You are sure to commit calorific sin once you step into Tryst, the new French bakery in town

I might as well start with the macaroons.

After all, they were my undoing. There they sat, fatly complacent and gleaming with smug satisfaction. “Try us”, they whispered. “We're so worth half an hour on the treadmill. Not to mention the elliptical machine. And maybe an additional twenty minutes of exercycle trauma.” The hefty slices of fudge cake beside them sniggered in agreement. The portly chocolate cookies giggled encouragingly.

In minutes, they were all gone. If this was a children's tale on Chatty Pastry, it would have ended in a rather inappropriate massacre by page three. In minutes we had a sort of Robert Southey's ‘After Blenheim' situation on the plates, except there were forlorn cookie crumbs rolling about instead of ancient skulls.

Flaunting crusty bread, imaginative pastry and quirky chocolates, newly opened Tryst in Neelangarai, features a French bakery and unapologetic excesses, promising to be a hotbed of calorific sin. In fact, since we're in a literary state of mind, let's say this is a culinary version of Ulysses' tryst with the sirens. For there we were, innocently minding our own business, when the spinach quiches accosted us, singing songs of eggy lightness and cheese surfeits. Lotus-eater forsooth. Who needs lotuses, when you have buttery croissants? (Of course, they were croissants. Tryst is French, remember.)

Quick on their heels came the chicken sandwiches, chewy baguettes stuffed with slices of bright tomato and chicken, smothered in mayonnaise. I'd mention they're terribly unglamorous to chew through, if I hadn't resigned myself to becoming as big as an MTC bus anyway. (Let's be sensible now. Who cares about glamour when you have a backside big enough to advertise on, right?)

Which brings us back those macaroons.

Alain Phan, who moved from fashion to food when he relocated from France to India explains why he opened Baker Street in Puducherry, which is supplying Tryst's food. (“People always want good bread, cheese, wine.”) Meanwhile, his two perky French chefs cheerfully point out the basil macaroons — crunchy, creamy, they melt away with a whisper of fresh basil. There is also fluffy olive oil, blushing rose tea and more conventional chocolate macaroons. It makes you grateful Phan didn't just open a laundry, which was his other business plan.

“It's not just a bakery,” he says, as we eye the wicker baskets piled with rye bread, pumpernickel and chocolate twisters. “It's a French deli concept.” Omar Sait, director, Tryst, says Tryst will also feature smoothies, coffees and a range of sandwiches, adding that the bakery products will be shipped in from Phan's central kitchen in Puducherry to ensure consistency.

Right now the café's quite low key, brightened up mainly by an assortment of pastry and a ratatouille of books ranging from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye to a glossy Europe by Euro Rail. Omar says they're developing a small amphitheatre outside, complete with a screen for F1 and IPL fans, so you can simultaneously have your cake and admire the cheesecake. (Let's not kid ourselves on why we're hooked to glammed-up sports.)

We try sidling out, in a desperate last ditch attempt to avoid vacuuming up every calorie on the premises. But the French bakers push a tray laden with slabs of chocolate cake towards us. Well, a sliver won't hurt, right? They nod emphatically. “It's eggless,” says one, virtuously. Two slices later, they guffaw, “But, we used olive oil, sugar and lots of nuts.” They do, however offer us a handful of chocolate coated orange peels and ginger to make up. Succulent and covered in dark chocolate dusted with sugar, they're delightful. And evil. We must not forget, evil.

Tryst at Gatsby Village in Neelankarai is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call 24495010/ 5020 for more details. A meal costs an average of about Rs. 650 for two.

Keywords: foodAlain Phan

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