Gadbad and hot chocolate fudge

harish bhat | Updated on March 08, 2018

We all scream for ice-cream!


Ice-cream parlours have a special and delicious place in our lives

The largest ice-cream parlour in India is located in the beautiful seaside town of Mangalore. The iconic Ideal ice-cream Parlour can easily seat over 300 people at a time, and it is always full of people. It became so popular so quickly that the owner eventually had to open a second large ice-cream parlour, called Pabbas, in another part of the town. When I visited this parlour a few weeks ago, it was bursting at the seams. There was a long queue of people waiting impatiently to get in. There was another queue waiting somewhat more patiently, to take away ice-creams to their homes.

Within the parlour I saw people of all sizes, shapes and ages. Grandparents and infants, men and women, dhoti-clad people and stylish young computer engineers – all eating and talking most happily, in a state of ice-cream-induced nirvana. The menu offers over 20 special and customised varieties of ice-cream, in addition to all the normal flavours. These included delicacies such as the Parfait, Senorita, Beehive, Dilkhush and Duet. The signature dish at Ideal is called ‘Gadbad’ – a very tall transparent glass which has a layer of kesar ice-cream at the bottom, a layer of jelly next, then some dry fruits, then strawberry ice-cream, fresh fruits and finally, a huge top layer of fresh, fragrant vanilla ice-cream. I dug into my Gadbad with joyous abandon and walked out of the parlour with a sigh of satisfaction and a song in my heart. My wife, who ate the Parfait, had a very wide smile on her face too.

Landmarks in every city

I guess that’s what ice-cream parlours do to most normal people – they give us lots of satisfaction, joy and lip-smacking smiles. No wonder virtually every city in India has its favourite parlours, which are landmarks in their own right. In Delhi, my favourite place is Nirula’s in Connaught Place. I suspect it is favoured by many people of my 50-plus age group, because it existed in our childhood and college days, long before the Domino’s, Pizza Huts and Baskin Robbins came into our lives. Here, the signature offering is the Hot Chocolate Fudge Sundae, a sinfully delicious concoction made of soft vanilla ice-cream, topped with six varieties of crisp nuts, and a very thick, sticky, molten chocolate fudge which appears to be their secret sauce.

Closer home, in Mumbai, we simply love K. Rustom’s ice-cream parlour, located down the road from Churchgate railway station. Its ice-cream sandwiches are to die for. They comprise a thick slab sandwiched between wafer biscuits and wrapped in thin butter paper. Here you will find Peach Choconut, Rum N’ Raisin, Ginger Lemon, Rose Ripple, Green Mango and a host of other exciting flavours. The eternal favourite, however, is Walnut Crunch – lots of walnut bits blended with caramelised sugar. Unlike the Ideal Parlour in Mangalore, K. Rustom’s has little or no seating space, but there is always a large crowd milling at the entrance, and a couple of swanky cars waiting to take away lots of ice-cream for parties at home.

Similarly, lots of Bangaloreans will sing praises of Lake View Milk Bar, and if you visit Ahmedabad, you cannot miss the Havmor ice-cream shops strewn all over the city. Each of these places has a different signature offering, but most of them share one common feature – they are always full of people.

Anytime comfort

Ice-cream parlours draw so many people all the time because most of us love ice-cream, and the exotic sundaes and fudges that parlours serve are not easy to make at home. In addition, ice-cream is amongst our favourite comfort foods. If you are happy, you may want to eat ice-cream, to celebrate. If you are sad, you may want to eat ice-cream too, to banish your blues. You can bond together with your special friend over an ice-cream date. But if you have just gone through a break-up, you can sit by yourself, eat ice-cream to your heart’s content, and banish your blues away. The ice-cream parlour is thus a place for all moods and all occasions.

Another reason why ice-cream parlours are so full all the time is that it is perfectly reasonable and acceptable to eat ice-creams at any time of the day – morning, noon, evening, night, even midnight. I often eat just a large bowl of vanilla ice-cream topped with hot chocolate sauce for dinner, primarily on weekends, and find it to be a very satisfying meal.

Many of us, post-lunch, will drop by at a sit-down parlour or a take-away ice-cream shop, to have ice-cream for dessert. And on a hot summer morning or afternoon, cold coffee with a scoop of ice-cream is a favourite at many parlours and coffee shops.

Family and health

Ice-cream parlours also serve the important human need of bringing the entire extended family together, across age groups and gender, in a happy out-of-home setting. Conservative grandparents may not like pizza or pasta, young kids with westernised taste buds may not like idli and sambar, and the US-based NRI cousin who has come to India for a holiday may not have the stomach for spicy pav bhaji.

But everyone likes ice-cream, so the parlour is a natural place for the family to head to, an inclusive place where everyone will feel catered to and happy. “Let’s go out for a drive to eat ice-cream” rarely gets a negative vote from anyone in the family.

In a world where the most pleasurable fast foods are generally perceived to be relatively unhealthy (think pizza, fried chicken or cheeseburgers), ice-cream parlours are unique in offering a food that most people consider to be both delicious and healthy. Since ice-cream is made of wholesome milk that contains calcium and vitamins, as toppings of nuts on sundaes are also seen as nutritious, occasional visits to a parlour can offer health-conscious people the best of both worlds. Many people who hesitate to visit fast food restaurants because of health considerations are far more comfortable going to an ice-cream parlour. Also, many big parlours now offer sugar-free and low fat ice-creams, if you happen to be on that sort of a diet. No wonder all these parlours are full.

Dentists and children

The ice-cream parlour, and ice-cream in general, also serves some important specific needs which recur in our lives. For instance, none of us enjoys a visit to the dentist or an extraction of a tooth, but when this unfortunate event does occur, ice-cream tops the list of what to eat. This is because ice-cream is cold and therefore minimises any post-surgery swelling in the mouth. This is also because soft ice-cream does not need much jaw muscle to eat. Each day, there must be several thousand tooth extractions occurring in any large city, and lots of these people must be quickly heading to ice-cream stores. That’s a nice, big consumer segment.

If your child is crying non-stop because of a fall, injury, or some similar reason, a visit to the neighbourhood ice-cream shop is perhaps the quickest method to bring a smile back on his or her face. A child that has eaten ice-cream is generally a transformed child. Actually, I would say that of adults as well. And if this happens to be a techni-coloured, multi-layered ice-cream in a tall glass, then the transformation is absolute.

Ice-creams are magic, because they serve all these diverse human needs and deliver so much spontaneous happiness. Parlours are the theatres for such magic. Hence, they will always have a special and delicious place in our lives. If you have a special ice-cream parlour in your life, do write in and let me know.

Harish Bhat is author of Tata Log: Eight modern stories from a timeless institution. These are his personal views.

Published on September 29, 2016

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