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30.03.2017

We're halfway through a piece of pastry when our server approaches us. “How is your Paris-Brest?” he asks (innuendo unintended). This happens often at eateries. It’s an embarrassing situation, especially when your mouth is full. Is it a genuine query for the sake of self-improvement, or simply an on-the-spot pursuit of validation? 

The Paris-Brest itself is a fragile little arrangement, a sort of crimped doughnut without the gruffness. Powdered sugar tops a dainty outer casing, filled with nutty caramel cream which recalls Ferrero Rocher. It’s the kind of thing you want to eat first thing in the morning on a sunny winter day in Delhi (and we will). The sweetness — as with everything here — is never overpowering. It settles in deliberately; you’re not left scrambling for a shot of cold water to offset.

Cravity is a hard-to-miss attempt at bringing Paris to Hauz Khas colony.  A HOT PINK! door can be spotted from a mile away; one of those delightful little blackboards greets you outside with a list of specials. There is a huge wall painting of two women in sunglasses sitting on a park bench with the Eiffel Tower behind them; pop-art posters labelled “Kiss from Paris,” “A French touch,” and portraying the Arc de Triomphe. Sorry, did we mention that Cravity is a Parisian café? (Only a little wall adornment that admonishes us to “Work hard, stay humble” seems out of hop.)  

We diligently practice saying the name of ‘Le Gourmand’ chicken sandwich just so, and almost miss that it contains baby tomato, an ugly fruit regardless of its tender age. A polite, apologetic refusal to prepare the sandwich without the tomatoes is remarkable, though: if you’re this committed to sandwich fillings, there must be a disciplinarian in the kitchen. 

Cravity’s chefs - hard at work in their gleaming open kitchen - seem to go out of their way to make the sweets Instagrammable: every dessert is made in unique, eccentric, symmetric little designs. 

Coq Au Vain

Alas, a chicken tikka sandwich is nothing out of the ordinary, and iced tea comes in a mason jar: more boring still. The true highlight, in spite of the menu’s variety of options, from snacks to full-fledged meals, is dessert. Cravity’s chefs - hard at work in their gleaming open kitchen - seem to go out of their way to make the sweets Instagrammable: every dessert is made in unique, eccentric, symmetric little designs. 

A quick hit of alcohol in an otherwise booze-less establishment, Laphroaig macarons arrive with a thick smear of chocolate between the biscuits, the whole things doused generously in single malt. A Tender Kiss mousse cake, for all its outward flamboyance — it’s big, red, shaped like shapely lips — maintains a delicate vulnerability. It’s rich, with a careful sense of restraint in the chocolate underneath. The Prince of Chocolate, an interplay of chocolate mousse and hazelnut cream, offers the same satisfactions.

To go with everything, there’s charm. Warmth and friendliness, sometimes even more than food or décor, help define a café’s identity. A quick checklist at Cravity: they’ll welcome you in; they’ll guide you through the dessert spread; they’ll check on you or let you be as you’d prefer; they’ll even give up the wi-fi password. For this, and perhaps another Paris-Brest after a suitable interval, we’ll linger for hours, getting coffee or a milkshake, grabbing one of the magazines neatly stacked there on the shelves, gossiping with whatever gamines come breezing in. À bout de soufflé.

Getting there: A-15A/1, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, a Paris-Brest for Rs 200. 

Accessibility: Ground-level entry, easy access to bathrooms, but mind the step up at the footpath outside. 

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals. 

This review was contributed by Akhil Sood, an arts and culture writer living in New Delhi. 

 

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