With the advent of Café at 4 in New Delhi’s dining scene, the age-old notion of fitness and taste being a nemesis to each other can be put to rest for good. The café on the fourth floor of Le Meridien New Delhi with a paradisiacal and minimalistic chic décor has cracked the code of marrying taste with healthy food. Thanks to Café at 4, now your indulgences can be guilt-free. By Kumar Shree
My first thoughts as I step inside that charming Café at 4 is that an elevated experience can be achieved sans opulence, and the joy of living lies in the simplest of things. The place reminds me of those corner nooks, where you can sit for hours with a book or just overlook the greens outside. The impression is therapeutic and healing. The natural mustard-yellow hue of the furniture complements the quaint setup, giving a warm Christmas-vibe. It’s only later I learn that the furniture is a rebirth of the previous year’s Christmas tree. Full marks for the unique, innovative and green-conscious idea!
I let Chef Jaideep Dutta decide the menu for me. The affair starts with some welcome smoothies and coolers. Their Detox Special with avocado, chia seeds, spinach, soya milk and maple syrup is a super-thick smoothie with a creamy texture. Despite the thick texture, the smoothie does not feel heavy and the hint of maple syrup in every sip works like a charm. The ABC, on the other hand, is a refreshing blend of avocado, beetroot and carrot.
For the salad, I’m served the Wellness Bowl, which has thin slices of mango, cucumber, bell pepper and sprouts. It comes dressed in a sesame dressing made using cider vinegar, honey, ginger and extra virgin olive oil. The cucumber and sprouts in the salad pack a crunch, while the interplay of sweet from the mango and sour from cider vinegar fuse open an orchestra of flavours on my palate, with ginger and honey binding it all together.
It is now time for Multi-Grain Khichdi made using barley, millet, red rice and green lentils. This comes coupled with flax seed raita and a sweet-and-sour homemade pickle. The khichdi is delicious, and the homemade pickle elevates the entire dish. Chef Dutta says this pickle is close to his heart, and after tasting it, it’s close to mine as well. However, the star here is the flax seed raita. It’s so good, I’ve asked for its recipe!
The Locally Inspired is an edamame and bajra tikki sitting atop a jowar and millet papdi with some yoghurt and a date-tamarind chutney. One bite and I go floating in the memory lanes of the times I’ve had street chaats. It resembles an authentic street–chaat taste in every possible way, except that its healthier and free of any added guilt.
The Penne is gluten-free pasta with asparagus, arugula leaves and olives, while the pesto is made with sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, capers and extra virgin olive oil. It’s only while eating this pasta that I realise the menu is turning mass favourites into healthy dishes by mingling them with fresh and seasonal produce.
Phulka Panini is a twin-layered ‘pizza’ made using three-grain phulkas (soya, millet and jowar) with a layer of char-grilled vegetables sandwiched between two phulkas and cut into pizza-like slices. Here, the accompaniments are guacamole, a moong dal hummus and tomato salsa. Every element on the plate seems like it has been waiting to be paired together. The final dish could not have been any better.
Next comes tofu with chermoula, red pepper coulis, greens and microgreens. Here, too, the chermoula is a perfect accompaniment for the mildly flavoured Tofu. It packs all the proteins you would need after an extra-heavy workout.
Despite being stuffed, the chef convinces me for desserts. “Don’t worry, all of this is healthy and super light. It will vanish from your stomach even before you know it,” he says. A bowl of Tapioca Kheer cooked in almond milk with Nolen Gur arrives at the table and I immediately identify it as a culinary gem. The taste and texture are so rich, I refuse to take a sip of water, hoping to keep the lingering taste for as long as possible. I am so awed by this Tapioca kheer that I don’t think I can ever have the regular one cooked at home again!
To conclude the healthy dinner, I am served the Choco Chia Bavaroise – chocolate and coconut cream sitting atop chia seeds.
Just an hour and a half later I feel hungry and it becomes a midnight craving, an hour before midnight. It is now that I realise chef Jaydeep was not joking. For the first time in my life, I feel feather-light just hours after having an elaborate eight-course dinner.
Address: Cafe at 4, Le Meridien New Delhi
Timings: 8 am to 10 pm
Cost for two: INR 1,200