Taking the winding nostalgia route to Janpath, the writer goes for a hearty meal at the Mediterranean restaurant Fresc Co and returns stocking up his memory bank

It seems it was just the other day when I used to go to Janpath with my class and college mates. The shopkeepers would scream their lungs out offering street version of the latest in vogue. For long hours we would pick up a shirt, a T or a pair of jeans only to dump them back in the pile as another caught our fancy. A couple of hours of this shopping extravaganza, and we would be off to Sona-Rupa, an eatery close to the Tolstoy Marg-Janpath traffic intersection.

I recalled all this on my way to three-year-old Fresc Co restaurante one evening. The Mediterranean restaurant, I was told, was on Janpath, so shouldn’t be difficult to locate. But hey, Janpath extends from the tip of Connaught Place to well, Sonia Gandhi’s residence! Not in a mood to go anywhere near anything resembling the Congress in this election year, I took the next best shot: I called up the restaurant’s manager, Amit Luthra for directions.

“Approaching Janpath from The Imperial, turn right at the traffic signal. Take the first left turn on to Tolstoy Lane. At the end of the lane, turn left. Fresc Co is right in front of the Janpath market, close to Cafe Coffee Day,” Luthra helped. He proved a wonderful host too, right from guiding me and my friend Aslam Khan in and onto the table where my friend came across as a keen cricket enthusiast. Even as we order fresh fruit juice, Aslam’s eyes were glued to the big screen TV showing, pray, live coverage of the Bangladesh-Hong Kong T-20 match. Food and cricket often works at home but here, for the first time in my life, I found somebody following the fortunes of the Hong Kong team, which it later turns out, was in the middle of a dream evening.

Ours was not a close second. But never mind, it was pleasant and delectable in its own understated ways. Much like the ambience at Fresc Co which is a soothing mix of seaside blue with pale greens. Nothing screams for attention; there is nothing that jars either. It is a compact little place that encourages freewheeling conversation. They are playing some instrumental tracks of Phil Collins. It again takes me back in time some 20-odd years when sitting with a special friend who emphasised the importance of living in the moment, we would listen to “Nothin’s gonna change my love for you...” Nothing lasts in this mortal world; neither did those times nor those friendships.

Over the years love changed destinations. Just as I found myself at Fresc Co, a stone’s throw from Sona-Rupa, which like the old lady down the road, said goodbye to this world many summer ago. Over at Fresc Co, which is part of an international chain extending from Spain and Italy to India, we begin with a Caesar salad full of lettuce, broccoli, sundried tomatoes with light dressing. The salad is fresh and light, as it should be, encouraging us to go the next level. That is reached with a delectable soup. It is hot, it is yummy. It comes loaded with the goodness of onions, garlic, bread and a smattering of olives. The helping is smart, neither too big nor too small.

Soon we move on to fish fries and French fries; I like the fish version better. Accompanied by a nice tangy sauce, they make for a delicious combination. The service is prompt and we are nudged towards pizzas and pastas. I opt for a thin crust classic Margherita pizza. It comes with generous toppings of sweet corn, roasted zucchini and black olives. It turns out to be a wise choice. The pizza is a shade flaky but the cream inside makes it just rolls in the mouth. One slice, followed by another, ye another. Good times roll on.

That is until we are quietly told by the serving staff that the main course is ready! Good God. In comes green pepper crusted salmon. The portion is not big and it does not look too tempting. However, a bite later, I change my mind and dig into it with relish. My friend, Aslam, who avoids red meat, can’t love fish more. He smiles.

Mercifully, the main course is not too heavy and we keep a little space for the desserts. Black chocolate fudge with cream caramel and a little fruit cake help round off an evening that began on a note of nice nostalgia and ended stocking up my memory bank. Next time, Hong Kong plays a cricket match, I know where to go for my food and in whose company.

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