It’s close to lunchtime on opening day and if you’re clued in to the restaurant scene, work in the Fort neighborhood or are friends with the owners (we are, which means this review was paid for by bpb but not anonymous), you are here, seated at a wood-and-iron table at The Pantry, the new and buzzy bakery-plus-café by the guys behind Woodside Inn. What is that you’re having, it looks really good!
Born & Bread
If it’s an apple and gorgonzola sandwich, it tastes good too, balancing the unlikely flavors of bread, fruit, cheese with the aplomb of a tightrope walker – smear this with a generous pat of in-house mustard, wash it down with a thick, flavorful banana-fig milkshake and you’ll spend the rest of the afternoon riding out a nice sugar high.
Tamer eaters, get a roast chicken sandwich instead, fat with meat and flavour, comparable to the much-lauded version served at Kala Ghoda Café down the street. To drink though, you must try the above-mentioned milkshake, the best part of our protracted, debauched lunch, or perhaps pomegranate juice with a zip of lime, which would work better served cold instead of at room temperate. We also order iced chocolate, overtly sweet, and too-gingery carrot-orange juice. Alas, there is no alcohol on the menu. That’s right.
Lunch With a Bunch
At this point we make room at our table for unexpected arrivals that happen to be passing by, and our order swells to salad and sausage rolls, ham and fish. A slab of rawas arrives, lightly charred and sitting on a bed of tomato-and-carrot stew – it requires aggressive flavouring, salt and limejuice, but is eventually pleasing. In contrast, a salad of candied figs, almonds, Gorgonzola and greens is drowning in dressing, which wilts the leaves and gives the entire dish a medicinal aftertaste. Also disappointing is a spinach and feta puff, its pastry un-flaky and rubber-hard at the corners.
In fact, the “pastry problem” runs through much of the menu, also plaguing a ham and sage pie that features juicy meat but a dry crust and an apple puff, the base of which is almost impossible to cut through. Plus, break off some of the extra covering before biting into a sausage roll – it improves the bread-t0-meat ratio; and bypass the banoffee tart entirely, ensconced in a too-hard shell.
Futures and Options
“It’s just a matter of tweaking,” our lunch companion says, bloated with food and sipping on a cup of bracingly strong Americano. We can tell that he doesn’t want to leave yet, that he’s basking in sunlight let in through tall windows and the familiarity of wait-staff that remembers him from Woodside Inn, eavesdropping on multiple conversations and contemplating whether to try another dessert because the bill is smaller than he expected. But we’ve been here two hours, and there’s stuff to do. Plus, the kitchen will hopefully get better by our next visit, juices chilled and dressing down, the “pastry problem” a thing of the past.
Getting there: Military Square Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort, call 9167005290, approximately Rs 600 per person.
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