Coffee itself is less addictive than the rituals that surround it. Did I just say that? I cannot believe that I actually said that.
I often say things that I do mean initially and then I try to get diplomatic. I am seriously getting tired of the large franchisees, the Barista, the CCDs, the Starbucks, The Costa Coffee. These guys are pulling in some serious business with pretty okay coffee. That is fine as long as you need your daily fix. It is also fine if you want to meet a client and Starbucks sounds okay even though I find the coffee to be exorbitantly priced compared to the other “large” brands, here large referring to the number of outlets across the country. It seems the larger the number of outlets, the more expensive the coffee. Is that even justified?
That said, we, Bobby Roy and yours truly, started in real earnest looking for something really really good. Well, it has been a long term quest for us.
One fine day, out of the blue, I get a call from a really close biker friend of ours saying, “Hey, there is this french café near my place. If you drop by, coffee is on me.” That clinched it for me. He was offering coffee in what was seemingly a French café, do I need a second invite? Saturdar morning it was and we rushed 50kms to have just coffee. Yes you read it right; we did 50 kms to try something good and different and authentic. Is this addiction? No it is passion for something you love.
We rode out of Delhi on our motorcycle to Gurgaon, now renamed Gurugram for political reasons. But we are not here to discuss politics. We can do that over coffee. The café is situated in a residential neighbourhood and it is called Café Santé. If you follow Google Maps, the last half a kilometre goes through such bad roads that you start wondering whether your decision for a coffee invite was the right one. Let me tell you straightaway, it was the best decision of a weekend ride in a very long time. Everything about Café Santé is just right. The French décor, the colour of the walls, the paintings hung on them, the chairs, the tables, the cakes, even the delicious cold cuts upstairs; they have everything right going for them. If you are going to Café Santé, whatever the reason, as a coffee lover, you will not be disappointed.
Do not get me wrong, but we have had very strange experiences looking for coffee. We have even walked into coffee shops only to learn that they serve “Nescafé”. Their coffee machine was the nescafé machine. So usually I am very wary of what goes on in the name of coffee shops.
Now let us talk about their coffee; these guys not only know how to make a good ristretto, they give you freebies along with it too. More of that later. Bobby Roy clearly said that this was arguably one of the best cappuccinos that he has had. As a coffee lover, you would agree that with a Cappuccino, it is tougher to discern the quality of the coffee beans. It is easier with an espresso or a ristretto. Bobby Roy, the Cappuccino lover that he is, looked quite excited at the quality of the coffee that he was tasting. It clearly elevates the mood.
When I sipped my ristretto, it woke up all my buds, tickled my olfactory senses alive and gave me a taste of coffee that for me was the closest to the ideal that I was dreaming about. Along with the espresso cup, there was a small cube of dark chocolate that was lying there. I bit off a small piece. It was proper chocolate. It was not the sugary caramelised stuff that it is peddled as chocolate all over the country. I also noticed that the staff was watching us closely and happened to understand that I was enjoying the experience and offered all three of us a cube each of the chocolate. Not only is the coffee outstanding, but they really understand good service and how to take good care of their customers.
Traditionally, any good café should give a small piece of chocolate for degustation. It has various reasons; some of them do it for tradition, others do it to woo their customers, for some it is just to make you feel good. All three reasons are justified. Café Santé does the same; with every cup of coffee that you order, they give you a small cube of good dark chocolate, and glass of chilled water if you are ordering espresso or a ristretto.
Café Santé had a good collection of French pastries. I do not remember how many times I have gone back to Café Santé since my first time to try out their cakes, their breads, their pastas, their Mediterranean meals. Their menu card is rich. I even had several meals of pasta all of which were quite outstanding. My friend, Sheldon, who invited me for the first time over to Café Santé was having a Cuban Sandwich which is excellent as well. These guys at Café Santé are really good at what they do. You have these huge franchisees that cater to you like a factory canteen with a lot of bells and whistles. There is little soul in what they do. And then you visit a place like Café Santé which completely changes the way you look at coffee!
A big thanks to Sheldon who introduced me to Café Santé, a place to have coffee and do much more. It is a great idea to have such a place in a residential complex. The prices are not exorbitant at all. I remember having cakes and coffee with Bobby Roy at l’Opéra. Needless to say that the quality was outstanding at l’Opéra but the prices were equivalent to 5 star hotels. That is not the case with Café Santé. I do not recall how many times I have gone back to Café Santé just for their coffee, for their ambiance, for the wonderful smell of coffee and quality of everything that they do with meticulous care.
Delightful experience will always find discerning customers staying back for a long time. In me, Café Santé found a good customer for life. Yes, I would spend half my day, ride across 50kms occasionally just to enjoy their delightful coffee and interact with the friendly staff. Yes, the rituals around coffee matter too.
Disclaimer: This is not a paid review. Krishnendu KES and Bobby ROY do real life reviews of quality coffee and food, outstanding hotels across the country and travel stories. You are welcome to join us any time during one of our review sessions.
Author: Krishnendu KES. Photos: Krishnendu KES & Bobby ROY.