The Kolkata Bakeries – Nahoums, Flury’s & Kookie Jar

It’s no secret that Bengalis love their sweets – not just Rosogulla or Sandesh, but their fruitcakes and rum balls or even the jam tarts. So this one is for the famous Kolkata Bakeries that I love to visit.

The city developed under the Britishers, is evidently carrying the influences of their food culture till today. The Fish Chop is actually a cutlet and the fact people in Kolkata feel Breakfast at Flury’s is their tradition where they go and eat baked beans and eggs with toast at the bakery at Park Street.

When I moved to Kolkata, just like any North Indian I had some preconceived notions about the food culture of the city. All I knew was that Bengalis love to eat fish and rosogullas. However, over the years I discovered many wonderful eateries that serve much more, than what the world usually associates Bengali food with.

Nahoums & Sons

My love for cakes, puffs and cookies took me to Nahoums & Sons. A Jewish Bakery in New Market, it was started in the year 1902. Established by Nahoum Israel Mordecai (a Jew from Baghdad), this 113 years old Bakery, is currently looked after by the youngest of the Nahoum sons, Isaac Nahoum, with a supervisor who has been working here for the last 36 years, Jagadish Halder.

The humble set up comprising of wooden counters, the classic style of frosting and the recipes, all have remained same throughout these years. This is one of the best bakeries in India that serves the best Black Forest Cake. It’s dark, gooey, and moist with a lovely mix of cherries. They have managed to keep the recipe a secret and I am sure it’s worth a million bucks.

And of course, no Christmas is complete without a fruitcake from Nahoums. The rich, buttery sponge is full of fruits and nuts and thankfully they don’t add any synthetic food colour, to give it some dark shade like a plum cake. Their vanilla and chocolate swirls, ginger cookies and coconut macaroons are delicious. However, their fish rolls and puffs are to die for. Crunchy on the outside with a spicy filling inside and perfectly cooked pastry, is bang on money!

When I visited the bakery, I had the fortune of meeting Isaac Nahoum (perhaps in his late 70’s now). He doesn’t live in India for too long and to my luck he had reached Kolkata just a night before. He insisted that I take his picture, with the photographs of his late brothers- David, Solomon and Norman, in the background. With a lot of pride, he served a piece of Black Forest Pastry to me and told me that he is planning to expand his business. How and when he wasn’t sure, but he really wants to enter the Delhi market. After meeting him, I felt so humbled and elated at the same time. Even though he wasn’t looking his best self, health wise, but that never seemed to subdue his spirits.

I walked out of the Bakery, thinking about all those times when I would be going back to Delhi and would leave my hostel room two hours early, only to buy Nahoums cookies for my family. And it was always worth it.

However, I would always make another stop at Flury’s, the legendary bakery that has been a landmark for many years and continues to be one, even today.

Flury’s

Started in the year 1927, this tearoom used to serve dishes, with British and European influences, since it’s beginning. The creamy pastries, the rich chocolates, the great range of teas and sandwiches make it a perfect place for meetings and conversations.

I remember, once I went there with my friends after dinner. John, a steward who has been working there for ages (who later became my friend) handed over two plates of pastries to me (one for my friend). I accidently dropped mine and without blinking an eye, he handed over another plate of fresh pastry for me. Since then every time I go to Park Street, I walk into Flury’s just to say ‘Hi’ to him.

Back in 1930, Mr. and Mrs. J.Flury’s had created a very contemporary European style tearoom, which was recently redone. However, they retained the 1930’s keeping the basic idea of the original tearoom. The Pink boxes and lavish chandeliers along with brown leather chairs gives the place, a posh yet relaxed feel.

Hugely popular for serving fabulous Rum Balls, Swiss chocolates, Pretzels, Marzipan chocolates and the best sandwiches, I can’t have enough of this bakery. Their chicken club sandwich is perfection personified and I have never had a club sandwich that is done so perfectly, besides Flury’s. Over the years, the quality has sadly gone down, but I still see the spirit in the staff, who showcase their loyalty for the brand, they’ve been working for.

Kookie Jar

The next one is Kookie Jar, younger than these two (30 years old) but certainly a legend in its own way. Started in the year 1985, at the Rawdon Street, by Lovey Burman, it was immediately welcomed by the people especially Martinians.

I, however, discovered Kookie Jar, back in my college days, while visiting the city center, where the second outlet came up after Rawdon Street. I was yearning for a rich chocolaty pastry, as I really missed that about my home (I only had an awful Monginis outside my college). So the moment I had walked into the bakery, I had ordered a Chocolate Pyramid. Years later in 2015, when I went back to Kookie Jar, I ordered for Chocolate Pyramid. The rich, soft, moist sponge with the silky, gooey ganache is just too good to be true.

Their Butter Sponge with Vanilla flavour is also very soft and fresh. Just heat it a bit and enjoy every bite with a cup of tea.

The bakery has always done pretty well, however, there was also a minor hiccup when a staff member stole the recipes and opened a bakery of his own. Despite that, Kookie Jar held its ground and walked out of the situation like a winner. They later hired an Italian designer and opened some more outlets in the city with a contemporary look and a bigger menu.

During my visits to these bakeries as a student, I had never imagined that one day I would become a pastry chef. After becoming one, I realised most bakeries smell of butter and cream, but these ones also carry a smell of nostalgia.

Also read : Heritage Bar and Restaurants of Kolkata

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