Place of the Month - Park Street
The history of the street can be traced back to 1767 with the opening of a cemetery, now called the South Park Street cemetery. The street originally called “Badamtalla,” a name that it had received from the large number of almond trees in the area, began to serve as the Ghorustan ka Rustah or “Burial Ground Road” after the old burial ground (later St. John’s Church) was filled and closed in 1767. Situated right opposite the White town, the new Fort William, Park Street served as the route through which funeral processions would pass from the town to the Circular Road burial ground.
In the beginning of the twentieth century the big mansions started coming up on the western part of Park Street (towards Chowringhee Avenue), transforming the street to a “boulevard of western grandeur.” To add to this grandeur emerged restaurants catering to a European clientele whose horse-drawn gharries would wait outside transforming the boulevard into a landscape of English elegance.
There was a continuous attempt to create a sense of place and identity different from that of the natives living in the city. Kolkata is a city of contrasts and one that exists with one eye firmly turned towards the past. And Flury’s is one of those legendary establishments that has lived out its many decades as a coffee house and patisserie. It is one that is of great repute and character across the country.
In 1927 Flury’s—the first tea-room on Park Street—was opened by a Swiss couple, Mr. and Mrs. J Flurys. Founded on the stylish food corridor of Calcutta now Kolkata, it was a meeting place to savour authentic Swiss and international delicacies and a place to indulge oneself with family and friends. It became immensely popular all over the country as the “only tearoom that evoked the feeling of far-away Europe.” This first venture paved the way for other eateries to open in the vicinity. The development was, however, slow and took almost another 15-20 years to progress.
The atmosphere including the design and style play an important role “in the promoting of restaurants as is the food itself. European restaurants opened in Kolkata were similarly not there merely to feed people. The architecture of the restaurants, the design, styles and cultural breitling replica materials within the restaurant spaces that were in resemblance to the European way of life–all combined to (re)create a sense of place—“the feeling of far-away Europe.” Moulin Rouge in Park Street best exemplifies this argument. Built in resemblance of one of the oldest night clubs in Paris, the restaurant contained two giant-sized paintings covering two walls–one of chorus girls performing cancan—lifting their feet in the air in unison and the other of a dreamy, romantic landscape of the River Seine in the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. The windmill outside against a wall of red and white bricks was a visible attempt at replicating the Moulin Rouge in France-a way to reinstate the European identity on space.