The aroma of freshly baked bread wafting in the air welcomes you at Le Pain Quotidien, Mumbai's latest bakery-restaurant. But this is just the prelude! Here's a detailed account on the exploration of the newly found 'home'...
By: Salman Z. Bukhari
Posted on: May 10, 2011
The aroma of freshly baked bread wafting in the air welcomes you at Le pain Quotidien, Mumbai’s latest bakery-restaurant. But this is just the prelude! Here’s a detailed account on the exploration of the newly found ‘home’…
Have you ever walked into a restaurant and felt that feeling of ease and warmth enveloping your existence? Without ordering a single item on the menu, had your instinct tell you this visit is going to be worth it because everything around is just that way it should be? Mumbai’s latest restaurant is everything and more.
In 1990, the young chef Alain Coumont, dissatisfied with the quality of bread, started his first café-restaurant in Brussels, Belgium and called it Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread in French). What started off as a quaint eatery has now grown into a global chain which currently operates in 26 cities across 19 countries and 151 bakery-restaurants, with the latest and first one for South Asia in Mumbai.
As soon you walk in, you can’t help but marvel that homely familiarity of the place accentuated with rustic furniture, exposed brick walls and smiling attendants. Right in front of you is an inviting counter filled with baked delights from croissants, to apple crumble pies and lemon tarts. On display at the wall behind it are rows and rows of breads which will make even the biggest carb-fascist weak in the knees. You suddenly realize that you are behaving rather badly with all the ogling and making mental notes on which dessert to have before, during AND after your meal. Good sense prevails and you walk in further to find your table which has a spot light right above you, giving that great ‘golden’ glow placed at respectful distance so that you get your privacy. But then, is there any privacy at home?
Le Pain Quotidien’s best feature most definitely is its long communal tables (one on each level). It nudges you to stop being a prude and sit next to someone unfamiliar who is just as excited at making a new acquaintance or sharing space and breaking bread on the same table as any other diner. Needless to say, the communal table is way too inviting to ignore and we find ourselves seated next to a French couple and an Indian family, each engrossed in their meals but making it a point to look at us and smile. We smile back without any hesitation. It’s the warmth of the place which has now totally taken over everyone…Lovely.
Our host hands us the menu and a wine list promptly while serving us our preferred water. A quick glance to the left and we want what the French couple is having, then suddenly to the right and the Indian couple’s dinner is as pleasing. It can be a bit difficult ordering considering everything looks like some aesthetician is working overtime in the kitchen sending out plate after plate of ‘Not trying too hard but still good looking soul-food’.
We decide on the Scottish smoked Salmon Tartine with chopped dill and scallions with a serving of apple and egg salad with Danish blue cheese, arugula and basil pesto to whet our appetites. When our order arrives, we give up all good manners and just dive in. The
Salmon Tartine (an open faced sandwich with a whole wheat organic bread base) is ‘melt in the mouth’ variety and the salad does not disappoint either, with its generous serving and heavy handed blue cheese - no one is complaining!
An unusual feature on the menu are the hot dishes which is unique to the Indian Le Pain Quotidien. “While the staple LPQ menu consists of room temperature dishes, we made an exception for our Indian patrons who are experimental but still want their food piping hot,” explains the manager. Lasagne with ricotta cheese and mushroom, Tenderloin steak, New Zealand Lamb Chops, Grilled prawns and Grouper with burghul risotto - the choices are limited, but lip-smackingly wholesome for both vegetarians and us carnivorous. We opted for Seared Basil Chicken with chilli potatoes, spinach and lemon sauce and if only you could experience the mild explosion of flavours which happened on each bite, you’d know what we mean. It was something we will not forget for many days to come. We double checked with the server if Nigella Lawson or Martha ‘Domestic Goddess’ Stewart was hiding in the kitchen, and they didn’t get the joke!
Finally the time to sin arrives and the dessert counter, which seduced us on arrival, is ready for attack. The blueberry muffin is not your fluffy, topped up with jam on the outside version, instead it is a bit firmer, soaked in butter with pieces of the berry - we like! The Pain au Chocolat, a bread puff filled with gooey chocolate is delightfully light and the lemon tart has the right amount of zest with a silky tart filling inside a crispy baked pie base.
We ended our meal with a latte, which comes in a small bowl, bowling us over completely. It is exactly how we had our hot beverages in our grandmums’ home. The hands touch the warm surface as you slowly sip on your caffeine fix. Bliss.
Although we cannot stop gushing about the place, there are a few areas of improvement.
Yes we know Le Pain Quotidien is built on the foundations of flour, but reducing the bread content or adding more non-bread items would be a thoughtful step towards patrons on a weight loss program. If you are planning to sip some wine with your Daily Bread, the wine list is very limited and leaves a lot to be desired.
No visit to Le Pain Quotidien is complete without a take-away order of the wonderful breads which are baked daily in batches. Choose between the large whole wheat bread or what we call ‘the bread orgasm’ Multi Grain bread which has precious little dark raisins tucked in for that added fruity blast with a crunchy texture. The restaurant will gladly slice it for you and gently wrap it in paper bags. A word of advice, don’t ruin it by refrigerating it, keep it outside.
As we step outside, there is a mad traffic, snarls of motorists, people walking by without noticing who they are bumping into. It’s back to a balmy summer night in Mumbai and we realize how much we are missing ‘our home’ already. Across the street are Indigo Deli, Moshes and the latest ‘The Table’. We’ll be visiting them soon when we want a restaurant dining experience, but on the days when we just want to hang around, break bread with someone we can talk to for hours at a stretch, we know just the place to go. Don’t bother if you cannot pronounce its name, just call it LPQ.
The meal for this review was not paid for by the restaurant. We prefer to settle our own tabs!
Coordinates: Le Pain Quotidien, Dhanraj Mahal, opposite Indigo Deli, Colaba, Mumbai
Tel: 22 66150202
Open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.