French Affair

Roadside rendezvous ♦

From its Toile de Jouy wallpaper with dancing French country couples to its aqua wrought-iron chairs and mixed-up crockery, this bakery is a little oasis of charm on the stretch between Mehrauli and Chattarpur. With a stone wall façade and muntined windows, illuminated by the warm yellow light inside, The French Affair looks rather tavern-like –  and therefore not completely out of place on the side of a sloshy road on the edge of the city.

Indoors, several tables and chairs are crammed together and surrounded by vitrines filled with pastries and brownies, shelves stuffed with fresh-baked bread and crowded with ceramic tchotchkes and assorted teapots, and counters sprouting lollipop sticks of chocolates and tiers of cookies and tarts. Besides selling and serving basic sweet and savoury baked goods, The French Affair also has a limited menu of crêpes, waffles, tea, coffee and “slushes”.

The café-style food here isn’t ambitiously authentic; everything we tried was slightly suffused with local spicing or ingredients. But the prices are affordable enough and the grub tasty enough for us not to particularly mind The French Affair’s desi twist. A mushroom and corn mini-quiche was buttery, flaky and stuffed with crumbly melting cheese, and a vegetarian crêpe was the size of a dinner plate – stuffed to the gills with chopped button mushrooms and olives. A sweet waffle was smaller and, while it tasted fresh, was a tad under-crisped and not warm enough. The blueberry topping we chose was too jammy – fresh or defrosted berries would have been better – but the dollops of heavy cream plopped in each square were nicer than canned whip.

The cappuccino is perfect – big, foamy and hot, and served with a piece of chocolate. We tried a spicy lime and mint slush that turned out to be a frozen mango panna. We imagine this would be lovely to sip in the summer, sitting in The French Affair’s adjacent courtyard: a white stucco enclosure with fans, leafy plants and several tables.

Make no mistake – as far as its food goes, this place is set in the classic Indian mould of a Wenger’s or a Defence Bakery. But if it’s atmosphere you seek, and an Edith Piaf soundtrack, The French Affair is a sweet escape that is definitely as welcoming as a warm hug and a kiss on each cheek. And here’s a tip if you’re ever stuck in traffic in that area: the restroom is cleaner, prettier and smells better than many a Delhi parfumerie.

The French Affair 308 Chattarpur Hills, 100 Foot Road (98110-11239). Qutab Minar Metro. Daily 11am-11pm. Meal for two ₹1,000.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, January 2012.