Rule 1 – Don’t eye a cake and leave it hanging.
It stood out glazed , gooey brown behind the well lit glass counter. A name board ran across its length –
Salted Caramel cheesecake.
H eyed the cake like King Solomon when he discovered the gold mines.
Still he collected itself waited without provocation and said with the utmost conviction.
If it’s mine, I shall get it.
And then H hopped about hoping
no one else buys it before we reach to the front of the que.
Rule no 2: If on surprise food trip wear trackpants n bulgy sweater not get tricked into wearing Shahrukh Khan jacket n jeans.
We are leaving in an hour. Get ready fast
Where to? I looked at H
Food – pastry – Koregaon park, these words got highlighted from H’s sentence. Koregaon park, funky town, funky crowd – wear jeans and trendy T.
H came out in Kurta – trousers looking swell, took one look at me amd smiled. He looked cheerful- man having one of his foodie moments I thought.
Wait , saying that he went into his room only to return with a red jacket.
For you – wear it , it will be cold.
I checked the jacket , red, with black arms , a bit too collegy, bit too …
Won’t this be too Sharukh Khan ? I quizzed.
Arrey no yaar – don’t worry. Besides it will be cold . You need something. I wore it.
Outside he stopped a rickshaw. The guy looked me over, couple of passerbys in cars looked , then I caught my reflection in the mirror.
H you bastard !. I laughed
You are welcome Shahrukh ! H laughed right back.
Decent weather, general Diwali cheer and H buzzing. I sensed a good trip. And the auto took off to Koregaon Park.
Rule 3: in one rickshaw do not think only yiu or your friend are the dude.
You know the way, I asked the auto guy practising my Marathi.
Yes sir,, he replied in crisp English.
We got talking – Pune traffic, bylanes , real estate, the auto guy’s side buisness as an insurance agent. Quite impressed by his survival skills I eyed the swanky apartments realising we were already at Koregaon park. I turned to ask H who was busy on the phone. I gestured
Tell him cafe indulgence, Homi replied aloud.
I whispered he wouldn’t ….
U know the cafe sir, the auto guy now fast turning dude told us. H continued his phone call, I continued to look at my toes.
We are here
How much ? I asked fully expecting to get fleeced by my previous experience.
Auto guy looked at me – pay meter rate sir.
He was a dude.
I paid the fare and we got out to face Cafe Indulgence.
Rule 4: don’t presume all white guys are ripping off brownies !
Homi’s smile grew wider as he shared info – run by an Austrian couple, handmade cakes, pastries, limited menu and Special Wednesday treats – like he wanted me to write about it.
(We had just about decided to write a blog together. Neither had an idea this would be the first article ).
In my head, I go white couple selling , pastries in shop to brown people – pleazzz whats new about that?
Till I read the small poster right outside the shop.
‘Only one customer served at a time’
Rule 5: when it’s the last pastry don’t be too hopeful you would get it.
There wasn’t a mad rush or anything there. Why did they put up the sign? Just one customer before us, we entered in pretty fast. Hmmn.
Our turn, Nobert, the owner who also worked the counter attends to us. Dressed In a simple T-shirt-jeans and with his smiling eyes behind the dreaded COVID mask, he asked what we wanted. Homi turns into a kid in candyland.
One Salted caramel cheesecake
One Blueberry cheesecake
One Weekend special banoffee pie
‘I will serve you outside.’ Nobert told us once he understood we are not doing take-aways, but having the stuff there. Clearly he heard the joy in Homi’s voice.
There’s just one table outside. One. Placed under a simple canopy was a simple round table, two chairs, a small diya in between. Me likes. Nobert served us – we got down to serious business.
The cheesecakes were really good – especially the weekend special – each ingredient be it the banana, chocolate, cream could be tasted separate and yet they were part of the whole. Made us want coffee. I ordered a Cappuccino, Homi an Espresso. He went back in. I sat there watching him.
It was interesting sitting outside and observing the ones who barged in unawares or ignoring the poster of only one customer being served at one time in the shop. Once Nobert politely asks them to wait out, they rush out embarrassed. This time they do read the poster with looks of puzzlement and hurt evident in their stares. But all of them waited their turn. Then Nobert turns on his charm.
In between talking, smiling and laughing a lot, Nobert ticks all the right boxes. LIke crushing coffee beans, heating cakes just right and paying attention to the display. He keeps things simple – no fake motifs and unwanted figurines on the coffee, no outlandish cutlery or clutter. The externals didn’t matter, cakes and coffees do.
8.30 – Nobert put off the lights. Sweet. Just then a lady in burqa and a companion waltz in. He doesn’t want to, but still turns the lights back on – serves them patiently. We enter back to pay up. He tells Homi – “Nice to see you after so long”. Homi is beaming.
We set out, walked around. Time to head back. I thought of Indulgence. In a time of all night baristas and 24 hour coffee shops, they were shutting shop by 9pm. Homi tells me they have been always doing that since reopening during the pandemic. Respect. We stopped a rickshaw.
“30 rupees extra lagega.”
Not today, boss, We walk off in a huff.