When I came to Bombay 6 years back, our most common hangout place was the omnipresent but utterly forgettable “Cafe Coffee Day”- also lovingly called “SiSiDi” (CCD) by its patrons. At all CCD outlets back then, you were likely to find a mix of giggling girls, a couple or two and the occasional loner tucking into overly sweet iced coffee and a sad little microwaved sandwich while the likes of Selena Gomez crooned over the speakers about how she loves you like a love song.
Words fail me when I try to express just how glad I am to have witnessed a marked progress in Bombay’s casual dining scene since then. But our visits (yes, multiple) to the lovely La Folie Lab over the weekend while completely different from the drab CCD meetups had me reminiscing. Because something about this place is just so…familiar. So homely.
The latest outpost from Pastry Queen, Sanjana Patel, La Folie Lab has the added distinction of offering a generous assortment of savoury eating plates to complement her reputed dessert menu. The interiors are a study in restraint, with adequately spaced tables, minimal wall accents, a bunch of very interesting wall-mounted hand sculptures (cracking eggs and kneading pasta dough no less. How quirky!) adorning the small but airy space.
After a quick look at the menu, and some valuable recommendations from another patron, this is what we ordered:
Mildly spiced, perfectly creamy eggs piled on fresh brioche, baked in-house. A classic example of something simple done well, what we particularly loved was the bread. Buttery and crumbly, it was the perfect accompaniment to the eggs and the dish was finished in no time.
The snapper was cooked beautifully- flaky white flesh within complementing the crispy crackling skin atop. The gremolata drizzled over was a much needed burst of citrus that worked well with the fish; I’m not entirely sure how the bits of roasted almond play into the flavour profile though. The parsnip puree was above par, creamy and not grainy. And the little touches of roasted cherry tomatoes and pan fried juicy mushrooms added some freshness to the plate. A dish I would order again in a heartbeat.
French Onion and Three Cheese Sandwich
Buttery and indulgent, this unassuming plate of food packs some serious calorific value, so tread carefully. While I enjoyed the sweet onions and the tart tomato chilli chutney, I would have liked some more sharp gruyere mixed in to cut the sweetness from the other elements on the sandwich. Two thumbs up for the toasted bread with bits of briny black olive in every bite.
Such a pretty little gold tinged embellishment on top!
The dark chocolate lends a lovely balance to the mousse with a mild hint of bitterness. But the mousse itself was a touch too heavy for my liking and fairly one dimensional in its execution.
We liked this so much we came back the next day for more! The crumbly shortbread base, mild cherry blossom chantilly cream and the acidic berry centre form a delicate little equipoise of flavour in every bite and to say we enjoyed it is an understatement. We even found a thin sheet of plastic (left in by mistake after spray painting the exterior) in our first order but the dessert was so genuinely good that we were more than willing to replace it with the same order when asked!
In addition to the above, we also sampled the following:
The Hot Dark Chocolate was comforting and not overtly sweet. My dining partner finished her warm cupful in no time
The croissant had a soft buttery interior but the outside was a little too crusty for our liking. However, the accompanying cranberry sauce was tart, pucker-inducing perfection.
Another surprising find were their teas! Available in hot and iced versions, the ones we liked most were the Hibiscus and Elderflower (mild, floral notes) and the Mogo Mogo (tropical but not overwhelmingly fruity). The mint and orange tea delivered on its promise- a balanced interplay of both favours, neither obscuring the other, but we did find the iced version a tad more watered down than its steaming hot counterpart.
What rounded out our meal there was the service. Friendly yet willing to offer space when required, these guys let us sit there for a good three hours while we chatted about everything under the sun and then some.
There is an odd sense of comfort to be found in places like this, because we were made to feel welcome enough to put up our feet and enjoy our tea without worrying about the time or feeling pressured by the waitstaff to finish our business and leave. Quite the rarity in these parts.
To sum it up, a lovely meal and some great service in a standout place that just leaves you wanting to pay them a visit again.
I can’t wait to be back with a book for that enticing pork mole roll on their menu and some hot tea.
Job well done, guys!