Get in touch with your sweeter side and get a taste of some fine delicacies. LuxuryFacts savours Belgium's Fine Patisserie - Debailleul - in Mumbai
By: Salman Z. Bukhari
Posted on: August 10, 2011
Get in touch with your sweeter side and get a taste of some fine delicacies. LuxuryFacts savours Belgium’s Fine Pâtisserie - Debailleul - in Mumbai.
A few weeks ago, while strolling down the most fashionable city is Asia – Tokyo, I made a quick pit-stop at a quaint patisserie. With my sugar levels declining after all the shopping and walking, the sinful mountain of macaroons seemed like the right answer to give me that much required kiss of saccharine. I walked out content, hoping they never come to my hometown, for their rich, indulgent and delectable pastries would mean a guaranteed entry into the diabetics club in a matter of weeks.
Next thing we know, I find myself inside a Belgian boutique with gateau and choclat and glacée and everything sinful, but this time around in Mumbai (which makes me wonder, sometimes I should not wish for Lanvin and Prada to open up in India. Who knows…they might just!)
Founded in 1983 by Meilleur Debailleul (a Meilleur Ouvrier de France honouree) – Debailleul has a very short history, and an even smaller team consisting of around 35 odd people who have come together over their love for gourmet delicacies which are handcrafted painstakingly and with great attention to detail.
Even before I entered their 1000 sq. ft. Indian flagship boutique, I could see carpenters and masons hurriedly adding finishing touches to the store, which opened to public on August 1, 2011. Privileges of reviewing are sweet. This time, they were sweeter, because I knew what awaited me inside…a reprise of taste-orgasm which left me feeling indulgent and happier for making the right decision that fateful afternoon in Tokyo when I first met this luxury chocolatier.
First things first, my sugar craving eyes spot the macaroons which made me go weak in the knees a couple of weeks ago, then the big question - “Would they be as good?”. Sinking my teeth into the soft-centred delight, I heave a sigh of relief. They are exactly how they should be. I wondered how they managed to retain the same taste and freshness? “Shock Freezing,” explains Ms Karen de Souza of Writer Luxury, a subsidiary of the logistics company Writer, which has partnered with Debailleul to make an India entry.
But why would a luxury chocolate and pastry maker tie-up with a company which specializes in moving things? An odd combination I wondered. Mr Hans Pauwels, the managing director of the brand, who was brimming with joy on his new store, agrees that the partnership is odd-sounding to many, but makes complete sense at the same time. The brand makes everything it retails out of a central kitchen in Brussels, and then exports them periodically to all its stores and clients globally, making it a logistical nightmare, but it is something he is willing to stick to as it allows Debailleul to maintain consistency, quality control and total integrity of whatever goes inside their craft. In such a situation who can be better than a logistically-sound partner who has been in India for a while and understands this market better than a bunch of guys from Europe?
The interview is forgotten for a brief moment as the Lemon Tart and Butterscotch Milk chocolate is savoured, but Mr Pauwels understands the amnesia his creations can cause. I regain consciousness and ask why did they select Prabhadevi of all the places in Mumbai, which is not exactly known for an uppity image, and not exactly the place you would expect a Luxe lover to stroll in. “Mumbai is dynamic and forever changing. I believe every locality is undergoing a transformation at a neck break speed. The propensity to spend and indulge is growing and the new Indian is waking up to finer things in life not dictated by the location. Besides this area is bang in the middle of South and North Mumbai making it accessible to both sides of the city,” he says. Point noted, but I am also adding frightful real estate prices of South Mumbai as one of the key reasons.
He is honest when he confesses that the reason for increasing the footprint of his family owned business into India is ‘growth’ since Europe and Japan’s economic climate continues to look grim. His loyal clientele, which swears by everything Debailleul, is indulging a bit less, making emerging markets like India a step in the right direction – specially with the country being enveloped by a collective wave of decadent consciousness.
The client portrait is expectedly late 20s to middle aged, working professionals with a high disposable income and an appetite for fine gourmet food. Does the same apply to India? “Yes,” says this MD, and to that add entrepreneurs, housewives, and 40 year olds too! His favourite clients are those who may not have huge wallets, but still give in to their desires occasionally, escaping into a luxe version of Willy Wonka’s world, and those who remember this brand from their childhood and now want their children to experience the joys which tease from behind the glass counters.
The best part of the evening is the creative force behind the delicacies – Ms Reinhilde Gielen. She is a passionate woman, and is forever observing, getting inspired, but sure about how she wants her brand to look, felt and be experienced. “It is a marriage of traditional and modern, simple and complex,” she whispers as she delicately opens one box after another like sharing a secret. Her latest fixation is abstract art, but Victorian designs are always close to her. I ask her why she does not consider India-inspired designs. She is open to the idea as long as it can be contemporised and not pigeon-holed into ‘Indian’ or ‘Chinese’ because provenance is important to the brand – so localization is not going to happen for some time.
The décor might not do justice to what they sell, making it a big minus. So either drop in to witness the fine display or simply order over the phone a variety of chocolates, sorbets, ice-creams, pastries (gateaux, macaroons, tarts) and breads (croissants, brioche and pain au chocolate). It is an impressive gift to give someone or yourself.
Next stop after Mumbai is Delhi, but before that is China this August, says Mr Pauwels. The husband-wife, business-creative duo is like Ying and Yang, but have the same sweet tooth and a heart that beats for the finest things man can taste.
Coordinates: Debailleul, Emca Sadan, Appasaheb Marathe Road, Prabhadevi, Mumbai – 400 025