Is produce first going to be the new mantra when it comes to eating out in Mumbai? Kitchen Garden by Suzette, Bandra

Our first meal at The Kitchen Garden
Lured us to come back 

My last post was about a restaurant I visited for the first time and then went back to within a couple of days of my first visit. I am talking of the iconic Kyani & Co in South Mumbai.

This post is about a similar experience though in a very different sort of restaurant

This time I am writing about the newly opened Kitchen Garden by Suzette in Mumbai's Bandra.

Eating out in Mumbai. Then and now

Kyani is 102 years old while Kitchen Garden is probably a month or so old. The pricing is very different. The cost of a dish at Kitchen Garden costs as much as a meal for 2 at Kyani. In terms of ambiance, Kyani is large and spacious and has a matronly warmth to it. The Kitchen Garden on the other hand is petite, bright and rather chic. The crowds in each are very different too. At Kyani & Co you will find Mario Mirando and RK Laxman's Bombay. At Kitchen Garden it is the 'beautiful people' of Bombay Times...models, expats, Bollywood family folks and so on.

Kitchen Garden by Suzette
Where do the twain meet

However, are the two, Kayni and Kitchen Garden that different? 

Kyani was started by a gentleman who had come to India from Yezd in Iran. Kitchen Garden was started by the Suzette team which includes folks from France who have now made Mumbai their home. The organic salads and the ciabatta and sourdough breads at the Kitchen Garden today are still early adopter stuff just as the bakes of Kyani possibly were when the latter opened 113 years back in 1904.

The pricing at Kitchen Garden is on the steeper side though and I wonder if that was the same for the Irani cafes of yore when they opened or were they more pocket- friendly.

And no, before you outrage, I am not likening Kitchen Garden to Kyani! It's just that some interesting parallels struck me. That's all.

The Kitchen Garden Experience

Service

There's one more thing that I found in common between the two restaurants, apart from some pretty good food on offer, and that was the service. 

I was made to feel very welcome on both my visits to Kyani & Co and by my second visit they greeted me back as they would an old timer.

I found the service very warm and yet competent at Kitchen Garden on both our visits too. Our first visit was on a weekday at 3 pm. The place was packed. K and I moved across three tables till we found a comfortable one inside. The staff was fairly accommodative to this. At the table we finally chose, K had to sit on a stool with no backrest. Seeing this, one of the staff got a chair with a backrest on their own initiative which was nice.

The way it works at the Kitchen Garden is that you place your order at the counter and they serve you at the table. A 5 per cent service charge is included. Despite the crowds, the counter staff patiently takes your order and are happy to explain what the dishes are as some of the fare might be unfamiliar to many.

While it did take us a bit of time to get cutlery the first time around, the service at the table overall was fairly attentive. They bring your order to the table and then check if anything was left to be served. We didn't feel rushed on either visit though the place was busy both times. 

Ambiance


They have seating outside and inside too at the Kitchen Garden. Outside doesn't seem that bad now but in summer might not be a good idea given the heat and dust outside. The tables are place to each other. The place is buzzy and yet the tables feel reasonably isolated Not as cloistered as at Suzette next door. The chairs are comfortable. The toilet clean. The AC in the inside section seemed a bit warm during our second visit but those are things that can be ironed out.


The food

The core menu. Items which are organic are marked out


The reason for the high prices at Kitchen Garden, as the owners would like to have us belief, is the superior quality of produce used. Organic, artisinal, etc.

This claim seems to be borne out by most of the dishes that I've had so far there.


The menu is divided into salads and sandwiches, juices, soups, eggs (in the morning), coffee and smoothies. There is a live salad and sandwich section. I rarely order salads in restaurants. Rarely eat them. Just not my thing! So I went for the sandwiches and K tried the soups.

the salad counter


Here's what I  really liked:

1. Boiled ham sandwich with tomato and cheddar

Memories of Italy, Spain and France came together in the sandwich

I had this with the ciabatta bread option. The other option was sourdough. The bread was served toasted. It was crusty, chewy...but pleasantly so. Reminded me of the breads I had in France recently. The bread was quite filling and you can have half of these sandwiches and make a meal out of them. The quality of ham and cheese were both superb. They use Spanish ham I was told. If I took a bite of the sandwich and shut my eyes then I could have imagined myself to be anywhere in Europe. 

2. The coffee!

I am told that they use Blue Tokai coffee, which is a local Indian brew. Our friend Sue, loved the coffee at Kitchen Garden and had told us that we must try it. So we had a cappuccino on our first visit. The coffee was strong and intense. There was a slight fruitiness to it which lent it a faint tanginess versus the usual bitter notes of a strong coffee in Mumbai. Possibly the best cappuccino that I have had in Mumbai in a while or in general too.

