A comment left on my Instagram post by my cousin sis who had been my closest friend during my childhood, left me in utter confusion… ‘Does Scoop still exist in Kolkata? Khoj korish toh/do check!’ The referred scoop is not an ordinary scoop of ice cream or a new piece of gossip doing the media round, but a very special ice cream parlour by the Ganges. Visiting Scoop had been a luxury, a special destination for a very special treat that required a lot of saving up. After all, Rs 25 spent on an ice cream sundae from a meager pocket money of Rs 50/week didn’t come cheap. And what was so special about this ice cream parlour? My childhood ice-cream *treat* memories have only 2 vector points – Scoop on the Ganges and Hobby Centre on Russel Street. Although there was another parlour – Tulika’s on Russel Street, but we always ended up going to the first two ones. The period I am talking about dates back to 1980s-90s – although, I would like to believe that I am not very old! Yes, Scoop does exist. And nothing has changed. After parking the car on the Strand Road, then crossing the rail tracks of the still existing Circular Railways (below), and walking along the newly painted repaired banks of the Ganges, you will definitely find Scoop. Scoop still stands in the same manner as it did two decades back – the walls are still painted in the same bright raspberry pink and orange – the same ice cream sundaes are still sold – Moon Magic (rich vanilla & delicious butterscotch ice cream in thick chocolate sauce with nuts and cherries), Tutty Frutty (1 scoop of vanilla, strawberry, tutty frutty dipped in sweet syrup, pineapple, cashew and cherry on top), Pink Affair (rich vanilla & strawberry ice-cream in delicious strawberry sauce with cherry on to), Desiree (2 scoops of vanilla, 1 scoop of strawberry with strawberry syrup and cherry on top)… and who can forget their signature sundae – As You Like It – a four scoop sundae where you pick your favourite flavours (it is still served in the same black ceramic glass bowl!)… notice, how each sundae is signed off with a ‘cherry on top’. And it seems like the laminated menu card has also not changed. The Love Affair and Zip A Dee Day had been scribbled off from the menu. Also, the man at the cashier – I think he was called Mr Kunal – he still sits in the same manner, in the same corner with the cash machine (I am assuming that this might have to do with Fung Shui!). Okay, so the Scoop is now called Kwality Swirls. Okay, so you can now order pizzas and pastas too… but I bet you can hear me scream – and I am screaming my lungs out – SCOOP STILL EXISTS! NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
NOT EVEN THE VIEW OF THE SUNSET. In an earlier post on Kolkata, I have written … we were always living by the water, and we were always facing the West, and hence the Sunset became the most necessary prop in all my emotional interludes at all stages of my life! I started hanging around with a gang (the friendly kind and not the mafia kind). We would gossip and pry on other gangs in our residential compound. And then we started venturing outside the compound. It all started with a cool place called Scoop, an ice-cream parlour – on the banks of the Ganges. For every emotional escapade we drove to Outram Ghat where Scoop was located. I remember the precise postal address of Scoop as well – 71 Strand Road, Fort William! Today, Kolkata has ice-cream parlours in each lane and by-lane. But not then. This time around, as we walked along the Ganges, my heart beat really fast – what if Scoop wasn’t there? What if it had been taken over by a glitzy cafeteria serving special Frappes and Lattes and specially designed fresh canapes and gourmet sandwiches? What if I walked up to the Scoop and all my childhood memories and nostalgia were swiped out by disappointment? I so wanted the ice cream sundae of my childhood – the over dripping chocolate sauce in a sticky glass container, the syrupy cherry popping out from the nuts sprinkled scoopy mountains of vanilla and butter scotch, and a crispy wafer waving from it all.
