I am an old timer at Au Bon Pain, not only at their Park Street outlet but I have tried them out at their other outlets and kiosks as well spread all across the city. To be very frank, I am an ardent fan of their bakery products. And when it comes to this Park Street outlet I absolutely love the ambiance and the colonial style interiors. I keep coming back to this place not only to taste ABP’s food but also to taste the sweetness of Kolkata. The place has somehow got the sugary essence that builds the DNA of this mystic city! But yes, it is not that iconic in this area like the Flury’s, Peter Cat or maybe the Olypub. But ABP with this spacious, spread out outlet attracts loads of crowd and is placed right at the heart of Park Street. As we all know this place used to be the house of music lovers, when Music World was erased from this location most of the music lovers (who are also coffee sippers!) marked the day as some sort of a black day, but then when Au Bon Pain opened up things started taking a U-turn, people started coming back again at this piece of land. And now they were being treated to the subtle delicacies of this American bakery!
This fast casual bakery and café chain started off in Boston back in 1978. Since then it has spread all across US, Thailand and in India. The bakery café chain that literally means ‘at the good bread’ was brought to the country after the daughter of industrialist Sanjeev Goenka took a liking to its bakery products as a student at the University of Pennsylvania sometime in 2007. A couple of years later, the first café was opened up in Bangalore. The Kolkata chapter began in November 2013 at Park Street, in the sprawling space once occupied my Music World.
Au Bon Pain is a place where you would love to visit if you want to have some fresh and safe food in real quick time. It focuses on serving baked goods primarily like fresh-baked bread, pastries, croissants, muffins, bagels, etc and items like tea, coffee, espresso beverages, breakfast food items, soups, salads, sandwiches, etc. If the already existing baked samosa, or baked vada-pao have not been much sought-after items in the midst of sandwiches, salads, breads, and bagels the new menu is expected to enhance the experience to yet another level. It is surely based on the upcoming food trends and demands. Also as we know here you won’t get any fried items on the menu which is unhealthy, oily or soggy, everything here is either cooked or baked.
Last week I was invited at Au Bon Pain, Park Street at the Bloggers Meet over a food tasting session and I was truly honored to be a part of this event which marked the launch of Au Bon Pain’s new Menu with so many prominent food bloggers under one roof. Infact I had referred several other notable bloggers and foodies in town and together we had a real good time. This review of mine will cover these new items from ABP’s menu and couple of my old favorites. So let’s discuss briefly about the ambiance of this place and then we can directly move on to the section we love most, where to discuss about the food!
The place is located just beside Flury’s at Park Street opposite the McDonalds outlet. As you step into this café you notice the enormous high ceiling, colonial style structures and feel, it’s a spread out piece of paradise waiting to greet you. The service is quite prompt, servers are very polite and they will guide you to get seated. As you enter the place you notice a yellow standing board depicting the map which how you can walk down their food trail. It shows the map of the place as you are supposed to go through it. It shows all the notable stops where you should stop and take a look or a sip maybe!
Now as you enter the place the urbane décor and wooden suave finish all around impresses you. The chandeliers used are not very artsy though which could have elevated the charm had it been the other way. As you walk past the front section having all the items on display you enter the seating area which again is huge. And you get an array of seating arrangements to choose from. We chose the high chairs; you can opt for couches or simple seating arrangements available in other cafes. It has got some seating arrangements upstairs as well where you can get by taking the stairs.
By the way, the place is so spread out, you have public address system installed there for servers to call out your orders when they are ready, etc; often you may feel you are sitting at an airport or a railway station maybe 🙂 The wall décor and paintings remind you of the bygone era of British raj maybe and overall exudes an aura or warmth and marks your good times. It’s a place where you can sit for hours with your laptop or friends and no one will come and hand over the bill to you indicating you need to vacate the spot.
Now coming to the food which we had tried during our food tasting session. As we all know the food here is not fried and overall has a subtle flavor, anyone who loves something too spicy, drenched in Indian masalas or is more inclined towards real junk food this might not be your right place to order from. Anyway, without wasting any more words lets check out the items we tried –
a) Cold coffee – This was served once we were seated, it was the first drink that we had. It was served in a plastic covered glass and in real good quantity. Being the first drink it helped us getting into the groove and somehow I felt it to be refreshing though the essence of coffee could have been on the higher side and it could have been a bit thickened.
b) Cone-wich – This is the new offering from Au Bon Pain. Cone-wich is one fancy name for their cone shaped sandwiches with mildly spiced fillings. There are conical sandwiches stuffed and served in a medium sized paper glass. Quite an innovative idea for sure and quite handy for its structure and the glass in the base. The conical sandwich is somehow rolled up to lock the stuffing inside and is sprinkled with sesame seeds on top. The generous stuffing (with loads of cheese on top) is no doubt very fresh and very flavorful. I loved these conewiches for sure. I had tried the below three flavors (or rather fillings) of cone-wich which is all they have right now –
i) Paneer tandoori
ii) Chicken keema
iii) Mushroom and eggplant
c) Peach mojito – Served in a transparent covered glass the quantity served was again appreciable, though this peach flavored mojito tasted pretty watery since the flavors were on the lower side. Some work needs to be done on this drink.
d) Banana yogurt cooler with Chia seeds – This is one of the newly introduced drinks, it is one of their summer super coolers. These are the high fibre energy drinks. This mainly focuses on health rather than on your taste buds. As a result my taste buds didn’t love this thick banana shake but I’m sure my body did!
e) Orange papaya cooler – Same as the previous drink, this is one of the newly introduced summer super coolers. It is a high fibre energy drink again focusing on your health. It had the optimal mix of papaya and fresh oranges in it, a true cooler for sure but the taste didn’t impress me much. But saying so, it is good for your health and can be a real deal with the scorching sun outside.
