Mumbai: Chembur's first European cafe gets a facelift to now become a resto-bar

Aug 05, 2018, 08:07 IST | Kasturi Gadge

It was in 2004, that Sajnani launched Le Cafe - touted to be Chembur's Indigo - giving the area's patrons a taste of the good ol' shakshouka and Highland Scotch broth at affordable prices

Mumbai: Chembur's first European cafe gets a facelift to now become a resto-bar
Roasted pumpkin, spinach and barley construct

When the 20-something Ashish Sajnani came back to India in 1999 after completing a course in hospitality from Leysin, Switzerland, he would find himself parked at the Barista in Chembur. These were the pre-monorail and SCLR (Santracruz-Chembur Link Road) days when Chembur was known to be the last neighbourhood of the city, much like present day Kharghar. With hole-in-the-wall places like Vig and Sainath dotting the food scene in the area, Sajnani realised there was a huge vacuum that needed to be filled. He decided to take charge.

It was in 2004, that Sajnani launched Le Cafe - touted to be Chembur's Indigo - giving the area's patrons a taste of the good ol' shakshouka and Highland Scotch broth at affordable prices. But, as Sajnani says, "the baby had to grow up."

White chocolate lava and Mexican margarita. Pics/Sameer Markande
White chocolate lava and Mexican margarita. Pics/Sameer Markande

Bigger and better
The new look of the Le Cafe continues to be fresh and inviting. As you walk up to the first floor of the Jewels of Chembur, you will now find the restaurant to be the double its original size, from 650 sq ft to 1,250 sq ft. The décor is dotted with vintage artefacts that have been sourced from Sajnani's personal collection. While the window arches add oodles of natural light to the space, the wall art lends it a cool quotient. The use of beige and wooden tones gives it a cosy vibe. The re-launched restobar will also double up as a cultural space for those interesting in holding workshops, music gigs, art shows and literary discussions.

For Sajnani, director of OPA Hospitality, the changes represent the cafe's evolution. "I started my career with this café, and felt the space needed to keep up with changing times. We wanted to reinvent and introduce ourselves to a new generation of diners who seek a casual and energetic ambiance. The idea was to do more than just serve great food and drinks," he says. While the sight of patrons queuing up to get entry was gratifying, it was evident to the 39-year-old that the space couldn't accommodate the growing crowd. "It pained me to see guests waiting for an hour to get entry," he says.

White chocolate lava and Mexican margarita. Pics/Sameer Markande

Eat, drink, repeat
The elaborate menu opens with breakfast options such as egg preparations, cereals and waffles. In the small plates, are dishes that can be paired perfectly with you cocktails. Next up, is a wide selection of sandwiches and tartines. But what catches our eye is the classic cubano on the menu. The rest of the menu covers pizzas, burgers, poutiness, salads, and more. Being a café at heart, the menu offers a long list of single origin coffees, cookies and tisanes making it a perfect spot for a high-tea. Until now, Le Café only served beer and wine, but post the revamp, the menu will feature cocktails, shooters and a good selection of liquors.

A few must-try cocktails are the rum based cocktail called monk's punch (Rs 350) that gets its sweet and salty taste from pineapple and black salt with a dash of nutmeg. The English Summer (Rs 370) is perfect for the weather and is a refreshing mix of basil, elderflower, apple juice and gin. The drink wins you with its aroma and freshness.

The interiors

We start off our tasting with a porcini cappuccino (Rs 290), which looks like a piece of art. The double walled coffee glass comes with mushroom foam, a few pieces of mushrooms, truffle oil and a coral made from oil, butter and mushroom paste. The warm and earthy broth when poured on top melts the mix, giving it a creamy texture. Burratas are currently in vogue and Le Café, too, has one on the menu that comes with a sorbet of basil and chilli (Rs 380) which elevates the salty flavours of the cheese. The dish is completed with arugula leaves and confit tomatoes, which can be a meal for light eaters.

Ashish Sajnani
Ashish Sajnani

If you are looking for wholesome flavours, we suggest the Scottish egg affair (Rs 250). The vegetarian Scottish eggs are paired with makhani wueso while tikka on toast gets its zing from the pickled onion which is balanced by the cheese and avocado. From the mains, we pick the roasted pumpkin, spinach and barley construct (Rs 550) which comes with a side of tomato fondue and cream basil verde. You can nurse your sweet tooth with a white chocolate fondant (Rs 290) infused with raspberry gastrique.

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