It turns out that the café where we're currently sipping a nicely made cortado used to be an off-track betting site. We imagine a traffic jam of fascinators in the narrow alley outside, but are soon corrected by our dapper lunching companion: the scene here was more Peaky Blinders and less My-Fair-Lady-at-the-track.
Either way, you’d be wise to bet your money at Zen Café, which opened in Kala Ghoda recently but could be a hipster coffee shop anywhere in the world, for it will be put to good use - on croissants as flaky as you and dessert that is just as tarty.
Zen Café’s effortlessly cool concrete environs are interrupted by a charming mess of philodendrons placed right in the centre of the room. Through it, we spy a buzzing coffee counter and an overworked lawyer from the gully who would love to call it a (w)rap any moment now.
Once you finish admiring the minimalist design of the menu, you’ll realise it’s all vegetarian and sort of on a health trip; but worry not, dear reader, there is much here to make your dietician disapprove. Take for instance a Margherita pizza, its chewy, tangy, near-perfect crust reminding us of the pies at Mia Cucina, circa 2009.
We also enjoy coils of lemony soba noodles in a salad layered with thinly sliced vegetables and a fistful of peanuts for crunch; and a platter of four fat, beautifully cooked potato rostis, golden-crisp on the edges. A dish of enchiladas on the other hand, stuffed with cheese and bell peppers, is not far on the food map from New York(er’s). It needs to work harder to keep up with everything else on our table and makes us want to get up and scream: come on Dover, move your bloomin’ arse! But neigh, we won’t.
For drinkers, Zen Café has as attractive a beverage list as any place without an alcohol license can – single origin coffees, spiced hot chocolates, ginger ales and something they call smartinis.
Our cold brew is a little lacking in strength, but a seriously silky, dark hot chocolate draws all the sighs at the table, arriving in one of those patent-pending double cups that let you hug the mug without scalding your hands. Off of the counter, we cannot resist a torte with a beautifully rich chocolate-hazelnut ganache centre; if only the crust was less crumbly.
We pay and leave, walking past the renovated Knesset Eliyahoo synagogue that is no longer blue. And after today’s lunch, neither are we.
Getting there: Zen Café, Fort Foundation Building, Bake House Lane, Kala Ghoda, call 9167768950, approx. Rs 1,300 for a meal for two.
Accessibility: One step up from the pavement for ground floor seating. However, no ramp or elevator to get to the first level.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
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