Even in a metropolis where tradition and food combine to cook an aromatic broth, where seekers comb barely navigable warrens for an authentic ladleful, 12, Ganesh Chandra Avenue is unlikely to ring a bell. Tucked away in a timeworn corner off Central Avenue, one of Calcutta’s busiest thoroughfares, where history makes a defiant stand on either side of its long stretch from Esplanade to Girish Park, our family restaurant, Eau Chew, has been part of the City of Joy’s heritage.
This is Eau Chew’s 100th year. It is Calcutta’s oldest family-run Chinese eatery, one that hasn’t succumbed to cheesy commercialisation or kitschy publicity. For most people, Calcutta’s famed Chinese eateries mean those on Park Street or China Town in Topsia or Tangra in the east. But which Chinese restaurant can claim to have a son cooking the pork and stewing the chicken, the mother preparing the sauces and noodles and the wife doubling up as a cashier-cum-waiter?
Eau Chew, or ‘Europe’ in Chinese, goes well with the old cosmopolitanism of Calcutta, polished to perfection like an heirloom made of teak. It is part of central Calcutta’s heritage, much like two of the city’s oldest theatre houses, Mahajati Sadan and Star. With two media houses—Anandabazar Patrika and The Statesman, Calcutta Medical College, Calcutta University and heritage offices like CESC at Victoria House and engineering firm M.N. Dastoor on Mission Row in its vicinity, Eau Chew has had an emotional connect with passing generations.