Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Visit to Flurries in Calcutta

My habit to try out European food joints led me to Flurries when I was in Calcutta this time. During my stay outside Calcutta, many people I know have asked me whether I have been to Flurries in Calcutta after their visit to the city. I said I’m familiar with the restaurant but I have never been there. Probably it’s like staying in Bangalore and not visiting Koshys even once, in Delhi without a visit to Nirulas etc.

But even though I never visited Flurries, a mention of the name by my friends was enough for me to recall what they were talking about. I don’t know whether there are more than one Flurries in Calcutta, but even if there are, when one mentions Flurries in Calcutta and expects you to spot (unless he is totally unfamiliar with the city), the one he refers to is the Flurries in Park Street.

When I stepped into the restaurant, I was quite impressed with its sprawl and grandeur. It reeks of old-world class and exclusivity. I sat at a table and ordered for a chocolate pastry. The waiter asked me to go to the counter and take it from there. Even though they serve pastry at tables going to the counter and getting it myself would make it faster for me, the waiter informed. He told it earnestly and I didn’t feel offended.

I went to the counter and asked for a chocolate cake. The counter guy told me to go to a table and order it there. By that time, I had spent considerable time in the restaurant and didn’t want to walk out without trying out something – not to please them but to use my time well. Nor did I want to sour up my mood and start my Calcutta trip on a grim note. (It was the second day of my trip.) So I went back to the table where I was sitting and called a waiter. After hearing I would only eat a solitary pastry, he asked why didn’t I go to the counter and buy it.

This time I solemnly told him to get me the pastry. After some time he returned with a brown pastry. It was accompanied by a fork and knife. When I tried to cut my way through the damn thing, it refused to yield easily. I was scared of the knife suddenly rushing through the pastry and hitting the crockery with a nasty sound. The place looked too snob to let go such a plebian goof up without a frown.

When I discussed the place with one of my friends (its grandeur but unfriendly atmosphere), he said the joint is probably a remnant of colonial Calcutta where British officials used to visit to drink their tea with cream. I didn’t disagree with him, because Flurries stank of upper-stiff-lip club snobbery where respectability comes from your membership of a certain clique and not from your self-acquired social standing.

I can understand where this comes from. Mostly its patrons are rich (and burly) Marwaris who come and spend hours reading newspapers over a cup of coffee and pastry. Unlike other places, they are not approached by waiters reminding them that they have overstayed their time in the restaurant. This stay-as-long-as-you-want culture is dying in India because restaurants are mostly space-starved nowadays and a customer overstaying his time at the table means another has to wait.

This old-world style probably puts Flurries out of step with today’s no nonsense Euro joints where the staff behaves with you with a ‘tailor-made hotel-management-taught’ courtesy and leaves you feeling that here the luxury (or time) available to you will not outsize the bill you will pay. But Flurries isn’t complaining because in Calcutta there aren’t too many Euro joints to compete with.

It’s difficult to hold anything strongly against Flurries: because it’s such a nice place to be in. It’s located at a prominent turn-of-the road of Park Street and occupies a lot of the pavement where it stands. The front part of Flurries is wrapped by a tinted glass which leaves the inside looking mildly and pleasantly cloudy. Through the glass pane, you can see the world go by as you eat.

There are enough people on the waiting staff to ensure no table (and there are many) goes unattended for too long. And the behavior of the staff is generally nice, although it may sometimes leave you with a ‘new comer’ complex.

So although I left the pastry half way through, paid my bill (Rs. 75) and decided to leave in disappointment, I will return to Flurries again when I am in Calcutta next time.

Wish you a happy new year.

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