Nestled in the by-lanes of the Latin Quarters of Fontainhas, Panaji, Confetaria 31 de Janeiro continues to be a big draw, almost 90 years on
If the charming ambience doesn’t draw you, the tempting aromas drifting through the air most certainly will set your tummy rumbling and pull you in. Confetaria 31 de Janeiro, hidden in the by-lanes of Fontainhas, has an array of delicacies to choose from, that one will be quite spoilt for choice.
Having opened its doors on January 31, 1930 (after which it gets its name), the bakery was started by Andre Mascarenhas, who fresh from his stint at a French bakery in Mumbai, decided to put his talent to work.
“At that time, some relatives had been running the place, selling ‘unde’ and ‘pao’ (Goan breads). Apart from simple cakes like a sponge cake, people weren’t too familiar with other kinds of cakes. But when he opened the bakery he started with plum cakes, flower cakes, cream cones, etc,” says daughter-in-law Glette Mascarenhas, who is now running the space for the last 23 years. The bakery was also one of the first to introduce a bread slicing machine which was shipped in from Africa.
“There used to be customers queuing up right from early morning to sample the pastries, as these weren’t so common at that time,” says Gletta. And everything was done by hand, something which, the bakery still tries to adhere to, using machines only sparsely. In fact, the bakery is known for its wood-fired oven even today, and thus work begins at four in the morning to get the oven going. “We try to maintain the same items that the bakery has had and become known for over the years,” says Gletta, adding that it is this aspect that has led to the continued popularity of the space, evidenced by the constant trickle of customers right through the day.
In fact, they have clients who have been coming here for years and are now bringing their children and grandchildren. “There have been instances when clients who had their wedding cake done here are now coming in to order their silver wedding or golden wedding anniversary cake. Moments like this make me proud,” she says.
About three years ago, Gletta also introduced a menu of Goan dishes like sorpotel, beef rolladinhos, etc, with one dish available everyday over the course of the week. She has also added a charming outdoor seating section, with the tables adorned with Mario Miranda azulejos.
Having also opened up a branch in Caranzalem some years ago, Gletta has no interest in opening more in the near future. “I need my family time too. What I get is enough for me to survive,” she says.
But she does admit that like in any business there are challenges. “To run a business you need to know all aspects of the business or else you will be taken for a ride. For instance, I can be a cake decorator, be in the kitchen, be a dishwasher, etc,” she says. She also admits that one needs to ensure to maintain a cordial relationship with all the workers. “There are issues sometimes, but one has to learn to be flexible and adjust accordingly,” she says, adding that she favours Goans to help her out in the running of the space.
“Other bakeries get a chunk of workers from other cities. But you don’t get that Goan touch to the food when that is the case. It’s not the same,”