French Loaf in Richard’s Town, Bangalore, is precisely this. Identity conflict is ingrained in its existence and it starts right at the looks. How else can you explain a franchised store – essentially meant to replicate a factory – housing itself in an old Bangalore bungalow with lawns all around. That too bang in the heart of the City of Gardens (oh, well) with a big, green park just around the corner. Inside, the faux-cane furniture that you have come to expect in coffee shops is conspicuous by their absence. Copiously sized sofas look inviting, yet it is evident they are past their prime (again, much like an old lover, grayed in his hair yet holding a heartful of romantic overtures). You should be careful not to trip over a power chord someone might have laid across the floor to power her laptop. Of course – this is a coffee shop – a kind that might ask “won’t you stay back a while?” when you ask for the check.
My wife and I are regulars at the store so we know what beverage to order. Friazzo Biscayo. A sinful frappe with pure decoction of filter coffee, crushed ice and chocolate sauce topped with a generous walnut brownie, crushed and its wounds doused in even more chocolate sauce. It is a coffee that demands to be eaten. It appeals to your olfactory senses with its macho coffee aroma mixed in a flirtatious affair with the sweet flavor of the chocolate. When it arrives – and it shall take its own time my sweetheart – it will in a plastic tumbler, once again proving the philosophical point that it is not the container but the contents that matter. Are you having just the frappe? Pray, why? It is a Saturday, you are out with the person that matters in your life and how could you ignore the rich spread of the pastries, the puffs and patties? Go ahead – the chicken calzone (“calzone” is stockings in Italian. These stockings were meant for well fed feet) is as good as any in Bangalore. Order your food and find a place to sit – better than the old-world inside are the shaky tables on the lawns (C’mon, you are in Bangalore honey and it is all about the weather). Once you have settled down, make a slow start to the conversation – remember, romance is not about speed, it is about substance. Take this into account when you ask for the check because this coffee shop really does not want you to leave. If you are in a hurry (and why would that be?) you can go up to the counter and pay for your food. Now that you are done, please do not rush out – and do take a different way out because there is a display of cakes on the way out that could just tingle your romantic self, make you forget the sit-ups at the gym – afterall, it is a late winter Saturday afternoon.
French Loaf in Richard’s Town brings the romance back into coffee. If you are looking for a Cafe Coffee Day or Starbucks like experience of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am style coffee, I would advise you do not stop your car at French Loaf. But then, you are not the “corporate type”, are you? I think I did notice a die-hard romantic below all those pretentious layers of “sent from my Blackberry handheld”. Listen to the voice from your passenger seat – pull up at French Loaf and remember to order the Friazzo Biscayo