Today my wonderful friend and her family who had moved to Chennai from the Bay Area took me to a bakery / sandwich place that looked and felt more European than Indian! Stepping into this place after precariously dodging broken down bricks and holes on the side walk, I was greeted by a gust of crisp, cold air that smelt of fresh oven baked bread, and my eyes were naturally drawn to a rotating glass case filled with beautifully decorated cakes that resembled Baskin Robbins' Ice Cream Cakes, begging to be sampled. I was indeed tempted to skip a sensible lunch and just sample a whole, richly creamed chocolate cake! But since my friend is petite and health-conscious, I decided to behave myself and dragged my eyes to browse at the neatly furnished cafe and its contents ..... it had simple round bare wooden tables and modern looking white chairs, and the white walls were covered with simple, framed black and white photos of the Eiffel Tower, Champs Di Elyse, London, and the like. Well, enough of the decor..... now where was that wonderful aroma coming from?
Right before my eyes was an assortment of baked stuff displayed on chic, squeaky clean shelves filled with freshly baked breads and croissants all stuffed with appetizing meats and vegetables, with tempting names like Tandoori chicken roll, and Ciabato spicy chicken, with just enough red, spicy stuffing squeezed out to provoke the curiosity! And so we indulged, and I was not disappointed..... it was delicious indeed!
As I chowed down the sandwich, barely acknowledging my kind hosts, I gave a quick look around the bakery to see the clientele that frequented this place..... I was particularly curious after seeing the steep prices on the menu card. Most looked like they have been to the cities displayed on the wall, and were here in this place to reminisce a memory, or take a quick break from the stark reality just outside this little European haven. The spic and span bakery was filled with neatly dressed people relaxing in the cool comfort of an air-conditioned room, munching on delicious sandwiches, and feasting the eyes on beautiful cakes surrounded by photos from beautiful cities, while in the background popular tunes from the Titanic, and Macarena wafted in the air ..... with all the senses preoccupied in this cafe..... it was the perfect escape spot from the usual loud sounds and harsh sights of the large metropolis just outside. Yes, I too was grateful for the warm, light-hearted conversation with close friends and as we shared histories from days gone by ..... it was indeed easy to drown out the traffic sounds, forget the 90 some degrees humid temperature, the pollution, the smells outside, and just be mesmerized for a moment here.....
In less than 30 minutes my sandwiches were all gone.... and just so I didn't feel totally like a starving pig that was fed, I did leave a couple of bites of plain bread and convinced myself that I was on a low calorie diet!! And, a moment too soon it was time to say goodbye to this little haven, reluctantly get back to reality.... and just deal!