack leader in a group of seemingly aimless middle-aged men and even the quintessential intellectuals discussing ‘cocky writers’ and ‘good cinema’.
Unlike international chains – which are quite the norm these days – the menu at the Coffee Houses vary considerably across states and even cities/districts in the same state. Even the prices vary but not enough to cross the boundaries of what can easily be called pocket-friendly. The Jaipur menu is rather interesting. We ordered a plate of mutton cutlets (2 pieces per plate), 2 mutton dosa and 2 keema omelettes, rounding all of that off with filter coffee. All of them tasted rather decent and cost a little more than 350 bucks.
The smiling head waiter in his spotless white uniform with the turban and green belt served well and even obliged us with this photograph.
College Street never happened, but finding coffee house in a quaint little alleyway of Jaipur was indeed an experience worth cherishing. We might just go back!
Photos: Google and as usual Self. 🙂