A long queue outside a star hotel is not a common sight. But the erstwhile Great Eastern Hotel, which opened its bakery counters early on the morning of December 24, was an exception.
The young and the old from near and afar queued up outside the GEH, renamed The Lalit Great Eastern following the hospitality group’s acquisition of the hotel which traces its origin to the 1830s.
The bakery was closed down a few years ago — after an uninterrupted run since its inception — due to major refurbishment work undertaken by the private hotel group.
According to estimates, over the last two days, over 12,000 plum cakes and fruit cakes have been sold. On offer were plum cakes, fruit cakes, chocolates and cookies. The 100-year old oven manufactured in England by Baker Perkins Ltd. is no longer functional. But it has been preserved in a heritage block in the renovated hotel which had a ceremonial launch by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on November 19.
A 72-year-old woman from a suburb, a middle-aged office goer, a mother and child, all stood in the queue, at times patiently, at times not so. But wait they did for their trip down memory lane. Many shared their nostalgia about the Great Eastern cakes.
The bakery was started by David Wilson, a baker from Herefordshire, and became a household name among the British who queued up for fresh loaves and tea cakes. The British left India but the fame of the cakes continued, and queues of ‘brown sahibs’ got even longer.