It is hard to locate K. Rustom; unless of course you have been there before. It is even harder to believe that a place so revered by the food lovers of Bombay can stand so inconspicuously in a dark deserted building. Luckily I have not had to find my way to Rustom’s tonight; my friends have driven me there.
I have heard a lot about K Rustom’s ice cream so my expectations from the place are sky high. In my head I have a picture of the place too: a cozy ice-cream parlour with pastel coloured walls, white wrought-iron furniture, and checkered table covers. I am also dreaming of scoops full of creamy and tart raspberry and blueberry flavours placed on delicate waffle cups and my mouth’s already watering. My reverie is broken when we pull up in front of a nondescript empty building in a rather dark lane. I wonder why have we suddenly stopped when I am told that we are already at our destination.
Rustoms, which is known to be an iconic ice-cream place in the heart of South Bombay – it stands just a few yards off the Marine Drive – seems like an indifferent little shop, unaffected by the glitz and glamour of its up-market surroundings. The people inside look indifferent too. A man who seems to be a part of the shop since the time it opened its shutters over 60 years ago, a lady who sits behind the rickety wooden desk, and the boys handing over ice cream to the ever eager crowd. The shop itself is nothing but a congregation of multiple deep freezers, a few plastic chairs and a hand-painted board.
It is the board, with a listing of the ice-cream flavours on offer, that first catches my attention. The list seems endless, and the variety is mind-boggling: from Chocolate to Paan, from Coffee to Toffee, from Guava to Peach, from Almonds to Rum, from Kokum to Kharbuza – the flavours are unique and diverse. After much deliberation I choose Nescafe.
The ice cream comes to me sandwiched between two paper-thin wafers, placed on a flimsy paper napkin. It is neither a scoop, nor a slice, but a thick slab. I am not sure how to eat it when I see my friends biting into the whole thing. I follow suit. The mouthful of frozen dessert numbs my palate for a second, and then the layers begin to unfold: it is at once creamy, luscious, flavourful, decadent. The sweetness is measured and texture perfect. By the time I am on to my next bite, I am already in love with Rustom’s, the indifference and the plainness of the place notwithstanding.
This post first appeared in The Hindu.