3. The mushroom soup

Mushroom soup


This is served hot. It has a nice hearty texture, not too thin, nor too thick and is warm and nourishing. The taste of the great quality of mushroom used came through

Wipe it clean stuff


4. The chocolate walnut cookie

Cookies don't always make for pretty pictures


A bit of a split verdict here. K, who loves dark chocolate, says that she prefers the Sweetish House Mafia cookies. She thought that Kitchen Garden one tasted rather 'healthy'. I liked the soft chew texture of the Kitchen Garden cookie and thought the quality of dark chocolate used was nice though and liked the fact that it was not too sweet.


5. The red hummus sandwich with feta and falafel



I had this with ciabatta again on my next visit. I thought the quality of the hummus was very nice and K had a bowl of the hummus with sourdough and loved it too. The feta gave a nice sharp contrast to the earthiness of the sandwich. I might skip the falafel next time though. I don't see the point of having something so deep fried while trying to eat healthy. Half of this sandwich filled me up. I found the overall combination fairly tasty and a good option in vegetarian food.

That's the sourdough bread and the hummus with the smoothie


What I was indifferent to:

6. The chicken sandwich

Our friend Manna, who was the reason we first came to Kitchen Garden loves the chicken sandwich. I loved the pesto in it which was fresh and flavour packed. I liked the fact that the chicken was not chewy. What I did not like was the sourdough bread which Manna chose. I think as a bread, I prefer ciabatta better as the limp texture and the sourness of sourdough is not a taste I've developed yet. Maybe I will try the sandwich with ciabatta one day.

5. Blueberry smoothie and malta juices

This was refreshing and filling. Didn't really set the taste buds afire. Didn't mind it either. At these prices, I'd rather be sure if I like a dish or not.

Ditto with the malta juice. It was nice and life poured in to my soul while I sipped on it in the middle of the day. Nothing exceptional. We appreciated the fact that they specified malta instead of saying 'orange'

What I probably wouldn't order again:

6. The Gazpacho

The beauty of a good gazpacho is the flavour of fresh tomatoes in it. I've had a lovely one on the beach at Barcelona. Taj Land's End at Bandra serves a nice shot glass of gazpacho with sandwiches. The one at Kitchen Garden that I tried was a bit flat and lacked zest. Unlike the other dishes, the good quality of produce for which the high prices are charges here, wasn't evident in the gazpacho at Kitchen Garden.

Based on our first two visits, I know that we will go back. Possibly for breakfast this time.

Respecting the produce

Respecting the produce

I recently met Mark Jordan, a food enthusiast from LA, when he attended a customised food walk that I conducted. He told me that food enthusiasts and early adopters in the US are apparently increasingly focusing on the quality of ingredients used in their food. They want to know if it is local and organic. They want to know about the farm the food was grown in. How were the animals, from which the meat has come, were reared? Produce drives their food choices while eating out today.

I wonder if restaurants such as the Kitchen Garden by Suzette would spark of a similar focus on the produce and quality of ingredients used in Mumbai too.

What's your point of view on this? Are you willing to, if you can, pay extra for better quality produce in your food? Would love to know your views on this.

PS: 'Not letting the greys dull your spark'...to paraphrase @HCDines on Twitter

Some people have been wondering why I rarely write about bad things these days or about things gone wrong in restaurants. How is it that I like everything!?

The answer is simple. I am no food critic. My work doesn't involve my trying out new placesJust to figure out what is good and what is not.

When I go out to eat, it is to have a good time.  Thanks to recommendations from people whose taste I trust, I usually do.

I seek out good food and seem to have developed a nose for finding it.

Ans when I find  something I like, I am happy to share it too.

With one of our friends who goaded us to go to Kitchen Gardens
We are lucky to have great friends!
Here's a phone video that we shot on our first Kitchen Garden experience. Should have straightened my hair:




Update: We went back a few times to Kitchen Garden a few times and we liked it every time. I finally had a salad and this is what I posted about it on 18th March 2017



"I am not a big fan of raw leafy vegetables to be honest and never call for salads in a restaurant or cafe 
This evening I went to Kitchen Garden in Bandra for a sandwich and saw that I could have a salad without greens

I took the 'make your own salad' option and went for a combination of buckwheat soba noodles, 1 organic egg and mushrooms with a miso dressing

To cut a long story short, history was created

I had ordered a salad for the first time and loved it too!

It tasted absolutely delicious. Cost around Rs 270 plus taxes etc. No lettuce was plucked for its making
And was just what I needed after watching the David Chang ramen 'A Chef's Mind' episode on Netflix the previous night.


There was some debate on Facebook as to whether this is a salad but I did check a couple of times with the staff and they classify it as one. K loved the smoothie she had and as you can see, she has discovered the 'joys' of Twitter and is checking twitter on the phone. Her handle is @spalifekainaz
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