As we walked passed the chat kiosks that lined up the river bank, we asked for directions – Dada, ekta ice cream parlour chilo ekhane, sheta ki ekhono ache? An ice cream parlour used to be here, is it still there? And we arrived at Scoop. Getting there is not Rocket Science but it really depends upon where you happen to park your car on the Strand Road. The building is more towards the Princep Ghat, so if you have parked around the Outram Ghat, it’s going to be a long walk. The writing – Scoop – still loomed from above the building, over a constructed ice cream cone. It looked exactly the same. On the ground floor is the counter where you pay as well as collect your ice creams (still self service!). Upstairs is the air conditioned seating area. The fun thing about regarding self service in India, it is only restricted to carrying your ice creams upstairs and until you mess up the table with dripping scoops and crumbled paper tissues. Then you can very well leave the messy table to the next customers. In between, however, there will be some divine intervention from destiny and a staff will appear like magic and manage to clear up the mess. But all this is going to happen once you have secured your rights to sit. For, it is perennially crowded. Lovebirds will always occupy a table for four – they will snuggle into each other sitting tightly in almost 1 1/2 chairs, while the helmets, the college bags (I am now matured enough to realise that to be love birds you have to be in college – once you cross this age, your chance at striking the cupid is absolutely gone) and other knick knacks would occupy the remaining two chairs. Once you go up the stairs and open the glass door (that leads you to the first floor hall) which has become totally frosted due to the high humidity outside and the super cool air conditioning inside, you are struck by the beauty of the Ganges. Oh, the view hasn’t changed a bit. The boats, the skyline of the Howrah side, the Vidyasagar Setu or the 2nd Hoogly Bridge – everything looks the same – stunning, as the pictures below would reveal. The noise of the diners drowning in the Eagles playing in the music system, kind of brings you back to reality. We have to get some place first. Another shout out from the uniformed security guard cum doorman (remember Kolkata has a colonial hangover? So we are not used to opening our doors on our own!) that sounded new to me – Pizza 19? Pizza 19?Once the food gets ready downstairs, the security guard upstairs shouts out the order number (Pizza 19 in this case!). You now have to climb down and get your order and carry back your own food tray. No digital board that syncs with the prepared food downstairs? No need please… this adds up to the quaint charm. I took the Z-Sisters along with me downstairs to pay and place the order, while my parents were left upstairs so that they could occupy a table and the appropriate number of chairs . Otherwise, somebody or the other will ask you – Acha, ei chairgulo ki khali ache? Ektu boshbo jotokhon na apnar lok asche? / Are these chairs empty? Can we please sit till your friend comes? And of course, how can you snatch a chair back once it’s occupied? It is absolutely not a done thing, specially when Bengalis are known to be very generous and gracious as well! A few beautiful minutes of watching how the expert hands were creating some Moon Magic, a Green Mango float and a few other orders of ours, and we were back to the stunning view of the Ganges upstairs. Thankfully, both my smartphone and Nikon were there to capture these magic moments this time, saving me from the heart-wrecking experience that I had when I couldn’t click pictures of my Turkish ice cream episode in Istanbul.
Did it surprise you to hear that I had gone to Scoop with my parents? Actually, I don’t remember ever coming to Scoops with my parents. It was always with my friends. In fact, this could well be the first time that my dad was coming to Scoop. He had never been the ‘Let’s have some ice cream’ kind of dad. Neither had been my mum. Although, we had a very special childhood due to my dad’s nature of work and my childhood and creativity was shaped by the heritage building that I grew up in. Reality is that just a few hours before, we had a minor scuffle when he was trying to show off a bit of Kolkata to this NRI (non resident Indian) daughter and his grand daughters – this Maidan that you see is one of the best in the world – ei Srilanka jachish, ei UK jachish… ektu Kolkatata dekh baba! Dubaite erokom pabi na! / One day you are visiting Srilanka, the other day UK etc… see a bit of Kolkata. You will not get all this in Dubai!
All I want to say is that the way I see Kolkata, the way I capture Kolkata and share Kolkata with the world through my blog, or spread the word for Bengali cuisine amongst international audience, honestly, banters like these offend my sensibilities. I know each nook and corner of the city, I see beauty in the decadence (that’s the only irritating NRI trait I have) as well as bask in the glory of the modern shopping malls. I have taken the Z-Sisters everywhere from Kumortuli to Howrah, tasting Dilipda’s Phuchka in Vivekananda Park to taking them early in the morning at 6 o’clock to taste the Momos in the last Chinese remants of Tiretti Bazar… relax Dad, just tell me how you enjoyed your first trip to Scoop, the ice cream, your rendezvous with Ma… what did you think of the Moon Magic (repeating the description again – rich vanilla & delicious butterscotch ice cream in thick chocolate sauce with nuts and cherries)… or the Choco Brownie (3 scoops of chocolate ice cream in chocolate sauce with chunks of chocolate cake, topped with cherry)… the over dripping chocolate sauce in the sticky glass and the crunchy peanuts dunking out of the vanilla mountains? The haute-couture flavours like Hot Chocolate Fudge, Banana Split etc – were only available at Scoop once upon a time. For all it matters right now, is that Scoop exists. All the flavour exists. The riverside exists. The sunset exists. And also the lovers snuggling into each other and sharing their (ice cream) love from the same bowl of sundae (
and licking into the same spoon) exists! As we walked back to our cars, the heavy thunder clouds gave into rains – we didn’t struggle. Instead, the Z-Sisters and I got drenched as did the city… looking like a beautiful rain drenched sari clad Bollywood heroine, as we drove back!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
PS: Here’s a few post that captures my Dubai diary at this moment…
• Ramadan in Dubai | The Iftars And Suhoors Around Town
• Food e Mag dxb | The Ramadan Issue
• Opening Up My Bengali Kitchen For Dima Sharif
• A Different Kind of An Iftar | #FillingTheBlues
• Omnia Gourmet by Chef Silvena | Decadence, Deliciousness & A Lot of Expectations
• How Did I Fare In Showcasing My Bengali Cuisine? | On Zee TV Middle East
Dislaimer: Scoop is near Princep Ghat / Outram Ghat on 71, Strand Rd. 2 sundaes + 1 float + 2 scoops of ice creams cost Rs 400 approx. Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can catch my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. For more info on Kolkata and West Bengali, click here.