Summer has emerged in all its scorching, Hot-as-Hades glory, and eating out options for me has dwindled out to iced-teas and nothingness. A dinner out is still kinda, sorta imaginable, but lunch?? ‘No, thank you.’ I said firmly to Sudarshana, when she insisted that we try out ‘Mad Hatter’s Bistro’ – a quaint cafe that has emerged in the Ballygunge area. But she was firmly persistent. ‘The cafe has these lovely soups and salads!’ she said, ‘they’re simply amazing! We are going, Period.’
Thus cajoled and persuaded in an iron-hand-in-a-velvet-glove manner, I meekly agreed for a late-afternoon lunch.
What impressed me first and foremost is the decor of the cafe. It is painted a subtle, happy yellow that makes the place looks bright and sunny. Large windows look out to the tree-lined lane outside and the uncluttered, chic look, subtly accentuated by cunning bric-a-bracs like money plant creepers hanging from clear light-bulbs, little tea-candle holders made of coloured glass, make you feel relaxed, and at-home. Although a printed version is available, the daily menu is written on a blackboard, bistro-style, which I immediately liked! The highlight of the cafe is a beautifully done-up corner- with a full-length mirror, wooden bench and a vintage studio-style lamp, that’s aptly named as the ‘selfie-corner’. Whether you’re enjoying a relaxed, solo lunch or hanging out with your friends, it’s the perfect spot to capture your mood in a selfie.
We settled down in a corner table by a window and ordered our drinks- a ‘sinless mojito’ and a ‘cool rita’, both being perfect summer quenchers- delicious, tangy and not-too-sweet.
The salads in offering were the ‘Moroccan shrimp salad’, ‘Kabuli salad’, ‘Summer greens salad’, ‘Mediterranean salad’ and the ‘Italian surprise’.
The Italian Surprise was fantastic! Fresh, handpicked tomatoes stuffed with crumbly feta cheese with a sprinkling of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil- it’s a perfect example of the culinary feat that can be achieved when you blend the freshest of ingredients with an innovative presentation. The crunchy, tangy freshness of the tomatoes is nicely offset by the crumbly, salty feta and the combo of olive oil and parsley beautifully enhanced the flavour, making for a dish that promptly flew of the plate!
The Summer Green was a light-as-air, fruity salad that was a treat for the eyes as well as palette. It offered a delightful, fresh crunch with lettuce, cucumber and apples mixed with sweet pomegranate and tart olives, all lightly bathed in a tangy French dressing that added just that right amount of ‘Ooh La La!’ in this delicate summer salad.
The Mediterranean salad offered the same note as the Summer Green, using cherry tomatoes, colourful bell peppers, lettuce and feta to create another lightweight, delicious summery concoction.
I fell in love with the Moroccan shrimp salad at the first sight! It was a medley of colours, with brightly coloured bell peppers and fresh, lightly-steamed pink shrimps peeping out from a bed of couscous! The yummy taste and flavours popped in my mouth with every mouthful and was like instant food Nirvana! A zest of lemon enhanced the nutty after-taste of the dish and left me craving for more.
The Kabuli salad took me by surprise with its taste and presentation! Imagine an exquisitely-crafted ‘alu kabli’ of sorts, with ginger juliennes and shredded chicken to up it’s irresistibility quotient by a few notches and you can get an idea of the dish.
What really impressed me was the freshness of the ingredients, the fact that they were all so light in the stomach, and yet tasted fantastic and were very innovatively done.
We tasted the soups next, and let me tell you at the outset that they were absolutely mind-blowing! The soups in Mad Hatter’s simply re-define the standard idea of soups that you get in any outlets in Kolkata serving Continental cuisine.
First came the Curry Soup which had the unmistakable Anglo-Indian touch to it. It had a thickish, lentil-based broth, spiked with the flavourfulness of curry leaves and very innovatively studded with firm, fresh apples!
Next in line was the Italian Delight which floored me with it’s simple goodness! It was a light and clear soup with a handful of fresh veggies like carrot, zuccinni and bell peppers thrown in. It tasted so good that you will invariably come for a second helping, and it is just the kind of soup that will cause your Mom to shed happy tears due to your rapid devouring of the same.
I loved, loved, loved the Simple Fish Soup that we tried next. It is exactly that- a simple fish soup with a light, clear broth delicately scented with coriander and lemon, with little chunks of white fish in it. It is incredibly toothsome!
The other soup that made my heart sing a song was the Mushroom Delight. It is a simple Cream of Mushroom soup, that tasted something like heaven! I have tasted various renderings of this soup all my life, and this is probably the best one that I have had. Yes, it is THAT good!
The food in Mad Hatter’s has one ethos- the freshest ingredients, simply but expertly concocted, always make food that is classic in its elegance. They also have a range of gourmet burgers as their seasonal specialities- an offering that has been expertly curated by their chef from Houston, TX, which are a totally different experience from the run-of-the-mill burgers that you get everywhere in the city.
If you love fresh, healthy food that is easy on your tummy and heart, but is addictive in its deliciousness, you have to give Mad Hatter’s Bistro a try! It is the perfect eating out option for Kolkata summers. Go hang out with your friends, or take your kids out for a treat, I’m sure you will keep coming back. Do check out the place and drop me a line in the comments section to let me know how you liked it.
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