The inviting aroma of freshly baked cakes wafts through the air in the lane leading to Kalpana Vakharia's house in Banaswadi.
As one enters the compound, the first one to greet you is a 1.5-year-old husky who leaves you alone only after having sniffed you to his heart's content.
To the right is a residence and to the left is a workshop where a couple of workers scurry as they prepare to deliver the day's orders.
This is the factory of one of Bengaluru's oldest ice cream parlours, the Lakeview Milk Bar. From cakes to ice creams, pizza bases, burger buns and breads, everything sold in Lakeview is manufactured here.
For over eight decades now, Lakeview has been satisfying the sweet cravings of Bengalureans, young and old alike.
Kalpana Vakharia in her bakery.
Ask Kalpana, the owner, what it is to have a cake factory right outside your house, and she smiles and says, "Whenever we have birthday parties in the house, we don't eat much cake. But it's always there in the house. We never have to get cake from outside. But I still like to go out and eat desserts."
On a typical day, the staff bakes nearly 150 kg of cakes and churns over 600 litres of milk to luscious ice cream for its three branches in MG Road, Indiranagar and Koramangala.
Though there's a generous helping of sentimentality that is associated with the brand, the owners believe that it is vital to keep up with the changing times to survive.
Lakeview was started by James Meadow Charles, an Englishman, in 1930 in Bengaluru.
Back then, only three flavours of ice cream, vanilla, chocolate and raspberry, were sold in carts that were cycled around the city.
In 1947, the Britisher decided to move back to England when India got its independence and sold his business to a 19-year-old local named Vrajlal Jamnadas.
"My grandfather was just out of college then and enamoured by ice creams, I guess. He bought Lakeview as well as the carts and the recipes," says Anish Vakharia, Vrajlal’s grandson, who runs the business currently with his mother Kalpana.
In 2001, Vrajlal's three sons decided to split their partnership and the reigns of the business were fully taken over by Deepak, Anish's father.
When Deepak passed away in 2011, Anish, a cricket enthusiast, joined the family business.
"I've grown up with Lakeview. I would come to the store and run around and have fun. In fact, I learnt cycling on MG Road. I'd come here and trouble my dad to take me out. Back then there was no traffic. So, it is not just about Lakeview but this whole experience of growing up on MG Road," he recollects.
"It fills us with nostalgia"
The first Lakeview branch was set up opposite the Ulsoor lake, where currently stands the glossy 1 MG Mall. The lake used to be clearly visible from the parlour, thus giving the latter its name.
In the 1970s they moved to MG Road, where they still operate from. It is only in the past few years that Lakeview opened two more branches in other parts of the city.
Freshly baked bread.
Kalpana, who hails from Mumbai, got married into the family in 1985 and started working full-time in the business in 1998. For many of her customers, especially the older generation, coming to the place reminds them of an era gone by.
"Till now people come and tell me, 'We had our first date here and we had the Honeymoon Special'. You know, those things are so nice. It fills us with nostalgia," she says one afternoon as she takes a break from baking.
Buns ready to go in the oven.
Anish says it is because of their efforts to maintain the quality and taste of their products that customers keep returning for more.
"We get customers who've come here 20 or 40 years ago and they tell us, 'You guys still taste the same'. We try to maintain the quality here. We have been using the same manufacturing process that we had in 1947. Obviously, we have newer machines which help us work a lot faster, but the idea is to maintain the same product which has worked really well for us. Simultaneously we want to give people an experience. We don't want to be a store where people get in, get their ice cream and get out," he says.
"Honeymoon Special" and other popular items
Over the decades, Lakeview has steadily expanded its menu to include snacks such as cutlets, sandwiches and fruit salads, apart from their signature ice creams.
The popular flavours continue to be chocolate, vanilla, pista and raspberry, whereas thick shake lovers swear by the red velvet, cheesecake, oreo, black-forest cake and truffle variants. The classic sizzling brownie sundae and black-forest special are also crowd-pleasers.
A multi-layered cake rests on a table top at the bakery.
And then there are those with unusual names such as Merry Widow, Joker Man, Rhapsody Sundae and Honeymoon Special.
"A lot of our customers back then customised their own ice creams, mixing flavours and toppings according to their liking. And in some cases, we stuck to a few names," Anish says.
One story goes, though Anish is not sure of its authenticity, that a close friend of Vrajlal from England had come down to the city for his honeymoon. He tried several combinations, but finally stuck to one which had four scoops of ice cream with sauce, cream, rose syrup and a generous helping of canned fruits on top. And that’s how the Honeymoon Special was born.
"Competition keeps us on our toes"
Bengaluru's expansion, just in the last two decades, has been nothing short of phenomenal. Many old businesses have faded giving way to newer, fancier stores.
The old establishments that have managed to survive the changing trends are an inseparable part of the city's rich cultural history, but face cut-throat competition.
A Lakeview staff gets ready to deliver a cake.
"It is a challenge, of course," says Anish. "But without a challenge, we just don't grow. We take things positively and grow in our own way. Maybe we won't do cold stone ice cream because that’s not something that we are ever going to get in to. The competition keeps us on our toes."