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For India's swish set, the ideal mate has an Ivy League education, a successful career, a six-figure salary, and an exclusive club membership.
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When ITC Chairman YC Deveshwar wanted to take a group of British visitors out for a business lunch a couple of years ago, he didn't go to any of Kolkata's fine dining or speciality restaurants. He chose the Bengal Club that's next door to the ITC headquarters on Russell Street. The honey-glazed ham and lobster thermidor that was part of the four-course meal at Bengal Club that winter afternoon floored the Britishers, who were left amazed that such excellent quality continental fare could he had, well, outside the 'continent'. This epicurean excellence is what draws Kolkata's elite, and their guests from other cities across the world, to the stately portals of the Bengal Club in the heart of this bustling metropolis. Countless business deals have been facilitated over culinary delights ranging from smoked hilsa to Cantonese-style tossed shrimps at this club, established in 1827 in an imperial structure that belonged to Lord Macaulay.
It is the culinary tradition and its grand interiors that Bengal Club is justifiably proud of. Most of Kolkata's discerning foodies make it a point to place advance orders for turkey and ham, done to a fine turn, during Christmas and New Year's eve. Members of Bengal Club's reciprocal clubs like London's Carlton Club and Melbourne's Athenaeum Club are known to include Kolkata in their India itinerary just to have a meal at Bengal Club. In fact, Bengal Club's Christmas lunch of turkey and cranberry sauce draws guests from the Delhi and Bombay gymkhanas (both reciprocal clubs).
"I can think of no other place in Calcutta to take a guest for good food other than the Bengal Club. The food is simply divine, " says industrialist Sanjay Budhia. One would, then, have expected only foodies to seek entry into the Club. Far from it, it is the city's business and corporate elite who scramble for an entry into the club's membership list that reads like a who's who of Kolkata's swish set. Because, as Bengal Club CEO Brigadier (retired) Gunamoy Das explains, the elite of Kolkata love good food and can tell their minestrone from their gazpacho.
ENTRY FEE |
Rs 4 lakh (individual membership) and Rs 7. 5 lakh (corporate)
15 years for those lucky to be put on the list
FAMOUS MEMBERS |
Industrialist Harsh Goenka, former army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury
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