Gotta have it all

Flour Works works on every single level, and then some

I drove back down to Mumbai this Saturday gone by. I would normally have seen this as a moment of almost unbridled joy, just me and the car clocking triple digit speeds as we snaked our way along the Mumbai Pune Expressway, man and machine in unison, one of the most serene pleasures known to me. And yet, I was a little bit downcast, for I had left my heart back in Pune. I had found love and, which is worse, I had found that love returned.

It’s why it ached me so to leave Flour Works behind as I returned to a world where its food and THAT hot chocolate is nothing more than a happy memory. But what joyous memories they are.

Flour Works is as unassuming as they come. Nestled in a leafy lane in Kalyani Nagar, it seems to cocoon you from the madness of the world outside thanks to its peaceful environs. A large sign betrays what lies within, and you can have your pick of dining in the inner sanctum or in the al fresco area (which seemed to be the pick of most people). We opted to sit inside, partly because it was air-conditioned, partly because I like people-watching through the expansive French windows, and partly because I was admiring an immaculately maintained car and its beautiful alloy design.

There’s nothing about Flour Works that alludes to the fancy. It is built for a purpose and its meant to be a cosy cafe that can double up as a restaurant at a push. With its very well spaced out tables, I can honestly say that you’re left in a world of your own as nothing else intrudes on your mind, save the chatter of your partner in crime or thoughts of what to order next. With a rather expansive menu on offer, you’ll have your hands full as you figure out the latter.

The perfectly buttery and soulful Eggs Florentine at Flour Works, Pune.
The perfectly buttery and soulful Eggs Florentine at Flour Works, Pune.

Just as Tendulkar was central to the Indian cricket team for the longest time ever, so too is the humble egg the staple of any great breakfast served up at Flour Works. While good food makes you fall in love with it, great food loves you back heartily and wholly. That feeling of blissful love is what I got when we ordered for a helping of Eggs Florentine.

Take a perfectly poached egg, mix in some spinach for good measure, perch it atop a soft, warm English muffin and drizzle it with an incredibly buttery and soulful Hollandaise sauce and you have a mental picture of this painted for you. Ruhi can be a bit chicken, and so we didn’t do the Eggs Benedict, instead swapping its bacony awesomeness for some greens instead. Pin-point perfect, there was not a thing wrong with this dish and I would have called for more had I not managed to silence my inner gourmand.

Aye Carumba! This hot chocolate with chilli and cinnamon was sublime
Aye Carumba! This hot chocolate with chilli and cinnamon was sublime

Emboldened after digging into the serendipitously sensational Eggs Florentine, we called for what was claimed to be the pièce de résistance. If you were to say in passing conversation that it’s time to call for the Mexican, I’d imagine that you were thinking of calling in some hulking, bushy moustached, gun-twirling hitman.

What we got instead was a knockout of a different kind. Beyond the billowing clouds of steaming hot chocolate, which was neither cloyingly sweet nor acrid in nature, lay just the perfect balance of chilli and cinnamon. A whiff of this manna from the heavens is enough to send you into sensory overload. It has the perfect amount of everything; chilli, cinnamon, chocolate and dollops of awesomeness.

In summary, it was like distilling the very essence of beauty and cuppa. It was every bit as good as you imagine it was, and then some.

Is it sweet? Is it spicy? Who cares. It's awesome
Is it sweet? Is it spicy? Who cares. It’s awesome

I am not given to maudlin displays of joy, but I couldn’t help but go wide-eyed and utter a wow as I dug into the Chicken in Caramel Sauce on offer here. Served with a side of mash, some greens and cherry tomatoes, the breast of chicken was flecked with bits of chilli and sat in a moat of caramel sauce, and it didn’t make for all that pretty a sight, but like Laurel and Hardy, it was a motley crew that just worked.

One bite was enough to make me a believer. It had been some time since I had had a dish I enjoyed as much (I’m thinking of the Himalayan Trout at Indigo Lower Parel). The flavours were perfectly in balance, and I just carved up mouthful after mouthful of the chicken, enjoying the fact that it had absorbed the best of sweet and spicy universes and channeled it to its own advantage. This was a masterful dish that showcased the expertise of the kitchen to the fullest. Swap out that mash for some fresh bread, and this dish would be one for the ages.

Look at the size of those beasties!
Look at the size of those beasties!

Mumbai might be known as Maximum City, but its food portions can sometimes be anything but that. This holds especially true of seafood, and so to stray so far from Mumbai’s shores and receive extremely generous portions of food came as a pleasant surprise to me. Anchored by some mash with slivers of vegetable dotting the summit of it, the Roasted Pepper Prawns were laid out in a concentric circle along the periphery of the mash, all of it gliding on a sea of red pepper sauce.

With 9 pieces of super-sized prawns on offer, there was certainly no dearth of meat. Again, I was no fan of the mash (although I imagine lovers of all things tuber will quite like it) and the salad too didn’t rock my world.

What got a thumbs up from me was the silky smooth and mildly peppered sauce that went perfectly with the juicy, succulent prawns. It’s a dish I just about recommend, but if I had to pick between this or the Caramel Chicken, I know which way that argument would swing. (Hint: it wouldn’t go swimmingly for the prawns)

Divine and decadent, this was one for the chocolate lovers
Divine and decadent, this was one for the chocolate lovers

I am not a religious man, but if I were to become a devotee I would almost surely pay my respects at the Church of Chocolate every single day of the week. Dark, milky, with nougat or pralines or mint or nuts or almost any other way imaginable, chocolate appeals to the primeval me. And so it was no surprise to me to see that I absolutely loved the Chocolate Terrine that Flour Works had on offer.

Silky smooth, rich and delicious to the last bite, the Belgian dark chocolate was almost powerful enough to lure me to the dark side, and I don’t even care about Star Trek all that much! Paired with an indulgent vanilla pastry cream drizzled with caramel, its lightness was the perfect foil for the dense dark chocolate that stole the show. I would have just swapped out the caramel for some raspberry sauce to add a touch of tartness, but when the dish tasted this could, I wouldn’t have noticed if they had smeared wasabi and sriracha all over the vanilla. This was a dessert that was intoxicatingly great, an ode to all that makes chocolate so loved.

I’ll round things up as simply as I can with a parable from my youth. Christmas Day was close at hand, and while I might not be of the Christian faith, that was no reason to not get a toy in my mind. Unfortunately, the powers that be thought otherwise and I was told nicely that there would be no Christmas tree with gifts under it, nor would Santa come down the chimney to leave any gifts of any substance, not least because our house didn’t have a chimney. Disappointed, I made peace with my lot and watched the days pass by.

Come Christmas day, my parents (the sneaky sneakers that they were), had actually gone around and got me something or the other that I don’t even remember, but it was the best. Gift. Ever. To expect nothing and get almost everything is a feeling that’s almost as good as wearing a brand new pair of socks for the first time.

Flour Works is an easy recommendation then, and I sometimes miss it so much that I have half a mind to sell one of my kidneys if it means having this cutesy cafe closer at hand. Thankfully, I’m not that stupid. I’ll instead drive down from Mumbai to Pune every time I hanker after a cup of their hot chocolate.
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