It was mid-2012 and I was going through some major changes in my life. I moved to a new job in the city and left behind a 5-year job that involved taking care of four villages. Those villagers had become an extended family. I also moved to my own apartment embracing solo living and left behind my 100 year old ancestral house by the southern avenue lakes where I created 34 years of memories. Adjusting to the new life was not easy and my bipolar heart was on a roller coaster ride.
I had taken up a job with the local branch of Hope Foundation, an Irleand based non-profit organization that was committed to the street children of Kolkata. It funded many projects across Kolkata and one such project was Hope Café. And it was here, my heart found warmth and solace.
Location & Operating Hours:
Hope Cafe is located at the very end of Panditiya Road (the road next to Citi Style, Triangular Park, Gariahat). You can check the location on google map here. It’s a 32-seater, 540 sq ft, air-conditioned café. It operates from 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Saturday.
Address – 5/2/L Panditiya Road, Kolkata 700029
Why is this a special place?
The cafe doubles up as a vocational training centre that offers F&B and hospitality training to young men and women living in slums, shelters or rehabilitation centres. The project is implemented by Hope Kolkata Foundation and is partly funded by Hope Foundation. Along with training in cooking, baking, plating and waiting tables, the trainees are also taught soft skills. At the end of 6-months course, the trainees receive certificates and are placed in cafes and restaurants in the city. Those who have completed the course in the past years, are now working in well-known places such as 8th Day Café, Bon Appetit Café (Salt Lake), Paranthe Wali Galli, Sienna Café and Café Magenta. The café was set up in 2008 and since then it has created positive futures for many young people living in difficult circumstances.
The café is managed by Renu Singh, who is a rare combination of wisdom, strength, affection and great values. The café owes much of its success to her energetic leadership.
What to expect at the café?
Expect a small yet clean, cheerful yet peaceful environment. No matter how sad or stressed or upset you are, the place will magically calm you down. I think it’s the warm smiles of these girls and boys and their graceful body language. They have gone through some of the extreme situations in their lives –abuse, hunger, neglect, deprivation. But their faces show no aggression. Instead their eyes shine with hope and determination. Being there is kinda reality check – all your problems suddenly become small and insignificant and you feel recharged with hope and positivity.
Expect a sun-lit room and instagram friendly décor. The café gets a lot of volunteers and visitors from Ireland as well as rest of the world. Some of them contributed to the vibrant décor. There’s a tree painted on a wall and the leaves are ‘post-it’s containing messages and feedbacks from the café customers. You too can put up a leaf. Another wall is decorated with brightly painted wall plates. Renu has set up a book corner and you can do some leisurely reading over coffee and sandwiches or cakes.
Expect a sparkling clean washroom, in case you have been out on the roads for a long time and need to freshen up.
Expect quick, efficient service. Whatever you order from the menu, the food comes to your table within 7-8 minutes. On busy days or on days when the café is short of hands, I have seen Renu serving food or picking up the mop to clean a wet spot on the floor. Just like you would do, if it was your home.
Most importantly expect tasty, clean, homelike food without having to worry about a huge bill.
What to order?
How about Luchi-Aloor Dum or Aloo Paratha if you want an Indian Breakfast. For an English breakfast, you can order eggs in your favourite avatar. For lunch go for vegetarian/egg/ chicken thali or spice up life with noodles and manchurian. If Indian or Chinese food bores you, order vegetarian or chicken penne in a sauce of your preference.
The choice is plenty as the menu is quite extensive. However the menu consists more of functional food and not exotic dishes. And there’s the day’s special chalked on a board – which can be khichudi and beguni, chhole bhature, shwarmaa or even biryani.
The tastes are quite authentic as international/ local gourmet volunteers and chefs (under CSR initiatives) come to teach the kitchen staff. Local, fresh and good quality ingredients are used for all food. The café has a good base of regular customers from the neighbourhood houses and offices and they vouch for consistency in quality. The café also serves as a safe food zone for the large number of Irish volunteers and visitors who come to visit Hope’s over 100 projects in Kolkata every year. Due to high rating in tripadvisor reviews, a lot of international tourists also visit the cafe during their Kolkata trips.
What I usually order at Hope Café?
I have tasted almost everything on the menu over the last 6 years. Though I left Hope in 2013, but the café continued to be ‘chicken soup for the soul’. I love the chicken thali consisting daal, papad, achaar, salad, vegetable curry and chicken curry. Wholesome and tasty. One can choose rice or roti with the thali. Another favourite is the chicken penne in white sauce. It comes loaded with boneless chicken chunks, onions and coloured bell peppers. Oh I forgot to mention, the egg rolls and chicken rolls are absolutely delightful. Not oil soaked, but thin and light paratha lets you enjoy the taste of egg or chicken to the fullest. I am an ardent fan of the quiche too. But sadly it is not made every day. I never miss the cakes. On my last visit I had a slice of lemon cake and on my last to last one, I treated myself to carrot cake. Light, fluffy and flavourful. The perfect accompaniment with coffee or tea. There are other favourites too, such as the mughlai parantha, chicken sandwich, French toasts and chicken soup.
Why you may want to visit Hope Café?
Of course for 3 primary reasons – good food, quiet and cool environment, and pocket-friendly prices. While visiting the café is good for your tummy and bank, it can also be your way of giving back to the society. The bill you pay directly builds someone’s future. All the earning from the café is reinvested in training the socially and economically challenged youth, free of cost. Every young person employed and financially secured is one step forward towards making Kolkata free of hunger, abuse and crime. Now, that’s a real good reason to visit the café and spread the word! 🙂
- Address: 5/2/L Panditiya Road, Kolkata 700029
- Location on Google Map
- Hours: 9 am – 6 pm, Monday – Saturday (Sunday Closed)
- Pocket pinch: Rs300 for two persons
- Phone Numbers for Home Delivery: 033-24850901, 033-24850899, +91-9674491359
- App-based Delivery: Swiggy
- Recommended by tripadvisor and zomato
- Accepts bulk order on prior notice
- Conference and training hall available
- Facebook page
Acknowledgement: This write-up is done in a different format than my usual ones. It has been inspired by Anindya S. Basu’slatest blog postin his site Pikturenama. I found this format useful for this particular blog post as I wanted to break information into parts. Though I have innumerable good food memories at Hope Café, I felt some information might get lost if I write in my usual euphoric essay style.