The best of what to eat/shop/do in your city, delivered in a brown paper bag

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28.07.2015

In this bpb column, we harass the production units of movies, TV shows and photo shoots to share their sourcing lists. Here Varun Grover, writer and lyricist of Masaan, who studied at IIT Banaras; and Banaras native Prabhav Chaturvedi, assistant director of Rangbhoomi; lead us along the lesser-travelled lanes of their favourite city. 

Eat:
 
Chachi ki Kachori: Best for a breakfast of piping hot kachori-sabzi and crisp jalebis. After Chachi’s death a couple of years ago, her sons carry her legacy forward. Lanka, opposite Ravidas Gate, approx Rs 40 for a plate of kachori-sabzi and 50 gm of jalebis.
 
Pathakji ki Thandai: Seasonal fruit thandais, way better than the more popular Baba ki Thandai. Thatheri Gali, ahead of Ram Bhandaar, Rs 25 to Rs 35 for a glass.
 
Pizzeria Vaatika Café: Famous for their wood-fired pizzas, but the spaghetti (named after Huma Qureshi!) is world-class and their apple pie is the stuff legends are made of. B-1/178, Assi Ghat, call 09451397331.
 
Ksheer Sagar: The sweet shop Banaras swears by. It is especially famous for rasgulla and raj bhog. B 15/42, Sonarpura, call 0542-3259328, branches in Sigra and Kamachha, approximately Rs 10 for a rasgulla and Rs 20 for ras malai.
 
Raja Ram Lassi: The best lassi in the city, but go early because they run out by 6 pm. Near the Chaukhambha area. Honourable mention: Ramnagar ki Lassi on the outskirts of the city.
 
Unnamed Shop Near Nadesar: For piping hot gulab jamuns served with fresh cream and sprinkled with chaat masala. In the row of food shops right opposite the BSNL office near Nadesar.
 
Pappu Tea Stall: The Banarasi equivalent of India Coffee House, this has served generations of intellectuals, writers and journalists. Assi Ghaat, approximately Rs 10 for a cup of chai.
 
Chowk: Try malaiyyo, the unique frothy cream made by whisking milk, certainly the most divine of Banarasi sweets. It’s available only in the winter months and lasts until 9 am, since the froth melts as the sun gets strong. Near Chowk police station, Rs 20 for a kulhad.

Kunju Sav Mishthan Bhandar: Sample falahari food - meals that are eaten while fasting. Near Dedhsi ka pul.
 
Madhur Jalpaan: Here, kachoris made in pure ghee and served with teekhi chutney, try the aloo ki sabzi and sweets as well. Kodai Chowki, near Spice KCM, Harha.

A stroll from Bengali Tola to Assi Ghaat is one of the best walks in Banaras. Notice how the language changes from Bangla to Telugu to Tamil to Kannada to Hindi to Bhojpuri as you walk through this lane. 

Stay:
 
Sunrise Lodge: Small but clean rooms at affordable rates with picturesque views of the Ganges. Meer Ghaat, Dashashwamedh.
 
Home-stays at Assi Ghaat: Assi is at the last ghaat of Banaras, and hence relatively calmer. It’s also close to Banaras Hindu University, and is frequented by students, which might explain the artsy vibe of the place.
 
Ganga Lodge: A small, inexpensive lodge, located right in the middle of the bustling Luxa. D 52, 1/2 Luxa Road, www.gangatouristlodge.com.
 
Vishnu Rest House: Strangely, this guesthouse run by a local married to a Japanese woman, is open only to foreigners and offers river-facing rooms on the banks of the Ganga. Jaitpura, call 0542 245 0206.
 
The Chaturvedi Residence: The crew of Rangbhoomi lived in this homestay run by AD Prabhav Chaturvedi’s family. They have eight rooms (AC and non-AC), and each can accommodate up to three people. RK Puram, Karmajeetpur, Sundarpur, Varanasi, call 09450545551/ 0542 2575800.
 
Fort: On the banks of the Ganga, a fort has been modified into a postcard pretty guesthouse. Above Darbhanga Ghat.
 
Do:
 
Early Morning Boat Ride at Assi Ghaat: Set out before sunrise and go Ganga-paar by boat.

Walk from Bengali Tola to Assi Ghaat: One of the best walks in Banaras – this street is teeming with culture. Notice how the language changes from Bangla to Telugu to Tamil to Kannada to Hindi to Bhojpuri as you walk through this lane.
 
Walk from Raj Ghat to Dashashwamedh: If you are feeling adventurous, walk right up to the end of Assi Ghaat. Photography buffs, set out early in the morning to get great shots.
 
Banaras Markets: Dalmandi, Thatheri, Chowk. Several shops are more than a century old and you can find cigar-sized beedis, attar in Old Monk bottles and a great selection of Banarasi saris and tablas. See Ragul Saris in Dashashwamesh for Banarasi silks; and Ramzan Saris for handmade drapes. AB1/ 196 – A, Navapura, Fulwaria, call 0542 2441771/ 09415684268.
 
Banaras Hindu University: One of the oldest universities in India, it has a stunning campus and houses more than 20,000 students. Don’t forget to stop by the on campus famous Maitri Café.
 
Maha Aarti at Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Godouliya: The early morning aarti (4 am) is a spectacle worth witnessing – it’s one of the best live percussion shows for the resident God of Banaras, Shiva.

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