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12.03.2018

Squeaky-clean mirrors reflect tall wooden doors, old-style French chandeliers and immaculate marble table tops. Pastel macarons sit beside snazzy éclairs and mousse that looks like it’d bruise at the lightest touch. You thought Bikaner House was exquisite? Take a walk down its bougainvillea-lined back alley to L’Opera’s new Salon De Thé to, as they say, revise upwards.

Smiling, soft-spoken 60-somethings linger in the bright green chairs in the courtyard. We struggle with deciding whether to sit indoors or out: both are equally beautiful. The spring breeze feels like a blessing on a Sunday that will soon get hotter, so we let the servers bring us fresh orange juice under a white canopy -- a phrase that is deeply weird to write in 2018, yet somehow perfectly descriptive of Lutyens’ Delhi.

The Lawn Ranger

The Salon’s brunch buffet only runs Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am-3 pm. A round table inside shows off fruit and couscous salad, sandwiches with roasted peppers, a cheese board, sliced baguette, and croissant. Once we help ourselves, staff offers to bring the “hot food”—croque monsieur, chicken feuilleté and quiche—directly to our table. We stick to one buffet and one à la carte order (a creamy tomato soup and cheese feuilleté).

The soup is filling, easy on the throat: better than most things of its kind you’ll find in nearby Khan Market. Fluffy croque monsieur with thick, well-cooked ham and chicken quiche with a thick crust are both pretty little heavyweights: we feel full sooner than we otherwise would’ve been. Both the chicken and cheese feuilletés are airy and crisp; they devolve into flaky smithereens as we invade them with teeth and tongue.

Later, a martini glass filled with fresh fruit along with mini lemon tarts and other pastry is delivered. We order tea with our dessert, off a very enticing chai menu. A “wild forest oolong” has clear notes of the promised cinnamon, star anise and fennel. The “flowery ballad”—a rose, cinnamon and cardamom tisane—is even more fragrant, almost kahwa-esque. We sip on our infusions while attentive servers consistently check if we’re doing alright.

Two wall lamps flank the door of the salon. “L’Opera Salon De Thé by Chor Bizarre” says a sign below one of them. “Chor Bizarre has the rights to operate both their restaurant and what was formerly a tea lounge,” chief operating officer Lokesh Anand tells us. “They got in touch with L’Opera to help elevate the experience at the tea lounge,” Whilst the salon is managed jointly by Chor Bizarre and L’Opera, Kazem Samandari of the L’Opera family is responsible for this particular outpost of the brand.

A L’Opera pâtisserie wasn’t somewhere we ever went to buy essentials -- Delhi has enough good patisseries to compete -- but this new salon justifies spending a little more than normal on classics, if it means luxuriating in those signature green chairs on a slow afternoon. If we made it seem, at any point, that drinking tea in this bower feels like being seated at a café in rural Provence, blame it on the spring.

Getting there: Bikaner House, Pandara Road. A meal for two costs around Rs 1,800.

Accessibility: Easy ground-floor access; a short walk from the parking.

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.

This review was contributed by Vritti Bansal, founder-editor of Binge.

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