Kochi has come a long way. From the standard coffee houses, we moved to artisanal cafes serving global fare. Here’s a look at some of the cafes that have been defining the city’s coffee culture
There was never a dull moment at the Indian Coffee House. While you waited for your order, which was invariably vegetable cutlets with their signature beet stuffing and steaming hot coffee served in steel tumblers, you watched the waiters move from table to table in their white uniforms and fancy headgear. This used to be the ultimate idea of a cafe, where we could ‘meet for coffee’, chat, eat a bit and watch others eat. (BTW, even now, there are staunch ICH loyalists.)
The city has come a long way. From the standard coffee houses, we moved to artisanal cafes serving global fare. Our culinary vocabulary expanded to cappuccinos, espressos, mochas, pastas, steaks and tacos. The more, the merrier, we say!
Here’s a look at some of the cafes that have been defining the city’s coffee culture. Cocoa Tree, one of the city’s oldest new cafes, has been serving cappuccino and espressos since 2004, when these were not easily available in the city. The menu had cafe latte, cafe mocha and cafe cortado to name a significant few. The pastries and cakes were a sensation – the opera cake, for instance, with French coffee cream, coffee ganache and brown butter. Cocoa Tree’s iconic club sandwich has been a hit ever since its launch.
At Panamaplly Nagar, Cafe Papaya has made a name for itself. Started in 2013, this fusion food cafe brought in a traditional twist, serving naadan flavours with continental fare. Kappa Lasagne with mashed tapioca added with beef/chicken/mushroom has cheese layered in lasagne sheets. The ingenious combination of kappa and spinach in Kappa n Spinach Pizza has sauteed spicy tapioca and spinach. Aside from the fusion favourites, the classic lasagne is a bestseller too. The menu also pays tribute to Kochi’s deliciously famous odd combination, the Pazhampori-beef curry.
If you are looking for a quaint patisserie joint, French Toast is an ideal place. Primarily a bakery, the space has a range of assorted breads, cookies, and tea time snacks. From cakes, Montblanc, which takes about 18 hours to make, is a must-try. French toast, sandwiches, sourdough pizza are the other attractions.
Food and art go down well. Kashi Art Cafe in Fort Kochi is a gallery and cafe, where you can immerse yourself in art and food. The space mostly serves continental and fusion food. Its vegan breaky is much in demand.
Talking cakes, Pandhal, which started as a restaurant in 1984, is a name that cannot be missed. However, today, it has two cafes in Ernakulam -- Pandhal Cafe & Deli, the menu has Mexican tacos, Korean Barbecue Pork Rice Bowls, and pizzas. Among cakes, the special Ferrero Rocher and chocolate caramel are the fastest moving. When it comes to coffee, the cold brew is a speciality.
At a time when there were only a handful of cafes, Cafe 17 on Kaloor-Kadavanthra Road, was a go-to place for many in the city. It wasn’t just a patisserie, but also a perfect place to unwind after a long day of work. The welcoming space has a large bookshelf and a corner wall full of movie posters. A TV screen is for the football fans, who don’t have to miss a match during football season. Cafe 17 is one of the cafes in Kochi known for their match screenings.
Praveen Mohan, the owner of Cafe 17, says the menu is inspired by the many journeys he took during his 22-year career as a hotelier. “We wanted to give Kochi a casual dining experience with a global approach, so our dishes have influences from many countries,” he says. If you are craving a good steak then the beef tenderloin has all that you are looking for.
Chicken A La Kiev, a dish made of chicken fillet, has its origins in Ukraine, says Praveen. Among pastas, the Pasta Bolognese has a separate fan base, apart from the cafe’s famed cappuccinos and espressos. Another must-try for coffee lovers is the cold brew -- made with ground coffee beans soaked overnight.
Good coffee goes well with literature. And that reminds me of Poems Cafe, tucked away in a corner at Kakkanad. The cafe was launched last years by two friends Chippy and Sijo. Poems Cafe was started with an intention of promoting art and artists, says Chippy. “Apart from food, we aspire to give emerging artists a platform to show their works,” Chippy adds.
Headed by Chef Sreejesh, who worked with British chef Gordon Ramsay, the highlight at this cafe is the continental cuisine. What makes it stand out from the rest is the authenticity in cuisine. “Food is served as it is. We don’t tweak recipes according to the Indian palate. So no masalas are added. Due to this, we get mixed responses,” says Chippy.
For steak, you can choose from salmon, chicken, beef, and prawns. The Italian pizza, created by the chef himself, stands out. Among the drinks, according to the founders, the pulpy fresh passion fruit mojito is the best choice.
Steam N Mugs, another Kakkanad-based cafe, has food from around 25 countries served at affordable rates. As starters, the highlights are curled octopus, rabbit soup and meat, juicy Caribbean shrimp soup and Belgian fries. The peri peri roast Chicken, Turkish chicken pilaf with apricot and the Turkey-based pureed chicken soup are the most in demand here.
With a view of the Cherai Beach, the Chillout Cafe has been a favourite among food lovers in Kochi. Started nearly a year ago, the palm-roofed cafe serves mocktails, pasta and steak in addition to its signature pizzas made from the hearth. The special drink, ‘ Blue Mountain’, made of ice cream and blue syrup, also has takers.
KOCHI AND ITS QUAINT CAFES
Steam N Mugs, Poems Cafe, Pandhal Cafe & Deli, Chillout cafe, are the few emerging cafes in the city. Pulpy passion fruit mojito, steaks of different flavours, hearth pizzas are the few takeaways in these spaces. Belgian fries has a seperate fanbase.