From cooking contemporary oxymorons such as chilli mango macarons to the good old-fashioned french pastries, Tukaway Café brings a slice of Paris to Chennai.
Hidden behind a veil of trees in a blind tree alley (much like the French allée) is a modest portion of a house-turned-eatery Tukaway Café that sings French in itself. The word on the street was that the café is true to its name for being tucked away in the residential neighbourhood of Chennai’s Thirumurthy Nagar, Nungambakkam. As I navigated my way on my scooter on a sunny afternoon, the word on the street seemed as good as gospel.
Upon ascending the stairs of the lush green property, I was pleasantly surprised at a sudden but mild drop in temperature. The diners who were seated on the balcony at noon, despite the limited but empty tables inside the air-conditioned store, were testimonials. Determined to find a seat indoors, I walked through the French door.
Before my eyes could adjust to the bright yellow lights inside, I was greeted by the aroma of freshly baked croissants. As a waiter arranged the freshly baked products on the glass display and an acoustic version of Alan Walker’s ‘Faded’ played in the background, I settled at a table. Meanwhile, a food companion who I had invited to make up for my small appetite arrived.
After a thorough look at their menu, it became apparent that they widely cater to eggetarians and non-vegetarians. Although they haven’t completely overlooked vegetarians, the options are notably lesser in comparison. Further, flavoured tart and flavoured choux among other weekend specific options were not available since I visited the café on a weekday.
Keeping in mind that nothing is as ubiquitous as coffee in France (and, of course, Chennai’s heatwave), I ordered a coffee cooler from the menu. It arrived in a tall glass with crushed ice and fresh orange peels. A sip of this refreshing beverage left a number of harmonious flavours on my palate. The flavour of espresso followed by the zesty notes of lime, orange, and kiwi left me wanting more. The beautiful play on the bitterness of an espresso shot with the sweetness and acidity brought out by tart fruits is what I now know as ‘summer in a glass.’
While I was slurping my beverage, my food companion wasn’t enjoying their cold coffee. I took a sip and figured that the refreshing iced drink didn’t highlight coffee as much. We agreed that the aftertaste was mostly milky, making it a good choice of drink for people who do not prefer their coffee strong.
To wash down the bland milky aftertaste left by the cold coffee, we chose savoury burgers as our main course. The chicken burger arrived with multiple layers held together, and an appetising sauce oozing out from places. In stark contrast, this dish did not pave way for any disappointments. It was pleasing to look at and savour.
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Each layer featured a particular texture and flavour profile. The tomatoes, capsicum, and lettuce added freshness and crunch to the burger. This was followed by the rich sweetness that the caramelised onions featured along with the well-seasoned layers of egg and chicken. Meanwhile, the barbeque sauce acted as the binding agent that brought the entire dish together. Their freshly baked buttery buns with sesame seeds enhanced the flavour and added another layer of texture to the dish. The most impressive part for me was that the burger didn’t disintegrate till the last bite.
To tend to our sweet cravings, we had to battle several tempting options to arrive at one. Although their chilli mango macarons and praline choux pastries were tempting, we chose the dark chocolate orange petit gateaux. A very elegantly made dessert with a mirror glaze and an intricate design of three rings on its top arrived. Almost immediately, it reminded me of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (if you didn’t know, the three rings in the novel represent magical artefacts).
Ready to be swooned by its magic, I watched the mirror glaze on the dessert reflect the silverware as I cut through. With its elaborately rich layers, this confection did justice to what gateaux truly stands for. On its base stood culinary nuts that added a praline crunch, followed by a layer of thick dark chocolate and orange ganache, and a layer of orange mousse. We discovered that the best way to savour this dome-like dessert was to eat the crown at the end since it had the thickest layer of orange ganache that left a pleasing zesty aftertaste.
Despite the layers of chocolate and fruity goodness, it turned out to be quite light as a dessert. So, we decided to top it off with ice cream. After much deliberation, I chose hazelnut ice cream. Upon arrival, the ice cream looked deceivingly beige and plain. However, a closer inspection revealed a yellowish ivory tint. The textural richness left a subtle flavour of hazelnut behind.
As we finished the ice cream, the kitchen door opened and Shruthi Sivabalan, the owner, and the head pastry chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu, Melbourne, arrived. Over our quick chat she mentioned, “I work along with two cooks and we have a 13-member team that supports us at both the back and frontends.” When questioned about the limited seating arrangement, she revealed, “Originally the idea was to run this café for takeaways only. It has only been nine months since we introduced dine-in as an option. We want to cater well to limited diners for now and promote takeaways.” As we said our final goodbyes, a middle-aged woman purchased freshly baked croissants for the road.
Address: Tukaway Café, Old No. 6, New No. 11, Brakathambal St, Nungambakkam, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600034
Timings: Open between 11:30 am and 9:30 pm
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
One dish we loved: Dark Chocolate Orange Petit Gateaux
One dish that didn’t work for us: Cold Coffee