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The old world charm still thrives in Uttarpara’s century-old Lucy Babu’r restaurant

2 February, 2021 15:34:16
The old world charm still thrives in Uttarpara’s century-old Lucy Babu’r restaurant

People have been eating outside of the home for millennia, buying a quick snack from a street vendor or taking a travel break at a roadside inn for a bowl of stew and a pint of mead. In the West, most early versions of the modern restaurant came from France. The word restaurant comes from the French verb restaurer, “to restore oneself,” and the first true French restaurants, opened decades before the 1789 Revolution, purported to be health-food shops selling one principle dish: bouillon. The French description for this type of slow-simmered bone broth or consommé is a bouillon restaurant or “restorative broth.”

Indian eateries have been around since pre-Independence days. While restaurants have begun experimenting and embracing global cuisines across the country, these time-tested eateries carry with them a whiff of nostalgia that never fails to charm their loyal diners. Though many of them have evolved with time, these quaint eateries make for an interesting stop for every traveller looking to get a taste of history and local culture along with lip-smacking food. Calcutta, the colonial city developed by the British East India Company, grew at a frantic pace in the 19th century to become the second city of the British Indian Empire and also a hub of the restaurant culture. However, only a handful of restaurants operated in Calcutta a century ago.

Close on the heels of Calcutta, Lucy Babur Restaurant opened its gates to Bengali gourmet in Uttarpara, a suburb in Hooghly district, merely 10 kilometers from Calcutta around 1920’s. Located opposite the historic Uttarpara Library, this is the oldest restaurant in Uttarpara and is close to celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Indian eateries have been around since pre-Independence days. While restaurants have begun experimenting and embracing global cuisines across the country, these time-tested eateries carry with them a whiff of nostalgia that never fails to charm their loyal diners. Though many of them have evolved with time, these quaint eateries make for an interesting stop for every traveller looking to get a taste of history and local culture along with lip-smacking food.

If we time travel and recede a century, we can imagine the rigid traditional social structure of the time. Hence, to set up an eatery/restaurant in a conservative, small-town like Uttarpara was an enormous challenge indeed. In those days, vegetable sellers from far-off villages trudged to Uttarpara Market with their produce to make a decent profit. They would carry their lunch packs with them -- some would get puffed rice and others would carry home-made flat bread to eat during the day. However, boiled rice was the staple lunch for them all and they craved for home-cooked piping hot rice meals in the afternoons. Tridib Mukherjee aka Lucy Babu had noticed this yearning among the sellers and was determined to fulfill their dream. He started the eatery to cater freshly-cooked food to the shopkeepers and vegetable sellers. But soon enough, crisis escalated as the dark clouds of World War II loomed. Uttarpara Library was transformed into a military garrison. The soldiers posted there began frequenting the eatery and in no time, sales soared up. The restaurant was christened ‘Bandhav Restaurant,’ but the name did not stick to the establishment for very long. Instead, the eatery became famous as ‘Lucy Babur Restaurant.’ Sanjay Mukherjee and Shambhunath Basu jointly created a new signboard. 

Shambhunath Basu is not related to the Mukherjee family but Tridib Babu considered him as his eldest son and even to this day, Sanjay Babu refers to him as ‘Bor-Da’ (Elder Bro). Basu has been the pillar of strength and the main driving force behind the prosperity of the eatery. 

Times have changed and so have the food habits of the people but Lucy Babu’s Restaurant remains steadfast in its offerings. The restaurant seems to have got trapped in a time warp.  Nothing has changed here – the platters on offer have the distinct markings of home-cooked food -- the USP of this restaurant even to this day. 

Story Tag:
  • Lucy Babu’r restaurant, Uttarpara

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