Aah Dolly's Tea Shop. Where does one even start with this near iconic establishment? The quaint and almost annoyingly laidback & comfortable interiors? The familiar smell of fine teas? The simple but delicious grilled sandwiches with cheese and ham popping out from all corners - literally ? Or does one boldly state that the Iced Tea and Orange Mint Julep are the best to be found, in Kolkata and possibly in India ? All of them if you ask me!
Yes it does get crowded, and the service does get a little slow or sloppy in the evenings but that's a small price to pay given how comforting the place is, how reasonable the rates are, and how yummy most of the menu is.
Go in the afternoon, between 2 and 4, sink into the low, tea-crates fashioned into cushioned stools, say hello to Dolly (she'll be the regal, somewhat intimidating lady in an elaborate Sari, seated to the left in the recesses of the joint), order from the wide selection of teas (hot, cold, speciality, mocktail, austere, decadent), order a ham sandwich or something sweet, sit back and enjoy the languid, Bengali vibe of Dakshinapan.
As someone who has been visiting Dolly's for 2 decades now, it saddens me to see some of the thoughtless criticisms and accusations being hurled at the establishment. I haven't really seen any preferential treatment being meted out to "Firangs", nor have I had to wait for hours to be served. I have, however, seen "Firangs" speaking fluent Bengali, Bengalis speaking fluent American, and everything in between. Always interesting, always charming.
Let me make this clear - you go to Dolly's to slouch, see, slump, slurp, sip, sleep, smooch, smoke, smack(your lips), sing, soak etc. etc. Don't expect BaristaCCDCostaStarbucksWhatever the hell else.
Relax and allow yourself to steep in the bourgeois, nostalgic, complex, bitter-sweet brew called Calcutta.