Comfy decor meets innovative gastronomy at Cafe Papaya’s Panampilly Nagar outlet

Audacity converges with refinement at Cafe Papaya—a clear indicator of chef Mebin’s culinary prowess.

Anoop Menon Published :  08th March 2019 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  08th March 2019 06:00 AM

Kappa lasagna

It’s not often that one gets to savour a South American drink, favoured by everyone from Lionel Messi to Pope Francis. This traditional caffeine-rich, bitter, hot drink—made with dried and chopped yerba maté leaves—is one of many recent additions on the newly reopened Cafe Papaya’s menu.

In fact, patrons who frequented their old address will be surprised when they look at the list of offerings at this new outlet on Yuvajana Samajam Road. The 52-cover establishment has gone from serving the regular tea trinity (green, black, and lime) to a diner that even tea sommeliers may enjoy. Currently, they serve everything from South African rooibos to Japanese matcha. 

Cassava connection
The beverage menu isn’t the only one that has seen an overhaul. Dishes like spicy calamari rings and wheat bran brownies are seen sharing space with naadan beef wrap and kozhi-pidi. However, saying that chef Mebin Baby—who has over 14 years of experience in cooking continental fare—is attempting to spread the curry-and-coconut gospel of Kerala is an oversimplification. It takes cojones to come up with beef fry pizza. My mind immediately conjures up an image of a pizzaiolo standing in a stained lungi while tossing flour on a well-seasoned thattukada’s table top. 

Yet, the comical imagery fades after the first bite, when the tender spiced meat, blanketed in lush melting mozzarella and surrounded by fried coconut flakes and curry leaves, makes contact with my taste buds. While the staff puts together another signature item—perfectly-mashed tapioca, cheese, and slow-cooked beef layered within lasagna sheets—I chat with Harshad Ali, who handles operations, and explore the 3,200 sq feet restaurant which boasts a private screening theatre and workshop space.

Interplay of flavours
Despite the well-judged usage of naadan elements in the lasagna, particularly the shallot chutney, it feels like their execution couldn’t keep pace with the innovation. If you’re looking for dessert, your best bet is the Papaya Suite. The fluffiness of the pachor (rice cooked in jaggery syrup), crisp fried aval and pappadam, creamy payasam and raw coconut shavings make this a must-have.

Audacity meets gastronomic refinement at Cafe Papaya—a clear indicator of chef Mebin’s culinary prowess. This casual diner is as fastidious about the ingredients in its kitchen as it is about its playlist, coffee table books, and laidback decor.

Open from noon to 11 pm.