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

Comments

Harshad said…
After over two years of my self imposed exile from all things divine, this is one of those absolutely rare occasions when I’ve been tempted to go find some delicious equivalent of that ice-cream you so lovingly write about!

Though its exact taste is now part of flickering memory, the Snowman’s Softy (at Breach Candy) is something I quite associate with the wonder and charm of discovering something wonderful and new in that pre-liberalization Bombay. My grand dad would treat us to it once in a while, I remember. Though am sure that the ice cream you write about is much more fun than the average softy, which technically is not ice cream!

But the whole thing is beautifully written, Kalyan. Evokes splendid nostalgia even for someone who’s never ever been to Flurys…

Sweet!
Anaggh Desai said…
Nostalgia! rules with Flurys.

Takes me back 15 years..... and sadly the promise made to my daughter that I am yet to keep, hopefully soon.
Scarlett said…
Wow! For someone who doesn't live in Cal anymore, you are quite updated on the various Flury's outlets, their offerings & prices :)

I like Flury's too though most of my friends here prefer Kookie Jar & even Cakes infinitely over it. They think Flury's is over-hyped as it has lost most of it's charm. Which I wouldn't know about b/c I haven't seen the older Flury's...but I still like some of their pastries & especially their Christmas Plum Cake!

One grouse I have with the restaurant though - if you go during lunch/dinner hours & want to have only pastries or coffee, they will make you stand at the counter & have it. They will not allow you to sit on a table, which I think is very non-classy.
k said…
beautiful, but you missed out one quirky detail - you need to pay extra to sit by the window:)
The knife said…
Harshad, welcome back to the world of food. Wow, I think this is your first comment on finelychopped. That's the power of memories I guess.
Let me share a grandpa story too.
We had moved in with my mom's parents for a about a year when I was nine. That was my world changed completely.
My grandpa would often take me in a bus to the river side. We would then take a ferry to cross the river and go to Howrah station at about five in the evening. We would then go to the first floor terrace and take in the river breeze. He would buy me apple juice from the Himachal dispenser and a dosa before we left. And then take make the trip back home.
These were trips I would look forward to when life had suddenly become inert and bleak.
I remember my first Softy. that was at Regal
The taste of choco chip ice cream is 'flickering memory' for me too. I rmember that that the chips were not just choclate chips but had nuts and nougats too. But I remember the blessed brown cup the most.
The knife said…
Anaggh, I don't know what the prmise is but I am sure fulfilling it will lead you to some lovely bakes from Flurys...Kalyan
The knife said…
@Scarlett...I must confess that most of my Flurys updates are from the outpost at the Netaji Nagar Spencers.
I am not surprised about what your friend's feel about Flurys.
Its a bit like AB and SRK.
Flurys was on its last legs through the nineties. You would know of its lost glory only if you visited it in the eighties. Some of them would have been in their diapers then.
It was relaunched in the early 2000s so would be just another cake shop for the most of the post liberalisation folks. Just as AB to many would be KBC guy versus Don.
Cookie Jar, on the other hand, streaked across the skies of Calcutta in the nineties. It was the definitive shop in cakes for all of us. I became a fan post college as i couldn't really afford it too often in college but it was a lodestar even then.
They too had to shut down because of labour trouble. But they came back with a bang and now have multiple outlets.
Caring the analogy, Cookie Jar would obvioulsy be SRK
I took Kainaz there during our first trip to Calcutta and she became a fan the moment she stepped in.
Since then rolls and Cookie Jar stuff have been part of my luggage back on trips to Calcutta
The knife said…
@Scarlett, K: i was referring to the windows by the seat when I said they charge you more if you sit at the table.
But that's Calcutta for you. Hidden gems with very well hidden customer orientation
The Nomad said…
I love the place.In my quali days during my numerous trips to Cal, I always used to stayed at The Park and always had dinner at new places(new for me, not for Calcutta) or at a friend's place but breakfast was standard : forgo the complimentary one at Park and cross the street to Flury's. It was such a joy. Never managed the window table though :(
The knife said…
Hey Nomad, I can quite imagine that breakfast at Flurys would be quite nice.
Never been there though...any feedback?
Scarlett said…
Oh, my parents! They used to be big fans of Flury's of the 1980s. They too think the present day Flury's is nowhere in comparison. I think it's managing to carry on b/c of it's brand name in Calcutta...as the Cookie Jar stuff is definitely better.
The knife said…
Hey Scarlett, i would love to know your parents take on Flurys. That would be a completely different world.
I think the overall quality of Cookie Jar would be better.
But Flurys has some unique stuff like the cubed pastries, which you might not get elsewhere
Rhea said…
I never liked Flurys.. (Yeah, I know.. Shoot me!)

