Metamorphosing from a cloud kitchen to walk-in to a sit-down café, Larder & Folk is redefining sourdoughs, sandwiches, sauces and snacks while laying lavish spreads for private parties.
“I want to be a chef and I’m not doing much about it. Also, supermarkets turn me on.”
Chef Priyanka Sardessai twirled a curl and laughed heartily when I asked whether she is the one who, several summers ago, made this confession on Twitter. On that handle, those two sentences served as Priyanka’s bio. “Is it still there? How did you find that?” she asked back while the two of us sat in the mint-fresh Larder & Folk café/restaurant in Malla (Patto, North Goa) and Siddharth Sumitran, her husband and everyone’s favourite ‘sandwich man’, smiled by the cash register.
Several summers later, the sourdoughs, the snacks, the babkas, cookies and strudels tell you of all that Priyanka has done to become a chef. And supermarkets might/might not still be a turn on, but she stacks a limited shelf of sauces and daily provisions. Chef Priyanka happily narrates all the in-betweens from that Twitter bio to the current glory of Larder & Folk. About her under-grad degree in commerce, about spurning the clichéd advice to become a chartered accountant, the café internships she dabbled in during under-grad breaks and that long flight to New York to study in the Culinary Institute of America. And, of course, of being born with an eclectic palate.
“I have always had a refined plate much before I learnt the basics of the art and the science of cooking. Then, the idea of becoming a chef was not even a distant thought but food was always a preoccupation and a passion,” Priyanka said while excitedly talking of her culinary journey.
As Siddharth rustled a Hot Gai sandwich (Buttermilk-fried chicken, Som Tam, Basil aioli, Brioche bun, Rs 450) and packed it in a brown paper bag for a bearded man in a skeleton-print tee, I ran through the menu hand-written on a blackboard nailed on the wall. Sandwiches (Mutton Kofta Sabich, Rs 500, Roast Beef Dip, Rs 450, Banh Mi with pork/chicken/eggplant options, Rs 400-480); Bowls (Dan Dan Noodles, Sesame spring noodles, both with pork/chicken/mushroom, options Rs 300-380); Doughnuts (Braided, Milk Chocolate/Vanilla Bombolini, Tiramisu, Limon, Rs 60-90); Buns (Dark Chocolate, Salted White Chocolate, Pimento Cheese, Rs 85); Pastries (Apple Strudel, Strawberry Cheesecake Tart, Gooey Chocolate Tart, Banana Cream Pie (Rs 70-180) and Cookies (80 gram, Rs 100).
Before I could pick a favourite, Priyanka listed the ones that fly the fastest off the shelf: Fried Chicken Sandwich, Tiramisu Doughnut (filled with Mascarpone cream and glazed with espresso), Limon Doughnut (filled with Diplomat cream and glazed with lemon) and Mutton Kofta Sabich (pita, mutton kofta, smoked chilli toum, chermoula & veggies). The pre-order loaves and Larder Essentials (pineapple hot sauce, chilli oil, mango-ginger mustard, banana-bread vegan granola) also have loyal buyers.
The electric mix stems from Priyanka’s inherent palate and in equal measure from her days in Harlem’s Red Rooster restaurant helmed by Chef Marcus Samuelsson, an Ethiopian-born Swedish-American celebrity chef, restaurateur and television personality. “There’s so much I learnt at Red Rooster. I waited tables, ran the till, created menus for special occasions and even picked the inventory mathematics,” Priyanka remembers with utter gratitude. She stayed in Harlem and the New York neighbourhood’s vibe and Chef Samuelsson’s passion for food rubbed off on the novice chef.
The 2020 pandemic threw a spanner in Priyanka’s plans to start her own kitchen. She had to settle for a cloud kitchen and then began the quest of a space for Larder & Folk. From cloud kitchen to take-away, it was in November 2021 that Larder & Folk finally opened its pretty doors to the public with six seats. A week later, Priyanka and Siddharth got married. Between them, she runs the kitchen, he is the photographer who loves sandwiches and assembles great ones, too.
It was a private Christmas party for designer Rhea Kapoor and her gang of friends that gave Priyanka the much-awaited dash of joy and fame. That one party led to another one in Goa and yet another one in Mumbai that Rhea Kapoor was hosting. Priyanka enjoys the days she lays a lavish spread for the host. “It can be chaotic but it is real fun,” she added.
From that girl who wasn’t doing anything about being a chef to the one who is doing everything right for a chef, Priyanka Sardessai has come a long way. Though Larder & Folk has not even marked six months on the calendar, she is already putting together ingredients for more bakes, snacks and essentials. And with a bowl of happiness.
Overall rating: 4.5 stars
1-10 for the following:
Food: 8. Pick their sandwiches, sauces, bread & babka
Service: 8. If only they stopped using paper cups & chose ceramic
Interiors/Décor: 7. Minimal & charming
Vibe: 8.5. No fuss, no noise
One dish we loved: Babka & sandwiches are crowd favourites
One thing that didn’t work for us: Very little seating space
Good to Know:
Shop#17, Gera Imperium Green, Mala, Panaji, Goa
Service options: Take away, private dining, dine in.
Timings: 11 am-8 pm