BreadTalk is a gluten intolerant’s nightmare and a keto-hater’s dream. In a world where everyone’s diet’s customized down to the daal-sized atom, we’re happy to see a place almost old-school in worshipping at the carbohydrate altar. This is Au Bon Pain without the soup and frills; it’s the glorification of bread and butter, lifting it from metaphor to real deal. There are no apologies and no reservations. The only visible sign – besides the labels on edible items -- is one that tells you you’re on CCTV. If it’s the carb police that’s watching, we’re already in their good books.
The second floor of Select City Walk, where BreadTalk is housed, has become a kind of dessert bazaar, there’s something about Bread Talk that pulls you in, past the Theobromas and Coffee Beans of the world. Maybe it’s the fact that there are no distractions like residence/library interiors – à la Starbucks – or attempts to lure you in to a hyper-cute, pastel-colored dream, like at Theo’s.
With something like 1,000 outlets spread across seventeen or eighteen countries, what appears to us as a radical, just-like-that neutrality, is possibly a strategy to build an ineffaceable global bread empire. This is the sweet East, taking on the world – smoothly and efficiently. Hints of East Asian inspiration lie in the names – Singapore Chicken Bun, Japanese Crater Cake – but there are no double happiness characters embossed on custard tarts, made for the benefit of foreign eyes.
The interiors, almost simple enough to forget, also seem to reinforce the primacy of bread. At noon on a weekday, it is already buzzing; solo and couple mall-goers sit outside on small tables, chatting. An elegant Japanese woman, fresh-faced and attached to her English dictionary, is relieving the place of all its Japanese cheese cake. We almost ask if she can spare one, but she is too quick in popping the yellow, spongey cushions in to her large shopping bag.
The smiling store manager, reading our sadness, points us to Bread Talk’s other bestsellers – the hit list includes a flosss bun (yes with three s’s) and a honey cake. The former, we hear, caused a mini riot in Singapore when the pork version first came out, which explains the extra ‘s,’ that we guess stands for sensational. As she guides us through the shelves, a pair of tongs steadily placed between her firm hands, we take in the intoxicating waft of freshly-baked bread streaming out of the kitchen. A well-built baker is inside, singing loudly, piping thick white cream on to a tray of just-baked buns.
We settle down with a tray full of goodies. The just-hot-enough latte is the perfect pause for quick shoppers, who came to buy only one thing at Sephora. For the serious kids, the ones with plans to spend the day in the mall – the bites are delightful fuel. The cheese boat, for instance, is a hollow bomb, light enough to keep you moving but cheesy enough to satisfy your carb-loving ego. The matcha green tea cake is an angelic, pista-green loaf that’s chiffon soft, and coats your tongue with its light, flavorful burst. The cranberry cheese bun, which we get to last, would easily qualify as a textbook secret recipe – it’s a buttery envelope packed with delicate cream cheese, kissed closed with specks of cranberry. We’ll be back for this and so much more, on any day we don’t have to wear fitted pants.
Getting there: BreadTalk, second floor, Select CityWalk Mall, Saket. Coffee and snacks for two costs around Rs 800.
Accessibility: The mall has basement parking, elevators to all levels and bathrooms for differently abled people.
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