Auroville’s popular Bread & Chocolate store is now open in Alwarpet, and offers a thoughtfully crafted menu that focusses on local talent, ethical sourcing and quality produce
Reassuringly, Bread & Chocolate, which just opened in Chennai, is a joyful manifestation of unwavering idealism and stubborn faith.
The man behind the bread is baker Daniel Trulson. A Chicago native, who met his wife in Auroville, Trulson believes in home grown, healthy, organic produce. The man behind the chocolate is Fabien Bontems. The Frenchman, along with his ex-partner Jane launched Mason & Co in Auroville seven years ago, determined to celebrate the potential of the undervalued Indian cacao bean.
Daniel cooks and bakes only with healthy fats: even his vegetables are roasted in raw cacao butter. Fabein untiringly advocates eco-friendly packaging, pushing back on plastic. Both are uncompromising when it comes to produce, insisting on thoughtful, responsible sourcing. They staff their kitchen with women, none of whom have any restaurant experience.
While this unrelenting attention to detail makes functioning more challenging, it is also the reason why the original, small, laidback Bread & Chocolate café, set on nondescript Kuilapalayam road, en route to Puducherry, quickly gained a cult following when it launched five years ago.
After turning down multiple requests for collaboration from across the country, last year the duo met city restaurateurs Japtej Ahluwalia and Nikesh Lamba over chocolate croissants at their café, and agreed to open in Chennai.
The result is a sprawling flagship restaurant cheery with sunshine, bouncing off trays of billowing croissants with flaky crusts and steamy hearts.
A staffer from the original Bread & Chocolate, draped in a bright pink sari, giggles excitedly on a video call, showing her family the space. She pauses and swivels her camera phone so Daniel and Fabien can say hello to them as well. “It’s the first time she has been outside Auroville,” smiles Japtej, also waving, as he bounds up the stairs to explain the layout.
Formerly housing Bharat Bistro, the once-moody space is now open and inviting. The highlight is a surprising open air dining area tucked into a corner, where the older restaurant’s private dining used to be.
“It’s been a crazy roller coaster ride,” laughs Daniel, arriving at the table bearing warm loaves of his signature sourdough, a result of many years of experimentation with flour sourced from across India. Even now, with a reputation for baking some of the country’s best sourdough, he is on his toes, tweaking recipes everyday in response to humidity and ingredients. “It is easy to fall asleep at the wheel… I always motivate myself by challenging myself on a global scale,” he says. Along with regular and seeded versions, he has been experimenting with figs, spices and even a curry sourdough.
The café, open from 8 am, features updated Bread & Chocolate classics, and more. Try the summertime tartine, which shatters into warm buttery shards on every bite, filled with jammy roasted tomatoes, poached eggs, basil pesto and fresh ricotta.
Or dip into the bowls, including warm quinoa porridge, creamy chia pudding and a tropical smoothie chunky with fruits, granola and toasted coconut. There are vegan and gluten free options, including pancakes with cashew cream, a tofu scramble with honey chimichurri and diary free smoothies made with coconut milk.
Avocado toast, a hipster staple, is served with capers and almond dukkah here. And of course, in addition to babka, quiches and apple tarts, there are a range of croissants, stuffed with chocolate or studded with crisp almonds. As well as their signature ‘bread and chocolate’ — hefty slices of sourdough generously piled with dark chocolate, sea salt and honey.
Created in collaboration with Subko, in Mumbai, known for its small batch artisan roasts, the coffee counter boasts an array of drinks, including iced barrel aged cascaras, cold brew bottles and coffee-tonic.
At the chocolate bar, Fabian, who has spent the past seven years working with Indian cacao growers and processors, is enjoying creating bonbons using coconut, coffee, nuts and cacao nibs.
“Coffee and chocolate are very different but also similar,” he says, discussing how attention to farming and processing over the last few years has resulted in Indian coffee beans and cacao earning global attention.
“One of our main goals is to show people that India has high quality ingredients,” Fabien says, pausing to add with a smile, “India has everything.”