At last, after long prayers, winter has arrived at Kolkata. The fog is there to cover maidan and people have started wearing their customary monkey-caps. So, if winter comes, can breakfast in Kolkata be far behind? Kolkata has a culinary history of more than a couple of centuries and out of which, more than two hundred years was under the rulership of the British. So, an English breakfast in Kolkata is a pretty obvious choice. But what about the Mughlai breakfast? After all, before the British arrived, they were the ones ruling India. And not to forget our favorite cuisine – the Chinese breakfast …
So, if we talk about English breakfast in Kolkata, and a proper one with a la carte items, few places are there who do a really good stuff. And apart from good food, if we get the same, sitting in a heritage food joint, nothing can be better. Hence, let us talk on The Bakery, Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata– the oldest running bakery and patisserie in Kolkata.
A small history of The Bakery from The Lalit Great Eastern
“The Bakery”, being founded by Mr.David Wilson, a baker from England, had started its journey around 1830 and hence has been an integral part of Kolkata’s or rather India’s history. He started with the factory and a small confectionary shop with it and then gradually it became the favorite hangout of the the-then Englishmen of Calcutta. It gradually became the “Bread-Basket of East” serving English Bread to Kolkata and beyond, with adding up English Breakfast, and then the journey was never to look back.
In 2013 December, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group re-launched this legendary bakery in a new avatar. The pricing is still pocket-friendly and they offer a whopping 50% discount on selected baked items every day after 6 PM. The interior takes one back to the old British era. and I must say, with a few refurbished items and the heavy wooden interior, they have done a commendable job. In fact, I love sitting there after office with a cup of coffee, watching the busy office-para pass by, and wait for the clock to strike 6 PM, to start my shopping. But this story is on the a la carte breakfast that we recently experienced there.
What we do we mean by a continental breakfast
So, one of my friends came down from Assam and he was looking for a good family-friendly place for continental breakfast in Kolkata. Now let me be honest here. Technically, a continental breakfast means coffee (or tea) with bread rolls with butter/ jam. But in Kolkata, we understand something different. We understand a toned down version of Full English Breakfast (a much elaborate spread with fruits, cereals, meat, egg ) and trust me, it’s a really heavy thing. But if someone is not looking for a set meal, In Kolkata or rather in India, we also understand few French or American a la carte dishes also as Continental Breakfast. And, we were actually looking forward to something like that in this place.
And the items at The Bakery …
We were pretty sure that we won’t be going for any of their set breakfast platters and rather will taste individual a la carte items. So, when I asked our server, the first this he suggested was Eggs Benedict. And I couldn’t help but silently fall in love with the suggestion. Now, this Eggs Benedict is a wonderful dish. Technically, it’s two halves of a muffin topped with poached egg, bacon and with Hollandaise sauce. And I strongly believe that nothing can go wrong if there are eggs, bacon, and Hollandaise sauce involved. And this dish is a favorite breakfast in Kolkata, which originated in America, or rather New York.
But the first question that popped in my mind was why this strange name? And like almost any other things, there has to be a story behind it. The folklore goes with one Mr. Lemuel Benedict. In around 1894, to find a cure for his morning Hangover, he got into the Waldorf Hotel in New York and asked for buttered toast, bacon, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. The combination got so popular, that it was named as Eggs Benedict, but the toast was substituted with a muffin (source wikipedia).
The Eggs Benedict that they prepare here at The Bakery, was slightly on the rustic side. It had loads of bacon (perfectly done, not stiff) and with slightly less amount of Hollandaise Sauce. And this is a love-hate relationship. Some may like it immensely, few may not. For me, it was good. One needs to add some freshly crushed black pepper on top and you’re good to go. This dish is definitely recommended here.
We love Madame and not Monsieur …
And since we were not looking to have the traditional egg preparations, the sandwich was the next automatic choice. And let me tell you, for a sandwich is very much accepted for a breakfast in Kolkata. Here, apart from the standard stuff, few interesting items are there in the segment. And as per the suggestion, we ordered for the Croque Madame. And let me tell you, it’s one hell of a monster. Please don’t get frightened. In a layman’s language, it’s a traditional French Ham and Cheese sandwich with egg on top. The parent dish is called Croque Monsieur and this sandwich is a derivative of the same. But again, why the strange name?
The folklore goes like, during the work hours, the French workers accidentally left their lunch near a heated radiator and the heat toasted the bread and melted the cheese. And by sheer accident, history was borne. But can it be that simple? another story is slightly elaborate. It dates back to the early nineteenth century. When a cafe in Paris ran out of baguettes for the sandwich, they sliced some sandwich bread, loaded ham and cheese inside it and toasted it crisp. The French verb “Croquer” means “to bite” and while having the sandwich, somebody asked for the meat. The answer was “C’est la viande de Monsieur (It’s that guy’s meat)” pointing to the neighborhood butcher. And “Croque Monsieur” was born. Now maybe somebody wanted to enjoy an egg with it at some point of time and along came Croque Madame. We ordered for the Madame.
What came to our table, was real heavy. Loaded with ham and cheese, it was topped with a sunny side up. While I wished, they had served the egg along with the sandwich, rather than on top, the idea was to cut the egg, let the yolk flow down and enjoy with the sandwich. And so we did. The dish is served with a side of thick hand-cut herbed potato wedges, sun-dried tomato, and salad. Being a bong, I asked for some mustard with it. It was heavenly.
Along came the pancake
And the final dish for our continental breakfast in Kolkata was the Pancake. Yes, it’s those thin, flat batter fried cakes- to be teamed with sugar or savory items. It might be interesting to know that pancakes date back to ancient ages, rather stone ages. Researchers have found pancake in the stomach of Otzi the Iceman, dating back to 5300 years. Ancient Rome, Greece, Europe- different countries, ingredients varied, the names changed- but the item existed. But somewhere around 15th century, the name “Pancake” was invented in America. The earlier loving names were Indian cakes, hoe cakes, johnnycakes, journey cakes, buckwheat cakes and what not. Around the globe, crepe, Blini, our very own Puri, all can be called as the descendants of the age-old pancake. And here in The Bakery Lalit Great Eastern, they serve it as part of the All-day breakfast menu.
They serve three pancakes on a standard portion here. Garnished with crushed sugar, beautifully plated with fruits (which I didn’t touch), it came with a variety of accompaniments. Namely, marmalade, honey, poached pear, blueberry crush, and whipped cream– it was all one can ask for. We just needed to choose our poison and enjoy … I must say, if one is looking for a not-so-heavy breakfast and has a sweet tooth, this is the go-to-dish.
Some cappuccino to gulp it down
There’s a saying, all’s well that ends well. And we had to order a Cappuccino to end the meal. Here, they have a pretty unusual coffee cup and offers a squared slice of in-house chocolate along with it. I am as usual clueless and normally float it on the coffee and enjoy the bitterness with a tinge of a chocolaty affair.
Overall, it was a great breakfast. And while some might say that the pricing is a bit on the higher side, considering the portion size and the fact that it’s a premium property, let’s agree to disagree.
So, what are your favorite places for breakfast in Kolkata? Do let me know in the comment section.
And if you’re still looking for some bong Kachori walk, check this here …