It was long time since two of my friends suggested a day out of Kolkata at Raichak, a small town located in south 24 Pgs district on the banks of river Hooghly. So on a rainy Saturday morning we finally left the hustle and bustle of the city for peace on the banks of the Ganges.
Raichak is about 50kms south of Kolkata and takes 1 to 1.5hours from Tollygunge via Amtalla. The road is congested till you literally leave Kolkata after which you will be greeted by lush green fields on both sides. We also did not have any complaint about the road condition.
Our destination at Raichak was ‘Sonar Tori’, a Bengali fine dining joint at ‘Raichak on the Ganges’, a premium property of Ambuja Neotia Group. On reaching there we realized why our friends had said that it was a ‘must visit’. From the very entrance to the property you will feel your senses calm down.
The very look and feel of the resort is towards conservation of nature, bringing back the old world charm with thatched roof, mud walls and small stools which in Bengali we call ‘mora’. There is ample area around the place, where you can sit and have a leisure time with family and friends.
As you will approach the ‘Sonar Tori’(the restaurant) area, leaving the ‘Ganga Kutir’(the residential area), you will find an old bullock cart.
As you enter the gates of ‘Sonar Tori’(meaning Golden Boat), you will be transferred to some three or four decades back. Everything here is built of old antique pieces. Above all, the entire ‘Sonar Tori’ is a true representation of Bengali culture and heritage. The property is entirely build of decades old used bricks, wooden doors, windows, tables, chairs even iron grills.
The balcony leads you to the lounge or resting area. This lounge will amaze you. Four-poster bed, easy chair, gramophone, tables, chairs, sofa – decades old decorates this lounge. One can also notice the typical Bengali red cemented floors here. The only touch of modernization in this room perhaps is the air conditioning. The best part was the view through the large glass window panes which got frosted because of the rain outside. It rather added to the rustic beauty.
The dining hall at ‘Sonar Tori’ overlooks the Hooghly River. The entire ceiling of the dining area has Tagore’s poems and songs inscribed on it. The chandelier is a unique piece made up of a cluster of brass jars with bulbs attached inside them. I wondered how elegant and mystic it would look when lit up in the evening.
The dining table tops are made of old wooden windows and doors with glass tops placed over them. The chairs are also made of old used wooden pieces with embroidered cushions on them. You will find a number of old antique pieces here like a hookah, large pots, all grandma’s age old. Adding to the ambiance are the heavy brass plates, bowls, glasses and cutlery sets in which food is served.
Not to miss the napkins(Soft Bengal cotton cloth with red border-typical Bengali ‘lal par shada sari’)
Lunch although was very nice, with every item having a distinct taste of its own, I personally felt it to be much on the costlier side. But then, that is expected from a star category hotel. Outside the dining hall is a large table with benches.
The top of the table is strewn with brass pots covered with glass on top. We took some rest there enjoying the rain which added romanticism to the entire ambiance. Then we walked down the corridors whose walls are laden with old antique pieces and photos.
The corridors lead to the Hooghly river bed where there is ample space for one to sit and chat or just sit and stare at the river. There is a distinct earthy smell around the entire ‘Sonar Tori’ area which is very typical of Rural Bengal.
Ok now, I could not resist sharing this unique wash basin photo with you.
In all ‘Sonar Tori’ cannot be called a restaurant alone. It is a poem in itself telling the tale of ages and ages. Above all, it defies the notion that architecture develops at the cost of nature. In fact, when the two join hands they produce such beauty which is beyond comparison.