Out of approximately 15 people standing inside the city’s oldest bakery and confectionery store, Wenger’s, 10 either have paneer rolls or chicken or vegetarian patties in hand. It’s 72-year-old manager, Charanjeet Singh, who’s been working here since 1965, looks up at us and gives us a knowing smile and says in the most soft but persuasive tone, “You’d be making the right decision if you choose from one of these signature items. They’ve been on our counters for decades now, and the first batch often finishes within in the first couple of hours.”
What started out as the first bakery to offer margarine, Swiss chocolates and French breads for the residents of the Imperial capital has now gone on to offer all kinds of cookies, chocolates, quiches, sandwiches and more, that’s more favourable to the city palette. “There are few restaurants that have stood for so long. In fact, since it was designed in 1926 by a British architect, it’s undergone many changes; for one, it’s been reduced in size. But, that didn’t really affect its popularity. The long lines you see at the counter everyday is testimony to our strong brand identity,” says Singh with a smile.
He’s clearly a loyalist. After all, it’s rare to find a manager who’ll stick on for so long. The trust and responsibility Atul Tandon, the bakery’s current owner, has entrusted upon him, makes him beam but only in spurts. Singh is aware of the weight that’s been bestowed upon his ageing shoulders and he doesn’t want to let his confidence get to his head. So, every morning, he gets to work at 11.30 am and leaves only after eight once the last customer has left. “I see this place every single day. I notice how much people love it. It makes me realise that we cannot falter at any step, and that I make sure by regular quality checks,” he says.
The signatures will continue to be bestsellers, even though there is delicious diversity in terms of snacks and drinks, according to Singh. It may not be so much about the perfection of flavours of these dishes as it may be about the association patrons have with the place and its offerings. It’s years of savouring and coming back for that consistency. No wonder then that Wenger’s remains one of the few restaurants that has seen the rise and fall of the British reign and still continue to tell their sweet story of sucess. It deserves attentive ears.