The super exclusive Bombay club you’ve never heard of
Byculla Club and “the stuff of ambrosia”
Indians were not allowed to enter these exclusive Raj clubs which hosted some of the biggest names in the Empire: Lord Curzon, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, appointed Governor of Bombay in 1862, General Sir Douglas Haig, Inspector General of the cavalry in India, as well as Sir Basil Scott, Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay. Such distinguished patrons demanded meals worthy of their titles. According to Sheppard’s account, a French chef was brought into the kitchen, resulting in unique dishes that were the makings of the city’s urban legend.
Blending British and Indian cuisines, the Byculla Club’s menu featured dishes such as Craigie Toast, a chili omelet, tomato, and fried bread croutons named after illustrious club member Adair Craigie, and others. high-end inventions that used the most expensive ingredient at the time: ice cream.
A fascination in the late 1800s, ice quickly became a status symbol among the wealthy in India. Imported from Boston and isolated with sawdust along the way, American ice was all the rage. In 1840, the Byculla Club imported 40 tons of ice, for which, according to Sheppard, they paid a princely sum of Rs 300 per ton. The Club’s role in supporting the importation of ice is recorded in an 1839 edition of the Bombay Times: “The company will be deeply indebted to the members of the Club, for their encouragement of this vibrant enterprise, and we hope that action may be taken. be taken to ensure that the public fully enjoy this important luxury. “
Dishes that used this icy ingredient were quickly developed, no doubt to enhance the image of the institution in which they were served. From the kitchens and bars of the Byculla Club have come out drinks known for their size and potency such as the Capri Cup, with “chunks of ice, aromatic lime juice, green borage leaf, lemon juice. orange and liquor “, as well as The Byculla Cocktail which called for” a shot glass each of Noyeau, Ginger Brandy and Water “, with” a small amount of bitters “. The drink was then shaken and poured with crushed ice.
But perhaps the most famous of them remains that mellow and creamy delight, the Byculla Soufflé, which, according to Jennifer Brennan’s Curries and Bugles, A cookbook of the British Raj, embodied “the epicurean standards of the Raj at its finest.” The fame of the soufflé reaches mythical proportions among the vagabonds of the world. Using a blend of Kummel, Chartreuse, Curaçao and Bénédictine liqueurs with gelatin and cream, the club chefs created a dessert that was “the makings of ambrosia”. The dessert was placed in a mold, topped with mixed cookie crumbs, and kept in ice until ready to serve. For those who wanted to recreate this wonder at home, Sheppard offered his two cents: “To cooks who attempt to make the Soufflé and fail, a word of consolation can be offered: it can only be achieved perfectly in the kitchen. of the club. The grandiose descriptions of Byculla’s soufflé beg the question: if this culinary creation once delighted the city’s elite, why don’t we eat it today?