Istanbul has Istiklal Kadesi. Mumbai has Colaba. Calcutta has Park Street. The trendy core of the city. Buzzing with life. Its young heart. Home to landmark nightclubs, pubs and iconic restaurants. A place whose halcyon days never ends. I wrote about my last visit to Park Street where we had to struggle to get a table for dinner. This time K and I spent an afternoon at Park Street. Walking down its streets of nocturnal sin, passion, hedonism and debauchery under the bright sun. When the creatures of the night slept before they came out again.
We went to Kusums and shared a mutton roll. I normally go to Hot Kati Roll, the roll shop at the beginning of Park Street. Kusum is quite popular too and a haunt of ex Xaverians from what I understand. The roll was quite succulent, the paratha the perfect foil to bring out the brilliance of the meat. They customised it without a squeak of protest - fried onions, chopped green chillies, no sauces. My first bite and I was convinced. Kusum's rolls were right up there with the very best. Enlightenment.
The price of Rs 25 a sharp contrast to Mumbai's Hangla's Rs 70 for mutton rolls at Bandra, air fare included. The wizened owner of the shop told me that Kusum was established in 1966. Which by the way was the only time England won the football World Cup. Rather symbolic as Park Street was the play ground of the British. The grand building in Kusum's courtyard a reminder of the glory days of the Raj.
Flury's for lunch. The open face sandwich was an indulgent delight of ham, fried egg, chicken tossed in capsicum which was akin to the filling of Kusum's rolls, cheese ... everything that your doctor warned you against, everything that your heart clamoured for.
The shocking pink old school buttery strawberry cubes were like a chirpy Hepburn for the robust coffee's Bogart. I have a soft corner for these little pastries which tug at my heart every time that I am here.
K was a bit disappointed by the chocolate stuff on offer - chocolate boat, shortbread - she found these too creamy and sweet and dubbed them as 'the worst pastries in the world, galaxy and universe'.
She picked up some of the House dark chcocolate slabs which she is fond of. What's with women and dark chocolate?
There is a story hidden somewhere in an afternoon at Flurys. Pastries and sandwiches which are a throwback to the city's subjugated past. A story of Mr and Mrs "J", the Swiss couple whose bakes fed the British minders of Calcutta. Flury's days of decay and fall from glory heralded by the Trade Unions of Post Colonial Calcutta. It's take-over by the non Bengali business family who owns the Park Hotel Chain. It's restoration to its days of former glory from the dark, dank, seedy days that had befallen Flurys. And the ills of commerce which came with it - no ordering savouries if you sit at the tables ... go back to the counter otherwise, no ordering omelettes and sandwiches during lunch hours, waiters who came up to you with a menu card if you look up from your coffee to lazily take in life. Yes it true that the pure and the pristine cannot exist without the harshness of lucre to back it. If you have a soul you must be prepared to sell it.
|Some of the original baking equipment of Flurys|
Phuchkas in closing
K wanted phuchkas but it seemed like she would go back disappointed. There was a phuchka guy who allegedly stood by Music World beside Flurys. But as I hazarded, and others validated, he would only come to his spot after 4 PM. Phuchkas are an evening thing after all. We headed home. K's dream looked like it would remain unfulfilled in this trip. Which is when we came across Rajaram selling phuchkas outside Shoppers Stop/ Forum. He turned a deaf ear to K's instructions for chopped green chillies. But he did serve crisp, pungent, sharp ice cold balls of fire which brought tears of joy to our faces.
A wet and wild closing to our afternoon at Park Street, Calcutta's Sin City.