Name a better combination than contemporary aesthetics, classic French comfort food, and delicious signature cocktails. We’ll wait. Or you could just visit Café Noir instead
The pandemic may have waylaid those Parisian plans, but with the iconic French café brand ‘Café Noir’ now in Mumbai; you can definitely get a taste of it.
Located within the Lodha World premises, the much loved Bengaluru cafe brand is all set to create waves on the metropolis’ culinary scene. Driven by French brothers Jean-Michel and Thierry Jasserand for a decade now, the cafe is all about classic French comfort food alongside Italian staples.
Make no mistake, Café Noir remains Parisian at its core and gourmet in every facet of its offerings. Since being acquired by V&RO Hospitality, they’re ready to venture out from their established base in Bengaluru. Aside from their launch in Mumbai, reports have also mentioned potential Chennai and Goa branches in the pipeline. In 2020, Thierry decided to return home, which also led to the appointment of a new culinary director, Daniel Koshy. Considered a magician amongst bakers and coming in strong with three decades of experience, one can’t help but have high hopes from this quaint little cafe.
Since its inception, what earned Café Noir its legendary status are the finest arrays of cakes, sandwiches, quiches, and other bakery delicacies they have on offer. The location in Mumbai is hardly any exception, and in fact, boasts a menu with added items designed to surprise your palate.
The cafe itself is as picturesque as it gets. Almost akin to a painting of a French cafe come to life, the cream coloured walls offset the modern black wall sconces and black and white prints of the restaurant’s iconic architecture. Each picture has been carefully selected to showcase aspects of modern and traditional French cuisine or is simply a snippet from everyday life.
What lends the ambience of some 1920s style glamour lies in the detailing. The art deco-style mirror gives the high ceilings additional heft and makes the compact space roomier. Towards the end of the vertical space, you’ll find the bar cum cafe set-up. In true French fashion, a dessert counter replete with daily baked desserts paints an inviting picture.
All the interior design experts in the world wouldn’t be able to aid a restaurant that didn’t possess a strong menu in its kitty. Fortunately for Café Noir, that’s arguably the strongest part of their gourmet armour.
The staff is as knowledgeable as courteous, and are more than happy to guide you through the menu with some great recommendations. With Christmas fast approaching, the cafe’s house brewed mulled wine makes for a great start to the meal. The drinks menu features an exquisitely curated list of wines and signature cocktails for your selection. If the juxtaposition of coffee and spirits is your happy place, then the Irish Coffee and Noir Martini make for excellent choices.
On the business end of things, the food is a contemporary take on traditional French classics. While the Quiche Lorraine seemed more mealy and crumbly than most, the Truffle Scented Mushroom Cream crepe was a mouthful for more than one reason. The umami flavours of the mushroom and truffle are undoubtedly bold, but the overall creaminess dominates and ultimately overpowers the crepe.
It was the Pan Seared Scallops with the saffron cream sauce that shone bright as the star of the night. The scallops were cooked to perfection and complimented the rich saffron sauce extremely well. Fair warning, the dish is rather steeply priced, but oh so worth it for a special occasion or just some self-love.
The mains are peppered with a healthy mix of meat and seafood, all within a French framework of course. For those looking to venture beyond the safe waters of chicken and fish, however, I would recommend the Pan Seared Duck Breast. While the meat itself was cooked to tender perfection, the accompanying jus and sides failed to impress. Vegetarians, do not fret, there’s enough European flavour for you too. Having asked for a smaller portion of the Ratatouille, the presentation was unsurprisingly unorthodox. The flavours, however, were bold and bang on, a definite must-try.
Suggested read: Find your craft beer meets gastronomic happy place at HAPI Beer
But what’s a meal at a French cafe without some excellent desserts? In spite of wanting to have our cake and eat it too, our tightening waistbands forced us to narrow our sweet cravings down to a couple of desserts.
As informed by the staff, the Tiramisu is currently in its experimental phase, oscillating between brandy and cognac. Having sampled the one with brandy, the explosive earthy and bittersweet notes definitely left us biased to it. The Crème Brûlée was unremarkable in comparison, although it definitely catered to the basics of a velvety custard and caramelized top.
For the hardcore chocolate lovers, Café Noir has enough and more desserts lined up to satiate those cravings. From a traditional Opera cake to Eclairs, Bonbons and more, it’s the focused preparation and handling of high-quality ingredients that lends the cafe its authenticity.
Following the launch, VRO co-founder Dawn Thomas says, “Besides our posh new estate in Lodha World, we have elevated the interiors and made it closer to the timeless French bistros of Paris. Our menu is also a little different, as we are inviting Mumbaikars to come here even for dinner, and not just coffee.”
Needless to say, the Mumbai edition of Café Noir will be soundly in tune with the city’s vibes.