f) Watermelon mojito – The name says it all, it has the watermelon pulp mixed with the right kick of crushed mint leaves, served in huge quantity. Really loved this one.
g) Croi-mosa – This is pronounced as [kwa-mosa] and is one of the newly introduced items. These are scrumptious croissants with the samosa filling inside which mainly consisted of mildly spiced potatoes. It was nice and goes well with some hot tea or coffee.
h) Poha Bagel Sandwich – This was an innovative newly introduced dish served in a paper box. It has yellow colored poha on toasted bagel with Au Bon Pian’s signature cheese blend and some mint chutney. The combination somehow appeared tad quirky to me and it was nice though not out of the world. The flavors were overall mild and can be consumed for breakfast.
i) Grilled chicken jalepano and corn – This was a sandwich which I couldn’t taste much in this tasting session. But it had nicely grilled chicken bits along with crunchy corn and jalepanos in there, the overall taste was nice with a bit of tanginess to it.
j) BBQ chicken wings – We devoured these chicken wings just like anything. The little wings were all meaty and very fresh. They were juicy and very appetizing from the look itself. Though I would have preferred them to be a tad tangy maybe like the crispy Korean versions, but anyway here the sauce which covered the wing was nice, it was again mild and non-spicy having subtle flavors to it.
k) Classic mojito – It was the classic mojito, but was tad too minty for my liking. This could have been prepared perfectly since it is pretty common these days, available in almost every restaurant.
l) Mocha – This cuppa fine quality coffee was bang on the target. It was a orthodox preparation though I felt it could have been a bit more dense.
m) Apple Juice – The apple juice was prepared with some preferences kept in mind maybe, since I felt the taste was bit intensified and not sure if everyone would prefer it. Someone keen to have intensified apple flavor would go for it, the quantity served was good but the quality could have been better.
n) Asian noodle salad – The Asian Noodle Salad was served in a plastic easy to carry box with a lid. The salad was loaded with veggies and was packed with flavors keeping the health quotient in mind. It was basically sesame ginger noodles on a bed of greens with tossed almonds, carrots and spring onions. It was filling and very satisfying, I would recommend this dish.
o) Dark hot chocolate – This was again something which I loved. It was one medium sized glass of hot dark chocolate that I kept on sipping for a long while some interesting conversions were going on! 🙂 Something which I’ll again have when I am back here.
p) Frozen mint lemonade – This was nice with the right mix of crushed mint and a dash of lemon. The refreshing cooler was indeed necessary for beat the blazing sun outside.
q) Strawberry ice tea – To be very frank, I am not an ardent fan of Ice Teas, I have an old school ideology that the flavor (or rather the charm) of tea suits (me) best when it is consumed hot. But anyway, doesn’t mean I never try Iced Tea. Here the Ice Tea had a unique combination with strawberry flavor infused into it. I can tell you if you love ice teas you will like this flavored variant for sure.
r) Chocolate croissant – I absolutely loved this croissants which had chocolate syrup webbed on top which looked liked strands. The croissant was overall soft and slightly flacky. The chocolate filling was an absolute bliss to have. It was gooey, rich and intense. Must try!
s) Iced Mocha – This is one of the newly introduced drinks. It comes under the category of ‘Specialty cold beverages’. It had the right essence of mocha, the aroma of finest coffee beans came through in spite of it being the cold variant. Overall it was refreshing and satisfying.
t) Peri Peri chicken wings – It was the second chicken wing based dish, but I found it lacked the zing somehow. I would prefer the BBQ Chicken wings to this one. The looks were promising enough to leave us longing for more. The flavors were too subtle to leave us disappointed; the wings were anyway meaty and fresh.
u) Creamy Basil veggie pasta – The only pasta dish that we tried, the Creamy Basil veggie pasta was a delight to have. It was not too loaded with spices but left a mild essence of basil packed with grilled vegetables, topped with parmesan cheese and served with garlic bread. Nice one and yes, it was filling as well.
v) Blueberry muffin – Here comes the gem of Au Bon Pain, the muffins at this place are to die for. Blueberry muffin is no exception. The concentrated blueberry jelly and the overall blueberry essence only keep you wanting for more.
w) Red velvet cake – Again something which I love. The red velvet cake here is bit different from what you might have been dreaming. These fluffy muffins will surely make your day. It’s again pretty subtle to taste, flavors are not at all over powering.
x) Dutch choco – Absolutely loved these rich dark chocolate muffins which had a chocolate piece on top. The stuff was super soft and had intense chocolaty essence; it’ll be a crime if any chocolate lover misses this out.
y) Blueberry mint mojito – The blueberry mint mojito was served in a transparent covered glass, the quantity served was again appreciable, though this blueberry flavor was somewhat overpowered by the aroma of mint in there.
z) Banana walnut muffin – I am not a fan of anything prepared with banana or with its essence. But this was one strong exception. I absolutely loved this cake. It was soft, fluffy and loaded with walnuts and the essence of banana which strangely went very well with my taste buds. Must try!
That concludes our marathon eating expedition. And yes, thanks for the gift hampers which we carried back home that consisted of some lovely truffles. Overall we had a nice experience; the ambiance along with the service will make you come back for more. The muffins and cakes were just brilliant but we felt the drinks could have been a tad better.
If the drinks were not served this could have been one gem of an experience! Au Bon Pain with all its expertise and glorious history can surely take this note and work on the drinks to make them better. Else this place is doing great and as always buzzing with happy customers. I wish them all the best for the coming days and especially with this new menu.