Nestled in a narrow lane in Gopalapuram, Bayleaf is remembered by many as “that kathi roll place”. With simple decor, friendly staff and hearty dishes, this Bengali restaurant also serves the feeling of home to its repeat customers.
Bayleaf is now celebrating its 25th year with a limited edition special menu with offerings that have been bestsellers through the years.
The welcome drinks, Chennai Cooler and Nolen Gur Shikanji, are refreshing. The Chennai Cooler is a simple lemon-based drink is tangy with a bit of heat from pepper and ginger. The Nolen Gur Shikanji, is made of palm jaggery and gondhoraj lemon. “Nolen Gur is a date palm jaggery and gondhoraj lemon is a fragrant variety of lemon — both are unique to West Bengal and are sourced from Kolkata,” says Abhyuday Purkayastha whose family owns the restaurant.
Bayleaf offers many vegetarian and non vegetarian starter options that are reminiscent of Kolktata. The Makai Paneer Pakora, offers bite-sized delights that pair well with Chennai’s current chilly weather. It is made with corn, paneer, spices and batter fried into crispy pakoras.
The teekhe mutter ke kebab are melt-in-the-mouth peas galoutis with potato and spices that are best eaten with the tangy green chutney. An homage to Kolkata’s Chinatown are the mixed vegetable and prawn cutlets — both deep fried and served hot with ketchup and a sharp mustard sauce.
There are kebabs aplenty at Bayleaf. Both meat and vegetarian options are fast-selling and are made fresh. The murg Bihari kebab is an onion marinated chicken dish. The brown kebab was a popular favourite and is back on the menu just for this celebration. The murg khazana kebab and laksa chicken tikka are must-tries. The khazana (treasure) kebab, true to its name, is a breast of chicken stuffed with a dry-fruit mixture, chicken mince and finely chopped green chillies. The laksa chicken tikka is inspired by east Asian flavours. The chicken is marinated in a galangal and kaffir lime-based laksa broth and cooked in a tandoor.
Biryani is a popular dish all through the country and each region has its own variant. But what makes the Bengali biryani truly unique is the addition of potatoes. Bayleaf’s biryani has an Awadhi and Bengali influence made with a “secret” biryani masala recipe from generations of khansamas (Nawab’s cooks). It is made with basmati rice and is available in vegetable and mutton options. It is subtly spiced, fragrant ,with chunks of potatoes and is served with an onion and tomato raita.
“All these recipes have been passed down from one generation to the next. We ensure that we make our own spice blends that are not overpowering and give a homely taste,” says Abhyuday.
While there several authentic dishes to enjoy, Bayleaf also offers modernised versions that reflect the evolution of the city. The cheese fused palak kofta curry is creamy — bit on the sweet side and best enjoyed with the flaky onion kulchas coated with sesame seeds that add a crunch to every bite. The iconic daab chingri is a prawn curry cooked and served in a tender coconut which is sweet and flavourful. Pair the kulchas with potoler dolma , yet another classic gravy featuring pointed gourd stuffed with split black-eyed beans, coconut, peanuts and raisins, and champaran mutton — a traditional, mutton curry made with a mustard marinade and a whole bulb of garlic, effuses the aroma of charcoal and whole spices.
From Kolkata’s colonial era comes the Chicken A La Kiev. The breadcrumb coated chicken breast is stuffed with a herby butter, and served with sauteed vegetables, lemon butter sauce and a Bangla chimichuri – the south American oil and vinegar-based sauce with a Bengali spin.
On the side, there is panchmil bhaja, a basket brimming with fried yellow pumpkin, bitter gourd, crispy grated potato, pointed gourd and brinjal.
The Bengalis love their dessert, and so do we. To begin with, there is sandesh with a twist. This famous milk-based sweet has three layers with different flavours, similar to a cassata ice cream. A nostalgic way to end the meal. Chennar jelabi, which is a slightly thicker, syrup-soaked brown jelabi made with paneer is one of the bestsellers says Abhyuday.
What started as ‘Wish A dish’ — a mobile kitchen serving Bengali food in 1995, on popular demand became Bayleaf, a restaurant to dine in, two years later. It was originally located on Kasturi Rangan road and moved to the Gopalapuram venue in 2001. In 2015, Bayleaf OTG (On the go) was launched as a quick service restaurant with a limited menu with rolls, meal combos and kebabs.
Price for two: ₹1000. Bayleaf is located at 14, 6th Street, Gopalapuram. For details, call 428114557 /9600094242