A few years ago, as I aimlessly wandered the streets of Brussels, I chanced upon the city’s most loved ‘boulangerie’, Le Pain Quotidien. As I sat down at the famous communal table, sheltered from a bout of inhospitable Belgian weather, I enjoyed the city’s best cappuccino (and I am very demanding when it comes to getting my cappuccino right) and a signature tartine. Little did I know that just a few years later, I’d be reviewing the second Mumbai outpost of this legendary Belgian brand, known for its simple but elegant menu options and generous doses of organic fare.
Le Pain Quotidien was founded in 1990 by Chef Alain Coumont in Brussels who lamented endlessly about the lack of superior quality bread in the city. This pushed him to establish this bakery that focused on making rustic loaves using traditional recipes. The rest, as they say, is history.
Le Pain Quotidien recently opened up its second Mumbai restaurant at the swanky Bandra Kurla Complex, a ten minute drive away from Mumbai’s restaurant hub, Bandra. The first thing that baffles most English-speaking Mumbaikars is its seemingly complicated French pronunciation. So here goes, give it a shot. Ler-Pan-Koti-Dian. I hope my phonetic representation does justice to the actual pronunciation. If you still can’t figure it out, ask one of the staff and they’d be glad to help.
Le Pain Quotidien is located in a plus commercial complex frequented by a well-heeled corporate crowd. At first, all I could do was gush in awe at the décor which has skilfully recreated a typical café in Belgium or France. Loaves of bread, stacks of baguettes in baskets greet you as does the whiff of brewed coffee. The days specials written in chalk on blackboards and beautiful wooden café furniture only add to the charm of the place. Le Pain’s antique style signature communal tables lie invitingly in the middle of the restaurant, but we chose a delightful round table by the floor to ceiling windows. Note: if you’re eating alone, the table for one in the corner, facing the street outside is absolutely perfect for you to enjoy a meal or your coffee-book sessions in peace and anonymity.
The menu was promptly brought to us and I pored over it to discover the delightful array of salads, tartines (Belgian open-faced sandwiches), mixed platters, mains and desserts.
Here’s what we sampled along with our verdict.
– Asian salad with carrot, cucumber, seaweed in a sesame dressing with tofu. A conventional way to start a meal at a Franco-Belgian style restaurant but it was worth it. Flavoursome, colourful and delightfully crunchy, the salad is a perfect summer option.
– Caesar Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Parmesan dressing. It’s easy to go wrong with a Caesar Salad with too much or too little of something. This one was perfect.I need not say anything more.
– Tuscan Platter with Parma ham, melon, Parmesan, black olive spread, sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta. There’s nothing more delicious than melon and Parma ham and we’re glad LPQ realises this. It was brilliant in its simplicity. The olive spread and ricotta were unfortunately neglected in the bargain.
– Grilled Chilli and Garlic Prawns with roasted potatoes, leek, bok choy and asparagus. This was an extremely tasty dish with a deliciously robust sauce but didn’t floor me. The presentation on the sizzling platter was strictly average.
– Sliced Tenderloin Steak with Sauteed spinach, kasundi mustard potatoes, prune and thyme sauce. This was the piece de resistance. Besides the steak, I would go back to LPQ just for a portion of these mustard potatoes. Smooth, mashed, creamy and brilliantly mustardy, it was something truly unique. A ‘must-order’ during your meal.
Since the weather was way to hot and humid for wine, we opted for Belgium’s best product: beer. The Hoegaarden served was awesome. Sincerely wish more people in Mumbai knew of and appreciated this unique beer. I willingly drank it without a fuss though it was not chilled to my liking. In fact, the table next to ours actually sent their Hoegaarden back. This, of course, was the only minus point of my entire experience.
Le Pain Quotidien delivers quality fare in a superb décor and lives up to its international name. If I were to compile a list of great European-style eateries in the city, this one would be on the list.
At the end of my brilliant meal, as I culminated by culinary ecstasy through a brilliant cappuccino, I couldn’t help but look back at my Belgian afternoon, a long time ago. From that warm cosy café in Brussels, to this swanky eatery in Mumbai, what a journey it’s been for Chef Alain and his team. As I nod my head and say ‘Oui oui’ in approval of Le Pain Quotidien Mumbai, I stop to thank the universe for giving me such wonderful ‘Daily Bread’, English for‘Le Pain Quotidien.’
G2, 3, North Avenue, Maker Maxity, Bandra Kurla Complex.
Timings – 8am to midnight