Food Review: Le Pain Quotidien
At dusk at Apollo Bunder, if you look over to where Tommy Hilfiger once was, you will see light emanating from a row of Edison bulbs hanging in a room beyond a glass door. You’re looking at Le Pain Quotidien, the global bakery chain that launched in Mumbai only yesterday. Inside is a warm-as-candlelight dining room, a tart-studded dessert counter and something that we can only describe as an altar to loaves of bread. Upon entering the split-level restaurant, patrons are asked to choose between dining at the two communal tables or at individual tables, placed against exposed brick walls.
But before we get to the actual food, here’s what you need to know about Le Pain Quotidien. First, this tutorial explains the pronunciation of LPQ (acronyms are allowed for the Francophonically-challenged). Second, 90 per cent of the menu is handmade bread with “a good crust and firm slice”. Third, to enjoy this place to its fullest, give communal dining a shot and sit at the 14-seater pinewood tables that lord over each of the levels of LPQ.
Because sharing your daily bread at LPQ is how founder Chef Alain Coumont intended it when he launched the first bakery in 1990. The story goes that when Coumont was looking to furnish the first LPQ in Brussels, he found a seamstress’s table at a flea market that he loved so much that he installed replicas of it in every one of his subsequent bakeries. According to the menu, Coumont believes “bread is best shared around the table and savoured among friends”. We must add that at LPQ, it’s easy to share a table with strangers but sharing the excellent, organic sourdough, rye and five-grain with fellow diners would be more of a challenge.
The menu’s bread-based choices include a range of open-faced tartines served warm or un-toasted. We went through the chicken and pesto tartine with brie cheese and pears quickly. The nicely-marinated chicken in pesto sauce was crowned with a creamy slice of brie and a sweet, wafer-thin slice of pear. The bread was as soft as the meat but with the crunchy crust promised by the menu. Before the week ends we’re going back for the parma ham and mozzarella tartine with a black olive spread, fresh sundried tomatoes (not the bottled, brine-soaked variety) and fresh mozarella. On one of his multiple trips to Mumbai, Coumont decided to scrap imported mozzarella because it didn’t taste as fresh as he had hoped. The mozzarella on the LPQ menu is sourced from a cheese farm in Pune. Taste its full splendour in the mozzarella di bufala and plum tomatoes salad.
By 8pm on Day One, LPQ was out of quiche Lorraine (with ham and Gruyere), the vegetarian lasagna and the soft-centred chocolate cake, all of which were listed as specials. The pastry crust of the quiche vegetarienne we ordered was thick and crumbly and was generously stuffed with roasted leeks, onions and mushrooms. After the wholesome pie, we opted for a blue cheese polenta mash, lavished with butter and a hint of the tangy cheese. LPQ has a central kitchen, located not far from the restaurant where all the bread is baked in a stone oven and ingredients are prepped for the tartines and hot dishes. Consequently, the food is served quickly. They clearly have the art of baking tarts down to perfection but for us, the espresso tart’s mousse was more chocolate than espresso and we would have preferred it the other way round.
Our server, who jumped ship from Indigo Deli (along with the Deli manager he said), boasted of a snaking queue outside LPQ at lunch. We’re not sure if he’s given to using hyperboles but we have it from more reliable sources that between noon and 7pm they had served over 150 guests. LPQ is a chain but with its brick walls, warm light and reclaimed wood, it’s also the antithesis of one. We plan to go back with our evening paper and hopefully, there will be no queues and we’ll beat the crowd to get the pick of their best pies.
A meal for two costs approximately Rs1,800.Tags: Le Pain Quotidien, restaurant review, restaurant reviews, Special Top Story
LocationLe Pain Quotidien
Near the Gateway of India
HoursDaily, 8am to midnight