Inside Kolkata’s Cabin Culture, A Journey Into Over A Century Of History, Privacy, And Culinary Charm

These cultural landmarks offer a unique glimpse into the city's past and present dining traditions.

by Mallika Khurana
Inside Kolkata’s Cabin Culture, A Journey Into Over A Century Of History, Privacy, And Culinary Charm

In the streets of Kolkata, there exists a culinary phenomenon unlike any other: the cabins. These hidden sanctuaries of taste and tradition offer not just a meal, but an immersive experience into Kolkata’s rich cultural tapestry. Here, you can uncover a world where British influences meld seamlessly with local flavours and where privacy meets palpable nostalgia. Kolkata’s cabin restaurants, locally referred to as “kay-beens,” are more than just dining spots—they are cultural landmarks that true-blue Calcuttans have cherished for over 150 years. 

Step Into Kolkata’s Culinary Time Capsules

Kolkata food
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

These iconic establishments, with their divided compartments often made of plywood and heavy curtains, offer a unique blend of history, nostalgia, and culinary delight. These cabin restaurants date back to the British Raj and became prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. They were designed to promote urban family dining, providing privacy for women who wanted to dine out. It was a significant cultural shift at the time. These cabins also played a role in India’s independence movement, serving as discreet meeting spots for freedom fighters.

Stepping into a cabin restaurant is like stepping back in time. The interiors are usually simple, often characterised by wooden cubicles divided by curtains or saloon-style doors, and a bustling, lively atmosphere. The scene inside is chaotic, with waiters swiftly serving delicious dishes to eager customers.

The menu at cabin restaurants is a major draw. Deep-fried delicacies, heavily influenced by British and Portuguese cuisines, dominate the offerings. Some must-try dishes include the Dimer Devil, a local take on the Scotch egg; Mughlai Paratha, a city favourite for decades; and more.

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Explore The Iconic Cabins In Kolkata

cabin culture
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Established in 1925, Anadi Cabin on SN Banerjee Road is famous for its parathas and the lively hustle of its interior. Known for its unique dimer devil made with duck eggs, Niranjan Agar has a long history of serving delicious food to locals and celebrities alike. Featured in Bengali films, Fern Hotel and Restaurant has retained its booths, offering a nostalgic dining experience. Located on College Street, Dilkhusa Cabin is beloved for its chicken, fish, and prawn kabirajis. It certainly holds a special place in the hearts of Calcuttans. Basanta Cabin and Mitra Cafe are also some of the most popular names in Kolkata’s cabin culture.

Cabin restaurants have not only shaped Kolkata’s culinary landscape but also its social fabric. They have been favourite haunts for a diverse mix of patrons from all walks of life. Despite modern dining trends and the emergence of glitzy cafes, the steadfast loyalty of patrons keeps these cabins alive.

Kolkata’s cabins are custodians of the city’s rich cultural heritage, offering a unique blend of history, privacy, and mouth-watering food.

Cover Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons and Priyanka Das/Facebook

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