Le Pain Quotidien, Colaba, Mumbai
After a long delay, this Belgian bakery chain has opened its doors to Mumbai—and what a welcome it received. There wasn’t a table empty at lunch on the second day of the opening. South Mumbai’s glamour set came for a first dekko. The wooden interiors, reminiscent of bread crust, could transport you to a European fantasy on a busy Colaba street. A standardized chain rarely exudes such character.
Baked delights: Le Pain Quotidien is a bread-lover’s paradise
It was pure pleasure walking in to the aroma and sight of freshly baked bread loaves on wooden shelves. A wooden cabinet with jars of paté, fruit preserves and chocolate spreads stood nearby, and on a marble-top counter, in a glass enclosure, rested muffins and fruit tarts.
The restaurant brings its signature long tables, meant to evoke a communal dining culture—those who come in with a newspaper for company can break bread with other guests at the table.
The good stuff
The split-level eatery has individual tables but it’s quite likely that you will be directed to the communal table if you walk in during peak meal hours. Don’t think you have walked into the wrong restaurant if you spot Indigo Deli’s manager here. He has moved across the street and you can expect a warm welcome if he remembers you as a regular there. The service, efficient and attentive, is actually one of the best features here.
The selection of wheat, rye, five-grain baguettes and brioches is baked daily. Expect the freshest supply at breakfast. You will be introduced to the variety right at the entrance. When the bread basket arrived on our table, we realized the breads were as “hearty and wholesome, with a firm slice and a good crust”, as the restaurant’s founder, Alain Coumont, intended.
The climax to our meal was just as good. I mention dessert first because the apple crumble was inarguably the best thing we ate there—warm, wonderfully crumbly and fragrant with cinnamon. The crust cracked under slight pressure and the piquant apples and sweet raisins were a perfect pair to the buttery crust. Before that came the tartines or triangles of bread with toppings. Squeeze some lemon on the smoked salmon tartine for a juicy bite.
Among the hot dishes, the blue cheese polenta rates high. The polenta was creamy, with the subtle flavour of the sharp cheese, and was served with sautéed mushrooms and fresh green salad. Wash it down with the in-house mint lemonade. Seafood lovers can go for the subtly flavoured grilled salmon that’s served over a layer of porridge-like creamy potato purée.
With avocado and fresh greens, the prawn salad was a perfect mix of smooth and crunchy in every tangy bite. But the prawns were too soft and mealy, so we ignored it for the most part. The tenderloin steak was good but lacked the heartiness of the medium-rare meat served across the street. The Quiche Vegetarienne reminded me of airline meals and the crème brûlée tasted eggy and flat.
The communal tables were packed, but might defeat the purpose till people take to the concept—chairs were moved closer to friends and backs subtly turned to fellow diners.
The salads and tartines start at Rs275. The hot dishes are priced Rs350 onwards and the desserts, at Rs175.
HTC 7 Mozart
I’ll say this right up front: Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s shiny new mobile operating system is, in certain use cases, more beautiful, more elegant and more intuitive than the iPhone. This is not an attention-grabbing opener. Microsoft’s Metro interface, full of primary colours and stark typography, is a bold reimagining of what mobile interfaces can be like, and a fantastic gauntlet thrown at the feet of Apple’s dominant design aesthetic.
Calling in: The HTC 7 Mozart looks striking.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the HTC 7 Mozart.
HTC’s recently launched phone is among the first Windows Phones available in India. The Mozart, with its 8-megapixel, flash-endowed camera and anodized aluminium exoskeleton, is an excellent piece of engineering. However, Microsoft is yet to open the Windows Phone 7 marketplace in India. What that means is that there is really no way of downloading apps, updating software or syncing your notes with the Internet (more on that later). The company estimates that activating the marketplace will take anywhere between a month and a quarter. Unfortunately, this affects the phone in a significant, deal-breaking manner—making it, at present, only tenuously a smartphone.
The Mozart’s looks are striking, and the phone’s crisp 3.7-inch WVGA display is just the right size. Voice and call quality is excellent, and the on-board speakers are adequately loud. The capacitive touch screen is responsive (pinch-zoom works like a charm) and the 1 Ghz processor buzzing underneath ensures everything zips.
Windows Phone 7 is an utter joy to use for everyday tasks. The basics are all spot on. Syncing contacts was a breeze, and the Email and Office integration (you can create and edit Word and Excel documents) is excellent (special mention must be made of OneNote, Microsoft’s note-taking service). The on-screen keyboard is second only to the iPhone. The Zune app is a great music player, and its desktop client (featuring more of that Metro UI) even syncs music wirelessly. More than functionality, it’s worth mentioning just how smooth and fast everything operates. There’s nary a hint of slowdown, and the screens drop away and reappear with animations you’ll watch again and again.
On the hardware front, the 8-megapixel camera performs badly in low light. Most pictures appear slightly washed out and the on-board camera doesn’t allow you to fiddle with the settings too much.
On the software side, the bundled Bing Maps have poor detail for Indian cities and are next to useless for navigation. The current build of the software is missing some odd basics—you can’t save SMS drafts and there’s no quickfire way of switching Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on and off. Multitasking is limited and there’s no copy-paste.
But all these are minor concerns in front of the big bogey—the lack of marketplace functionality. The inability to download apps destroys this phone. Even syncing your OneNote notes is not possible, which is utterly maddening.
The Mozart is priced interestingly at Rs26,490. It’s a lovely phone on many counts, and the Windows Phone software is a fantastic piece of work. But in its present state, this is not a smartphone. It’s a glorified dumbphone with restrained functionality that dissipates an otherwise easy recommendation. As much as it’s a joy to use, the Mozart is, heartbreakingly, just not ready yet.