It's always been Kookie Jar for me. But in recent years, Cakes has triumphed coz I feel Kookie Jar's getting too expensive! Anyone tried the Ganache at Cakes? It's to-die-for. :)
The knife said…
@Rhea...I was tempted to use my editorial powers to censor the comment for a while :)

But then one needn't be like Mao just because one came from Calcutta!

Actually it's fine. I am quite fond of Cookie Jar too.

But Flurys is fairly good...have you been there after the revamp?

This is twice that I heard about 'Cakes'. Must be someplace new.

Cookie Jar, Flurys, Cakes (?), Upper Crust (is it still there?) ...just struck me that Calcutta beats Mumbai hollow when it comes to standalone confectioneries on both taste and price.

I think Birdies is the best we have here and that's a distant second to the Calcutta places. Delicea of Out Of The Blue and Melting Moments of Pot Pourri are nice but expensive. The new Ballons and Ribbons and Croissants and Open Bake (Bandra) trail way behind.

Candies is not just a dessert place and I will leave it diplomatically at that.

Churchill and Theobrama have their moments but not the range of Cookie Jar or Flurys
I'm drooling...it's been ages since i ate at flury's
Scarlett said…
@Knife - Upper Crust, Kathleen are all still there though I'm not sure how they are in terms of quality. Cakes has good stuff too. You're right on one count - Mumbai lags behind Calcutta in terms of pure bakeries. There are a couple of bakeries in Bandra but their stuff isn't as good.
Rhea said…
He he.. You are a good and just man! Cakes: You should try them the next time you're there. The one I go to is near the Ekdalia Evergreen Club Durga Pujo.

Upper Crust's chocolate mousse is still lovely!

No, I haven't been there after the revamping. It doesn't tempt me enough! :P
Anonymous said…
Aaaah! I love your post....and now I'm missing Flury's, wish I was back at home in Kolkata, right at this moment! I've been to a million patisseries probably...and somehow Flury's is still my favorite.....maybe 'coz its where home is!
The knife said…
@ A...you've been to Cal?

@Scarlett: must check out this cakes.. Bandra bakeries are OK but rustic. Oven Fresh at Shivaji park is great though

@Rhea..I must confess that we don't go too often to the Park Street one. We live at Bansdroni which is a bit of a culinary hick street. So we go to the Flurys counter at the nearby Spencers

My Brother works at Theatre Road and got us a box full of pastries from the Park St Flury's recently
The knife said…
Amrita: thanks for dropping in. You have caught the sentiment beautifully. This post is more about memories rather than the merits and demerits of what's on offer.

A bit like Harshad's Snowman Softy (the first comment). i am sure that he has had many more ice creams since then but nothing can take away the memory of having ice creams with his grandpa
Scarlett said…
Oven Fresh has become vegetarian! It's a sin to like a vegetarian place...well, mostly :)
The knife said…
True Scarlett...I used to love their egg salad, chicken salad sandwiches and chicken wings...I believe that their desserts are still going strong though
NewKidOnTheBlog said…
@K - Love your post. Even though it might be untimely, but I feel sorry that you lost your dad at an early age.

Flury's has and always been stuff memories are made up of. I am trying to pass it onto generations, as my son is already hooked on to it !

Simply love the cubed pastries, and the irresistibly yummy old world icing !
The knife said…
Thanks Vineet. Appreciate the sentimate. those are some solid values that you are passing on :)
Hi KK,
I read this post some 2 yrs back ,
I am back in Calcutta for a day tomorrow,and really going to flurys tomorrow(err its already 3 AM) .Hope to sample some of the delicacies that you have mentioned plus bring a bagful of pastries for my Mom and my inlaws to give them a purest joy .Plus some more for my friends in Hyderabad ,to make them know what they are missing in Hyd.
But i think there was another cake shop in Sealdah where they used to sell cup cakes which my Dad used to bring when we were kids .That was also a good shop ,have to hunt there another day .

But for tomorrow its Flurrys day .Oh life ,so much enjoyment one can get by giving others a few sweet surprises such as ..a small bagful of Flurys cakes isn't it ...

BTW hope they open by 11 am ?

Thanks Kalyan for your post which reminded me of Flurys again .Please keep going and may God give strength to you and your family in this hour of bereavement of your close one.

With Regards,
Nirjhar
IshitaUnblogged said…
HI Kalyan, still on the Flurys mode... good to see that somethings don't change in the world, specially if they are *good*! Hopped onto your blog to find your memories on Flurys... sorry that you had to experience such a tragic moment in your childhood. No wonder you were close to your dad-in-law.

Anyway, aaj darun khelam. aar eshe ekta post likheo phellam... mentioned you as well... food memories is part of what bonded us, right? Heard Flurys has opened in Mumbai, so well no need for cake boxes of memories! http://ishitaunblogged.com/2014/08/02/flurys-in-park-street-kolkata/