Friday, 7 February 2014

DINING OUT: Bread & More Returns With Much More Pizzazz

WHAT: Bread & More
WHERE: N-17, N-Block Market, Greater Kailash-I
WHEN: 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (weekdays); 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (weekends)
DIAL: +91 29246301
STAR RATING: ****1/2

By Sourish Bhattacharyya
The Raspberry Melange is a star attraction at the
new and much-improved Bread & More, which
also has some genuinely artisan breads on its
menu and Delhi-NCR's best macarons. L'Opera
now has serious, decently priced competition.
WHEN Pishori Lal Lamba and his brother-in-law, Iqbal Ghai, opened Kwality at the Regal Building in Connaught Place in 1940, the only items on their menu were ice-cream produced from a hand-cranked machine and milk shakes. The world was at war and India had been sucked into it. The contours of the conflict changed once the United States pitched in its lot with the Allies after Japanese kamikaze pilots bombed Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941. It also turned around the fortunes of Kwality.
American GIs arrived in thousands to defend India against a feared Japanese invasion and a large contingent of them were stationed in New Delhi, at barracks in Connaught Place. They just loved Kwality's vanilla ice-cream and one of the soldiers, a big fan of Lamba and Ghai, taught the brothers-in-law how to make sundaes. Soon, Kwality started serving cold coffee and sandwiches, and the patrons of the Regal theatre next door stopped by before each show.
The story came back to me as I was being taken round Bread & More by Divij Lamba, Pishori Lal's Yale- and Cornell-educated grandson who worked at Hillary Clinton's Senate office before joining his family's restaurant empire. The ice-cream, milk shakes and sundaes have made way for breads and croissants, confections, sandwiches, and single-origin coffees, whose nutty fragrance welcomes guests as they enter the store. Bread & More has been around since 1998, but its look and menu has just undergone a delicious makeover steered by Sahil Mehta, the first Indian to be certified by the prestigious Lenotre baking school  on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, and Umesh Sharma, the Kwality Group's bakery chef. The aromas, flirting with our nostrils and doing a little tango with the senses, revved up my appetite with their promise of good food. L'Opera now has serious competition -- both in quality and in prices.
The Lambas and their bakery team operating out of the Bread & More central commissary in Okhla Phase-II have gone to lengths to ensure authenticity with quality. The starter culture for their peasant bread, for instance, is from Paris, and  it is 75-80 years old. Not a drop of water goes into their focaccia; it's olive oil all the way, just as it would have been in Italy. The hard-crust artisan breads are baked in a stone oven with a mechanism for steam injection. It is this investment that has ensured that these breads are delightfully soft inside.
Even the quantities of yeast used is less -- 16 gm to a kilo of flour, compared with 30 per cent in most commercial breads -- because even though the dough may take a longer time to rise, it has a more delicate flavour and aroma. The simple pleasures of life, as they say, requires little ornamentation. And of course, the butter used is French because it is more malleable and spreads more easily.
The menu has 13 varieties of bread, including whole wheat and oat breads for diabetics, and four kinds of croissants (each uniformly crusty outside and melt-in-the-mouth inside), and it has the old favourites (nachos, sausage rolls and Black Forest), and you can also pick up a spicy chicken galette (the pancake-like bread from Brittany is a new addition to the city's culinary repertoire). For breakfast, you can have ham and soft fried egg on brioche with piping hot single-origin coffee. You may find the seating a little awkward because of space constraints, but it is best to have the croissants and sandwiches at the store. Go there on a weekend morning, or when 6 p.m. hunger pangs get the better of you.
Among all these temptations, and the procession of truffles and pralines and gateaux, the macarons, based on the recipe of the redoubtable Pierre Herme, are Delhi-NCR's best. They start with an almost imperceptible crunch and then just dissolve in the mouth releasing a bouquet of sensations. After you've had the salty caramel macarons, you'll keep wanting more.