Nathu’s Pastry Shop | A chapter from Childhood

Nathu's Pastry Shop
Nathu’s Pastry Shop

Flavours that I grew up with and the memories attached.

It was my sister’s birthday. My dad told me to get ready and meet him outside in the verandah of our new house in Delhi. My mom, who was busy looking after too many chores in the kitchen, hurriedly made me wear my frilly dress and shoes. I had a boy cut, so, there wasn’t much more to do. I was good to go. I sat on my Dad’s scooter and left for a nearby market, famously known as Bengali Market.

We were there to get my sister a cake. We had just moved to Delhi from Jodhpur. I had fond memories of visiting Garib Bakery in Jodhpur, to buy cakes for our special occasions. Usually, we would place orders for Heart Shape Cakes for my parents’ anniversary and normal round ones for our birthday celebrations. However, this time, we stood in Nathu’s Pastry Shop and we had not pre-ordered any cake. I was amused to find that we could just walk in and buy the cake, right away.

That was my first visit to Nathu’s Pastry Shop, when I was 7 years old.

For many years, this bakery remained our go-to place for cakes, puddings, cookies, puffs, patties, sandwiches etc. Since my mother didn’t bake much, I assumed these dishes could only be relished, after buying them from bakeries. All our birthday cakes, Christmas puddings etc came from Nathu’s and my siblings and I just loved everything it had on offer.

I remember when I was in class 12th, I carried my favourite Pineapple Cake (till date) to school. It might sound a bit embarrassing now, but, even for my seventeenth birthday, I carried a Chocolate Flakes cake from Nathu’s to my college. It’s quite obvious that my bond with Nathu’s Pastry Shop continued to grow stronger, with the passage of time.

While I was about to finish my graduation, we shifted to a new house, which was closer to Connaught place. And the famous Wenger’s Bakery, was now literally a stone’s throw away from my new house. There I discovered the world of Baguettes, Quiches, Focaccias, Pies, Handmade Chocolates, Tartlets and much more variety than Nathu’s Pastry Shop. Slowly, my trips to Nathu’s became sporadic and Wenger’s became my mecca for baked goodies. For almost all occasions, we would shop from Wenger’s bakery, as the products were really good and it was really convenient as well.

Bengali Market, however, wasn’t still too far either and I did occasionally go there as well. Over the years, I zeroed in on my favourites at both the places.

If Wenger’s made better breads, Nathu’s always had great sponges in their cream cakes. For Shami Kebab, Wenger’s became the go-to place and Nathu’s was my haunt for delicious chicken puffs. Even today, the handmade chocolates from Wenger’s are fantastic, while the spinach puffs at Nathu’s taste just as amazing!

It’s not a comparative analysis of two of my favourite bakeries, it’s just about how I found my favourites at both the places. Also, this was when, I didn’t know that one day, I would study Pastry Arts at a culinary school or become a food writer.

When I moved to Kolkata, I liked going to Flury’s, Kookiejar and Nahoums.I realised that I loved bakeries not just for cakes, but also for their savoury products. Quiches, Patties, Rolls and Breads would interest me as much as a Chocolate Truffle Pastry, which all kids my age, would go crazy about.

Pineapple Pudding - Nathu's Pastry Shop
Pineapple Pudding – Nathu’s Pastry Shop

I came back to Delhi and after all these years, I now frequently visit The Big Chill Cakery, L’Opera Patisserie & Boulangerie, The Artful Baker, La baguette and many such bakeries and I love them all. But even today, a cup of Pineapple pudding at Nathu’s makes me as happy as ever. I know it’s full of cream and left over sponge with just a cherry on top, but, I still love it. Their chocolate truffle is too sweet to be chocolatey, but it’s my favourite. If some day, I don’t see Harsh Gupta Aunty at the bakery, it worries me. The shy yet sweet old lady has been working there for the past 30 years, ever since the opening of the bakery. The familiar faces of Raju Pandey (who writes messages on the cake), Dilip Kumar (the cashier at the counter) or Vijender who stands at the bread counter, make me feel that I know these people.

Now-a-days, you can spot doughnuts, red velvet and blueberry muffins and seasonal delights with mango lining up the shelves. They are, slothfully, trying to keep up with today’s time, trends and demands.

They might not be doing fancy flavours and presentations. Their staff, unlike the chic bakeries of Khan Market, might not come across as eloquent. In fact, they are very old school, but it’s the taste that I have grown up on.

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