When time stopped … Flurys heritage breakfast, Mirza Ghalib Street, New Market, Nahoum, phuchkas, Badshah rolls, Kolkata …

Update: 21st July There was a fire at New Market Kolkata yesterday. read about it when Mallika, my classmate from college put up this TOI link on Facebook. Was there the day before. Horibble to think of the loss of property and of dreams. Mericifully no loss of lives according to the report. I hope and pray that those who were affected can piece their lives together. And that we do something to restorse these treasures from the past.


Nostalgia is a funny thing.

Memories can make you smile. Make you wince. They can hold you back. Or propel you forward. They could keep you trapped. Or take your across new horizons. They can be gut wrenching. Or soul restoring. And no place is as filled with memories as the city you have grown up in.

Something that was beautifully captured in the movie Cinema Paradiso.

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I was perplexed when Flurys at Calcutta recently won some best ‘heritage’ award at some recent Food Awards. Flurys was owned once by a Swedish family no doubt but now by the local Park Hotel Group. So where was the ‘heritage’ in it?

I got my answer today.

My day started very early as I had to go to work without breakfast. I was ravenous by the time I was done with my assignment. Boiled in the traffic as I headed out in a taxi from South Calcutta. I was going to break my fast at Flurys.

The Gods finally took pity on me. I reached. I got a window seat. People watching at the best place for it at Kolkata.


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I went through the menu at Flurys and that’s when it hit me. They had kept some of the original dishes of Flurys from the 1920s to the 1960s even today.

So once you paid the 2011 prices you could eat like  only the really swish could at Calcutta in its glory days. All right I am being mean about the prices. The experience at Flurys with its bites of history and attempts to re-create the old European Tea Room look and feel is nonpareil.

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I decided to go with the flow and order the ‘heritage dishes’.

The ‘classic’ omelets which are ‘fluffy’ today used to be tossed once according to the menu. And you could ask your waiter to tell the chef take you back in time.

I chose cheese and bacon as my stuffings. The result, the most perfectly flavoured and textured omelet to be had for your money.

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Another classic. Beans and toast. As the menu said, unlike in the tea rooms at Europe, the beans and toast always came with green chilies and onions at the side at Flurys. And boy were the chilies fiery or not? The chilies are hotter than anything that threw at me Rajasthan a few days back. The famed Rajasthani red chilies seemed so tame and genteel in the shadow of the angry little green fellows at Flurys. The combination of the ketchup sweetened baked beans and piercing shards of green chilies was priceless.

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I had the best breakfast in town. Gazing on to the streets, gearing myself for the next con call, a few girls giggling at the table behind me and two friends sitting beside talking animatedly about some contentious issues.
The cappuccino that followed was a bit too milky but made up by the vintage strawberry cube – sweet, creamy – the sort of innocent baby face you can never say no to.

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This was the good life.
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Cuds of history chewed upon, dark chocolate slabs picked for those at home, I headed out. A stroll to the hotel seemed a good idea after the king’s breakfast. So I walked down Mirza Ghalib Street by the inner lanes that connected Park Street past the East European backpackers, street food stalls, old buildings and record shops, churches and mosques, movie halls which had turned into banquet halls and shoe shops … every step laden with memories and events ...

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And then New Market. The lodestar of those last years at Kolkata. I walked around clicking. Sweating buckets till the straps of my camera and of my bag were drenched. I went in to check the hallowed meat quarter. They were cleaning up the gristle and it looked quite grim.

I looked up at the ceiling and the arches and thought that this could have been our Vic Market.

What went wrong here?

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I ambled along the lanes of the markets reliving its many stories. The canon at the centre of New Market was gone but the cold coffee stall was still there.

I stumbled into Nahoum, the Jewish confectionery, where one used to go for college wallet friendly chicken patties. I clicked away at the this 109 year old shop. A shop starter by the Iraqi Jewish forefather of the current owner Mr David Ellias Nahoum.

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I walked out still stuffed but couldn’t say no to the tradition of eating phuchkas by the medical shop beside New Empire cinema. With Tiger, Globe, Jamuna, Lighthouse gone … it’s the lone theatre from the past still standing firm.

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And then @bangdu tweeted me with his instructions I dutifully went to Badshah’s for mutton roll. The meat in this 22 Rs (0.5 USD) dish was sublime, soft to the point of surrender, a strong garlic punch making it distinctive and combining beautifully with sharp zest of lime. And the paratha so good that I didn’t even notice it. Yes, it was the perfect foil for the hero, the mutton.

Artistry needn’t come at a price.

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I headed back to my hotel and to work from a morning that showed me that memories could be exactly as sweet as you want them to be.

Comments

Lovely travel post, as usual. I was drooling at the lemon tarts.
Ushnish Ghosh said…
Oh! Calcutta ! , Oh! Flurys!
The knife said…
@Saee thanks though when it comes to lemon tarts Kookie Jar rules my world

@Ghosh Kaku: Oh Calcutta indeed :)
simonmajumdar said…
For all its craziness, Calcutta still occupies such an important place in my heart.

