A Cake box of memories...Flurys Calcutta


I had referred too Flurys, the confectionery in Calcutta, on Facebook a few days back. Someone w wrote back saying how this reminded her of her visits to Calcutta as a kid.

Flurys, which claims to offer ‘five generations of fine confection’, has that sort of effect on people. I understand that it was run by a Swiss family. But I think it has been taken over and refurbished recently.
Today it’s a swanky confectionery at Calcutta’s hip, Park Street. It has quite a few franchise outlets across the city. It is probably one more cake shop in a city which has the newer and equally evocative, Cookie Jar, and a host of other confectioneries. But Flurys still evokes cake loads of memories for those of us who have grown up in the pre-liberalisation era in India.

Interestingly my first memories of Flurys are those of its ice creams. I had just come into Calcutta as a fairly spoilt eight year old. I was frustrated by the lack of options in ice creams here compared to England or even Iran. All you got then were orange and pineapple sticks and vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and two in one cups from Kwality. Gone were the rocket lollies that I used to love.

In the midst of that banality was the Flurys ice cream shop near the Lake which had a chocolate chip ice cream which I used to love. Twenty seven years later I still remember the little bites of chocolate chip which I used to look forward to. But there was a bigger secret to why I used to like this. The ice cream used to come in a small brown, plastic cup with a little handle. I used to wash the cup, after the ice cream was over, and use it to mix my water colours.Packaging in India in the early eighties was very, very basic so this was quite novel.

My father passed away soon after that and we moved into a Spartan world far removed from the world of Flurys and Park Street for many years as my mother brought us up on her college teacher’s salary.

Flurys stopped making ice cream and their ice cream shops were confined to history.

My next encounter with Flurys was more than a decade later when I was at college. I got a fairly decent score in my board exams. Our neighbour, 'Jethu' (Bengali term for father’s elder brother, often affectionately used for elders one knew) called me over to his house to congratulate me. He gave me a then (1996) princely sum of hundred Rupees with specific instructions to go and celebrate at Flurys.

We went to the Flurys restaurant at Park Street. I was wondering what all the fuss was about. It looked like a fairly dank and dreary place, with old waiters in archaic liveried uniforms and a very limited range of some omelets, ham sandwiches and such. I wasn’t impressed, exposed as I recently was to the Cookie Jars, Upper Crusts, Kathleens and other swish confectioneries of Calcutta.

I think this was towards the last days of the old managment of Flurys, before labour trouble shut it down for a while. Flurys barely featured in my college days and initial working days in Calcutta. I moved out to Mumbai for good in 1998.

My next tryst with Flurys was when I went to Calcutta with Kainaz just after we got married in 2001. We had taken the family out to Barbecue, the incongruously named Chinese restaurant at Park Street. We crossed over to Music World, the newly opened music shop, and saw the big, bright Flurys!

Flurys had re-opened at the same place where the old Flurys used to be. It looked all modern with a big glass front, bright lights, cheerful pinks and the usual suspects of modern cake shops – cheesecakes, black forest, tortes, chocolate truffles and mousses.

What Flurys also had were a range of their original recipes such as the legendary rum ball or their ‘cubed’ pastries – chocolate, strawberry, pineapple. The cubed pastries are very different from the fare one gets at modern cake shops. They are the purest and simplest forms of pastries. The sort we have grown up on. Butter, cream, sponge and a primitive icing. The way cakes were meant to be. Pastries which make the new ones seem like pale, synthetic copies. And the prices are at 25 (half a dollar) Rs or so which are unheard of for pastries in modern shops.


And the rum ball? It makes the heart of a person I know, who studied in Calcutta, and is not much of a foodie in my opinion, melt in nostalgia. These are the tastes we grew up on.

They also serve a range of sandwiches, savouries such as patties, lovely breads, cookies, chocolates and cheese straws. They serve a few continental dishes and coffee and tea in the main restaurant.

But no chocolate chip ice creams in brown plastic cups!

They do make the softest, mushiest, straight out at a fairy tale, lemon tart ever.

Notes:
  • The main Flurys shop is at Park Street opposite Park Hotel
  • You pay a higher charge if you have the pastries and other stuff from the counter served to you at the tables
  • You get the counter, takeaway prices if you have them at the few bar stools which are there
  • Flurys counters are there at most Spencers outlets including those at Netaji Nagar and South City Malls
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