SoBo is going French
Riyaaz Amlani returns with the Slink & Bardot duo to give Churchgate's safe dining scene a French bistro and bar
Entrepreneur Nick Harrison and chef Alexis Gielbaum first met in 2014, when they were working at one of the handful French eateries in Delhi. As they bonded over beer and food from back home in France, they dreamt of opening a bistro that serves authentic food from back home. Five years and one bar (Slink & Bardot) since, the two have joined forces with restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani again, to do just that at Soufflé Si'l Vous Plaît, which opens doors in Churchgate this Monday.
The aim, as is with any French eatery, is to showcase more than croissants and cheese. "French cuisine had failed in the city because it was not done the right way — it was considered too expensive; raw products were imported, which is where you lose out. You need to work with local produce," thinks chef Gielbaum. This is their mantra, and it comes through with items like kadaknath chicken on the menu. But there's no tweaking because the aim is to serve classic French dishes. "You have to be clever about the recipe. The traditional veal stew cooked in cream with lemon juice won't work with people here even with another meat. Of course, I've sneaked in some of my mum's recipes, but working with locally-sourced produce also means countless trials. For example, the carrots here are sweeter, so replicating them in a classic French dish would mean balancing the sweetness with other ingredients," he shares.
Baba au Rhum
The seed of this eatery germinated when the duo pitched a 12-course menu comprising French cuisine clichés to Amlani. This property was actually owned by Amlani's father, so the area also has a nostalgic tangent for the restaurateur. "I used to hang out here as a kid as there were a lot of happening spaces in the 1980s. Over time, people fell out of love with it. But it's now coming together," Amlani tells us.
Roquette and parmesan souffle
Its prime location also plays up the nostalgia being as close as one can get to a French boulevard in the city, Harrison points out. The attention to detail in the interiors, filled with plush and cosy couches and chairs, brass rimmed tables and posters from a French movie, single pager brass-laden menus, blackboards with the day's specials and the al fresco area, complete with round Parisian lamps, make you want to unwind — which is exactly what they are aiming for, together with the music. They've introduced a jazz-meets-soul vibe, and Harrison's 18-plus set playlists for various times of the day start with Etta James, and build up before toning down.
"The music works with the bar menu that's designed according to what you would like to sip on if you're sitting outside after a day's work," explains Harrison. We get what he means as we sip the froze all day (Rs 650) with rose wine, aperol, strawberry, honey and lime — it's refreshingly tropical, has a bitter element balanced beautifully by the strawberry and honey. We get distracted by the aroma of the Soupe à L'Onion Gratinée or French onion soup (Rs 380), which is akin to a warm hug.Slow-cooked for 12 hours, it's topped with garlic-brushed croutons and gratinated Himalayan gruyère. We can only tear ourselves away from it when the soufflés come in.
The truffle and camembert (Rs 420) melts in our mouth and is light as air. But what blows us away is the twice-baked roquette and parmesan (Rs 350) soufflé. It is steamed first which makes the texture grainy while retaining the creaminess. "Soufflé means breath and it's exactly like that — it collapses in five minutes. It's difficult to make. You need to beat the egg with your hand," adds Gielbaum. For mains, we get the homard thermidore (Rs 1,400), succulent lobster served on a bed of Assamese black rice risotto and asparagus — the rice and lobster lend flavour to each other.
Froze all day
The dessert though, is what makes us wish they start delivery soon, for the baba au rhum (Rs 420) is akin to a doughnut soaked in rum, served with pistachio butter cream and vanilla chantilly, making it boozy, slightly sweet and giving it a bite — the perfect way to end a meal. Go get your fill Monday at dinner. Lunch service commences a week later.
(Left) Nick Harrison and Alexis Gielbaum
Opens December 16
At Souffle Sil Vous Plait, ground floor, Nagin Mahal, Churchgate.
Time 6 pm to 1 am (first week); 12 pm to 1 am (23rd onwards)
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