So too does Flurys. As children, when the whole household would set off to the family vacation spot in Kalyani, we would be fortified by a picnic purchased at Flurys. It always included cream horns and chicken sandwiches on soft white bread with the hit of a good crack of pepper.

The last time I was on the city (in 2008 for my first book) I revisited. It did not appear to have changed much.

I need to get back to Calcutta soon.

Simon
Kalyan...I have run out of drool :)

So many favourite haunts and such delights on offer.
monidipa said…
loved the blog..made me nostalgic...
Sudeshna said…
You captured my favorite from Flurys - the horseshoe. I so love it, and I so miss everything that's from Kolkata.
kaniska said…
you have captured the spirit of heritage calcutta beautifully. helps that you are a calcuttan at heart, living in a world city. you can succinctly recount the pros while gently reminding us calcuttans of the cons. keep up the good work. it was lovely meeting up with you. no doubt, the reason of the meeting will soon feature in this blog.
Pinku said…
beuatiful, making one hungry post.

hows dida?
Scarlett said…
:-(((((((

What can I say? I miss Cal and I miss Flurys. Having left Cal after living there for 3 years a, I now understand why Bengalis are so devoted to their city.

Thanks for introducing me to the Strawberry Cube. I still remember the screams of resistance inside my head when you suggested I try the Peptobismal-coloured pastry. And I can also see my favorite lemon tarts smiling back at me. Though the lemon tarts at Cakes taste better :)
Shamimchow said…
my list of things to do in Cal is getting longer. Havent had an opportunity to revisit these haunts (including college canteens, goriahat more food kiosks, stalls behind writers bldg)for a long time. But I ensured that my lil fella had breakfast in Flury's on Christmas :) with his nani for my nostalgia sake!
Shamimchow said…
Kookie Jar has (it had a few yrs back) an outlet in Salt Lake and I didnt miss the chance to grab lemon tarts there
swagata said…
Hi,

Your post is lovely and has revived old memories. Have you planned a visit to Kookie Jar and How Hua??
The knife said…
@Simon, it is impossible to forget Calcutta. It's got so much character. And Flurys has been such a ficture. I can imagine local relatives going there to pick up stuff for their cousins/ newphews visiting from abroad. You must come to Calcutta again. And you can be sure that no matter how much things change, it will be all the same
The knife said…
@Rhea: next time don't let Kurush go alone

@Monidipa: thanks

@Sudeshna, I must try the horse shoe for you next time

@Kaniska: I owe you big time for what happened the next day. Would never have made it to Tireti without you egging me on
The knife said…
@Pinku, thanks. Didu was sounding a lot better from Mashi's house ... it's a tough life and she is a strong person

@Scarlett: I won't forget our evening at Flurys and really missed meeting you at Kolkata this time...and I sure hope that you are enjoying Sydney now

@Shamimchow...which college were you in? I was at presi. Went there a few years back on a Saturday afternoon. It was empty barring the canteen guy, pramod da...and I walked around with the ghosts of the pasts

PS I so prefer lil fella to 'brat'

@Swagata: thanks ...i normally go to the Kookie Jar outlet at the South City Mall. went this time too for the lemon tart
The knife said…
@Pinku, thanks. Didu was sounding a lot better from Mashi's house ... it's a tough life and she is a strong person

@Scarlett: I won't forget our evening at Flurys and really missed meeting you at Kolkata this time...and I sure hope that you are enjoying Sydney now

@Shamimchow...which college were you in? I was at presi. Went there a few years back on a Saturday afternoon. It was empty barring the canteen guy, pramod da...and I walked around with the ghosts of the pasts

PS I so prefer lil fella to 'brat'

@Swagata: thanks ...i normally go to the Kookie Jar outlet at the South City Mall. went this time too for the lemon tart
Atanu Dey said…
Brought back many happy memories of Flury's - used to love their cakes when I was a kid. At that time, there used to be huge debate between Flury's and Kathleens cakes.
shooting star said…
flury's is my fav place in park street and when im in kolkata, i make it a point to visit park street and new market!!
beans on toast for flury's is totally soul satisfying!!!!....
nice blog you got!! coming here via blogadda.

http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.com/
The knife said…
Thanks Atanu. Kathleen I think lost the way a bit. Lack of corporate support also too I guess...have eaten at the restaurant too. Princess

@Shooting Star...thanks...glad you liked it....oved the beans on toast
Miri said…
I have on;y heard of Dlurys but the post was steeped in nostalgia - thans for that walk down memomry lane and the equally exciting one down Chinese bazaars in Cal.

BTW I posted a recipe through food fiction on patarni machhi which is a fusion of Bong and Parsi!
The knife said…
Home you make it there someday Miri and glad you liked the post.


Please send me the link again...somehow didn't spot it on Reader
RD said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hi KK,
I read this post some 2/3 yrs back ,
I am back in Calcutta for a day tomorrow,and really going to flurys tomorrow(err its already 3 AM) .Hope to get a seat facing the road , 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
The knife said…
Hi Nirjhar, yes they open by 11 am...hope you have some lovely moments in Flurys. I am sure the folks back home will love the gifts