There’s a certain auspice to a restaurant or food joint that has stood for generations. To do so, an establishment necessarily must shun ‘fad-ism’ in favour of a focus on the things that diners essentially want; good food, efficient service, and an agreeable atmosphere. So for a place to continue to thrive centuries after it opened its doors, it’s safe to assume it’s delivering on at least two of those promises. This class of restaurants is rarely the most innovative, but they can satisfy our palates in ways others often fail to.
Guwahati has a long and distinguished tradition of restaurants, bakeries, sweet shops and bars, and you can still visit some today that have existed for centuries. We take a look at some of the city’s oldest that carry an aroma of nostalgia and joy.
On the corner of the main chowk of busy Panbazar stands an eatery called ‘Mahamaya Restaurant’. The interiors are basic; the walls yellow and blue. This place has seen the city evolve and is unarguably a treasure house of memories for several people – young and old. Having completed more than 100 glorious years of glorious existence, the restaurant was first established as an ordinary tea stall in 1918. One side of the shop was for tea, biscuits, sweets, and paan-tamul (betel nut and leaf) whereas the other end had cosmetics for the ladies. A few years later, the establishment was converted into a thatched house, with sitting arrangements made for the customers to have tea. The three-storey building of the restaurant today was built in 1948. The place has been a go-to destination for several significant personalities such as Late Bhupen Hazarika, Dwipen Baruah, Lakhyadhar Choudhury, and JP Das, among others. Paratha Sabji, Fish Thali, Mutton Pulao, Veg Thali, Tea and Boondia Laddoo are some of their best-sellers.
Reboti Chat House
One of the oldest eateries in Guwahati, Reboti Chat House is an institution. Established in 1987, located by the Nak-Kata Pukhuri in Panbazar, this place is one of the oldest fast food restaurants in the city. Reboti is an emotion for Guwahatians; it has literally seen people grow, specially the students of Cotton College. A tiny kitchen and a few benches in the small room, it is always crowded. Their Reboti Special Chowmein is the star; ask for their signature green chutney – it will leave you craving for craving more. They also do big fat rolls in veg, chicken, and egg. The staff is friendly and always serve food with a smile. Remember to take cash!
A visit to Fancy Bazar is incomplete without gorging on those crisp piping hot Samosas in Lakhi Cabin. Established in 1942, Lakhi Cabin, nestled on the ever buzzing Hem Baruah Road, is one of the oldest sweet shops in Guwahati. Famous for Aloo-Matar Samosa, Masala Kachori, creamy Rasmalai, and Sana Polao, every day is a busy day for them. We also love their warm Rasgulla, Kalakand, Kheer Pitha, and Kata Nimkee. These days they also sell a range of home-made pickles and jam. The shop opens at 9.00AM and closes by 8:40PM. They only accept cash payment.
Ashoka Restaurant and Bar
There’s probably no local who is not aware of Ashoka Restaurant and Bar. Several renowned doctors, engineers and politicians of today were frequenters of Ashoka Bar, which was established way back in 1960. One of the oldest bars in Guwahati, earlier, there used to be a regular open restaurant on the ground floor for all. The first floor housed a family restaurant serving Indian and Chinese cuisines. On the second floor was the bar well stacked with alcohol and spirits, both local and branded. Now only the bar remains which sees a limited crowd, mostly the older generation.
Paradise, located in Silpukhuri, is nostalgia for a lot of people in Assam. With its roots in Jorhat, Paradise spread its wings to Guwahati in 1984 and soon became a pioneer in serving traditional Assamese cuisine. Do note, it is almost always crowded and does not take any prior reservations, so try your luck well in advance of the opening time to grab a seat. Decorated with traditional bamboo items and regional artefacts, it has a comforting and homely ambience. Their Parampara Thali is a must-try, if you’re looking to experience Assam on your plate. Other signatures include Vyanjan Double Mutton Thali, Veg Thali, Pigeon Meat, Gooseberry Fish Curry, Chicken Pulao cooked in earthen pot, Jasmine Flower Fritters, and Chicken in Bamboo Hollow. End your meal on a sweet note with their speciality sweet called Apsoch.
A bakery that started off by selling bread loaves and biscuits during the pre-independence period, became a household name in more than just one city. Shaikh Brothers was set up in Panbazar, in the year 1885. The Governor of Assam in the 1920s, John Henry Kerr had grown to be a big patron of its bread, biscuits and cakes among others. Even the erstwhile Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was known to be quite an aficionado of its cheese straw, something that he would look forward to every morning at breakfast during his visits to the city. There’s also a story of how Indira Gandhi’s bread, ordered from this very bakery, would be waited on by her personal security guards while it got baked in front of them. The shop, which is now being run by the third generation of Shaikhs, stores a wide range of breads, cakes, biscuits, cookies, pastries and so much more. Their Jam Rolls, Butter Cake, Muffins, Milk Bread, Karachi Halwa, and savoury and sweet Cookies are a must-buy.
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