Cafe Zoe. Bombay changing?

There are some things I just don’t get. I don’t get the Indian man’s obsession with adjusting his balls in public. I don’t get the RJs on Bombay radio. And I just don’t get restaurants that hide average food and poor service behind free Wi-Fi and cool interiors.

The last time I was in Bombay, the city was going gaga over celebrity spotting at Hakkasan, and Table remained non-five star restaurant of choice. This time round there was a new name I ran into everywhere. Cafe Zoe. Bombay waxed eloquent about how cool it is. How NYC the vibe is. How much they loved hanging out there. A “really lovely girl”, some expat, and the former chef of one of Bombay’s hottest restaurants have come together and the city was in love with a new restaurant all over again.

Instead of hiding its mill ancestry, Café Zoe celebrates it. Even though slightly reminiscent of the look that The Bowling Co. created 13 years ago, Café Zoe’s design is definitely cool. The furniture is simple, there is a decent bar against one wall and sofas against another. What I liked a lot about this restaurant was the tons of natural light that streams in through the skylights. Oh, and the loo is pretty cool too.

I’m afraid that is all I really liked about Café Zoe.

As a single diner, I was seated at the bar. I usually prefer this, but their bar stools are not high enough and I spent my entire meal adjusting and readjusting myself to try and eat my meal comfortably. In between swatting flies that swarmed the bar. I started with a Fresh Black Grape Caipiroska (Rs. 450). Really well priced, but was sickly sweet and I couldn’t taste the alcohol. I waited twenty minutes for the first of my bar snacks to arrive – Roast Veg Arancini (Rs. 210) served with an unfortunate tomato sauce. I dare you to say it tastes of anything other than a tart gujju pizza sauce. The arancini on its own is nicely cheesy but under-salted; this is probably deliberate given the way the tomato sauce assaults your taste buds. Many minutes later my other snack, Pulled Pork Brioche (Rs. 285), arrives. I did away with the cucumber slice it came with, wiped away the excess mustard that killed all other flavours and then went on to semi-enjoy this dish.

The best dish I ordered was the Truffle Capellini (Rs. 550). Exactly what it says on the menu. No fuss and all flavour.

Just when I was getting ready to forgive the flies, poor flavours, haphazard service and multiple requests for the Wi-Fi code going unanswered, it all came crashing down with the dessert. First they misplaced my order, then the Panna Cotta (Rs. 150) arrives and tastes of smelly custard, and then the Americano (Rs. 75) arrives in a smelly cup.

Spend 10 minutes here and it is plain as day why people flock to Café Zoe. The pretty ones – film maker, ad guy turned hot actor turned activist turned actor, society food columnist, fashion store owner – feel like they have come to a members-only private club; and the wannabe pretty ones… well, they just wanna be part of this private club. Neither care about the average food, the abundant flies, or the appalling service. All they care about is the “vibe”.

I go to restaurants for one of two reasons: great food, great service. Ideally both, but definitely one. Everything else is gravy. Everyone I knew used to want this too. When did this change? Why have (supposedly) fewer options given way to an acceptance of mediocrity? Does the mediocrity stop at our resturants? When did Bombay go soft?



Filed under Bar, Bar food, Bistro, Bombay, Cafe, Diner, India, Italian, Mediterranean

13 responses to “Cafe Zoe. Bombay changing?

  1. heck. you have described every so-called toney resaturant that comes up in the city which i now live in. but in bombay too, now, it looks like. on top of it, when you mildly question or complain, a waiter with a serious speech defect or bad dentures or truly difficult accents (no offense meant to ppl with either condition, but surely they can’t be waiters that have to explain things and pronounce things) shows up and gamely argues with you and tries to tell you loftily what the dish is about. i often want to say a) liar! b) i’ve eaten this stuff elsewhere you know, so i DO have something to compare with. as for tomato sauce! ….but all of this says a lot about the clientele. here in my city, the clientele in such restaurants actually does not possess taste buds. so the restaurants get away with everything looking the part but not necessarily tasting the part. as long as everything on the menu is named in such a way that the last word ends in -cini and is red and yellow with tomato and cheese, then of course you’re eating Italian! your Zoe clientele sound like that too!

  2. jai

    Well written and to the point, Pooja.
    In Mumbai, I feel its always all about the VISUALS and NEVER about the content! be it a FASHION STORE or a CAFE!

  3. Sheena

    Spot on Pooja! I too found the drinks sickly sweet, the service non existent, and the food barely edible! Bombay is clearly far more enamoured by trend than seduced by substance!

  4. Pingback: Chapter 31 | Response to Mediocrity | Guide to The Dream Life

  5. jignasa Shah

    Nice to read that someone still has high standards and won’t settle for anything but the BEST!

  6. Suresh

    Excellent review Pooja and very well written. I have to confess, I’m one of those who goes to Zoe for the vibe. And perhaps because I like the vibe so much, I forgave the food for not being as good as it should.

  7. too good this blog is!! lol! had so much fun reading it 🙂 “When did Bombay go soft?” Pooj! So well you write.

  8. mr molloy

    Sounds like yet one more tedious, mediocre space where every AMW (actor/model/whatever) can air-kiss each other when not checking their iPhones for new Facebook friends or frantically positioning themselves in the Page 3 snapper’s line of fire. Food? We’d really prefer to be at Swati Snacks. And of course there’ll be another new one along soon. There has to be.

  9. Salil

    Snapped What utterly ridiculous way to blow yr money at a bs place like Zoe.I prefer ,with this money,to blow it in a 5 Star anyday.Even God wl not help pathetic Zoe.If you have so much liking for film stars and celebs,station yrself outside YRS 24 hrs a day.You wl get enough dose for 1 month in 1 day,Pooja

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