As you walk past the now-shuttered Qualia with a sinking feeling in your heart, you come across the brightly-lit Café Noir. A few tables sprinkled on the sidewalk lead you to the small-ish restaurant that emanates modern French café vibes from the get-go.
The Bengaluru cafe brand has firm loyalists in the Garden City of India. For the last 10 years, French brothers Jean-Michel and Thierry Jasserand stood steadfast in their belief in offering classic French comfort food along with well-prepared Italian staples of pizza, pasta, and risottos.
Still Parisian at its core, the Cafe Noir brand was acquired by V&RO Hospitality that is now looking to take it pan-India. The restaurant already has four outlets in Bengaluru, one in Mumbai, and according to news reports—Chennai and Goa are also in the pipeline.
The fleur-de-lis logo screams French at Café Noir, but the rest of the interior is contemporary. Off-white walls offset the modern black wall sconces and black and white prints of the restaurant’s iconic architecture. The long red banquette running along one side of the wall adds a touch of 1920s style glamour.
The most dominant and eye-catching feature of Café Noir is the detailed art deco-style mirror that makes high ceilings feel higher and the compact space roomier. At the other end of the restaurant is the bar, café and dessert counter stocked with wines, daily baked desserts, and a coffee machine—all of which added to the French quaintness.
What we loved
Since the café has a French DNA, we decided to stick to an evening of French deliciousness. We began with a charcuterie platter paired with a glass of Malbec from Chile. The elaborate spread has five different cold cuts with nits, grapes and olives, which pair well with the bold Malbec. When visiting, we suggest you find out which by-the-glass red wine is readily available and chilled, since these reds need time to breathe.
The menu has some quintessentially French dishes, so ordering the quiche Lorraine was a no-brainer. The shortcrust pastry was crumbly and the filling featuring eggs, cheese, and ham was on-point—enough for us to look away from the slightly over-baked crust. The added detail of the cheese chip with caramelised leeks impressed us.
What is a French meal without coq au vin? The rustic chicken-in-wine dish was served with herbed rice. The chicken was cooked perfectly and fell off the bone effortlessly. The herbed rice seasoning was also done well. The other main dish on the table was the pan-seared duck breast. The pepper-crusted skin was cooked to perfect crispiness and the jus on the side gave the duck breast a dash of added flavour. Word of advice: don’t let either of the dishes sit long on the plate.
The Basque Cheesecake came as a bit of a surprise, only because nowhere on the menu was its chocolaty content advertised—which completely threw us off. But the ‘chocolate’ Basque cheesecake worked. The chocolate had a beautiful deep, dark, and rich flavour that kept us going back for another spoonful. The sides of sour cherry and chocolate sauce seemed unnecessary—but we will not hesitate from recommending the chocolate sauce. Reminiscent of a decadent hot chocolate, the sauce rounded off the dessert spectacularly.
What didn’t work
The truffle-scented mushroom cream crepe was loaded, to say the least, but it failed to do justice to the crepe itself. There were no discernible flavours and the whole experience was overpowered by the big mushroom and truffle notes.
We didn’t try any of the pizzas and risottos in the hope that Café Noir will set a standard for accessible French food. The experience was just right, but the price points seemed excessive especially when Mumbai has some great cafes and bistro-style eateries. We can imagine this being directly connected to the cost of the uber-luxe address Café Noir boasts of.
Having said that, Café Noir is a great place for cosy date nights—and being part of the Lower Parel business district, we suspect the café will be a catalyst for a lot of office romances flourishing.
Address: World Crest, Unit no.1A & 1B, Lodha, Upper Worli, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013.