Mumbai is the city where rich and poor live in harmony just few steps away from each other.
One can eat a nice cheese toast at a street corner for just Rs20 or go across the road, enter a fancy restaurant and order a cheese toast of Rs200. The toast may taste the same, but the difference is in the use of cutlery, the plating, the ambience and the service. Moreover, you don’t see the dishes being rinsed in front of you, nor the spray of dust settling on your plate from a passing vehicle, like you witness it at a street corner.
It maybe hygienic or non-hygienic, you survive and come back with a happy smile.
This week, dodging the traffic, trying to keep my balance, I walked along the narrow dirt path inside the Mathurdas mill compound at lower Parel. The small houses on the either side of the street had pauperized and blemished facade, but a glance through some glass windows told a different successful story behind those closed doors. There are many offices and corporate houses inside the compound and there are many restaurants that cater to these elite crowds.
Café Zoe is one such venue. I would never have guessed the interior from its humble exterior of painted colorful metal chairs and ordinary narrow passage with plants begging for attention.
But once you walk in through a huge glass door, you are transported into a different world. It is a place where one can spend hours munching on food and drinks. There are wooden community tables that can be arranged to accommodate large groups for an evening supper or one can sit at leisure, alone, sipping coffee/fresh juice, stretched on comfortable sofas. The ceiling is quite high with rustic look on walls, black and white photographs relate the story of its construction. Part of the room is divided into two levels, with a small library at the upper level. The baking station and fresh juice/drinks station occupy the lower level with a small shelf covering one wall that stocks exotic sauces/pastas/books for sale.
Why would I go there in the middle of the day to a fancy restaurant in an unknown street?
I was invited, courtesy Splenda, who is introducing no-calorie sweetener Splenda in Indian market. Personally speaking, I do trust Splenda and have been using it for several years, but purchasing in Mumbai is difficult sometimes. The alternate choice, bought in desperation, has not been satisfying because of the horrible bitter after-taste of different brands. Therefore I was only too happy to accept the invitation and listen to what they had to offer.
The Splenda event was coupled with ‘tea ceremony’ conducted by Radhika Batra, who took us on a tea journey from tea gardens to teacups, while Naina Setalvad, the health consultant, explained the benefits of using right brand of sweetener.
A spoonful of salad containing feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, black n green olives, lettuce n salad leaves and a dash of vinegar n olive oil was paired with Longjing tea.
As the session progressed, five exotic teas and tisane were brewed and complimented with food.
I was avoiding non-veg that day, therefore I did not taste all the dishes, but I was tempted to try the shrimp cutlets that looked crispy and appetizing. Friend informed me that it contained minced shrimps, eggs, herbs and was coated with bread crumbs.
The food was tasty and visually appetizing. Restaurant is good for pastas and cakes. Maybe some other day I might visit Café Zoe to try its shrimp cutlets and those exotic pastries.
My special thanks to Shruti Amin and Romil Zaveri for the warm afternoon.