Cafes are a dime a dozen in Gurgaon these days, as the big players in the coffee-sandwiches-ice blends domain sprout new branches at every corner—but seldom do you see an espresso with its original Italian accent intact. So it was a reason to rejoice when Choko la, the cafe and chocolate boutique chain promoted by Vasudha Munjal, a third generation entrepreneur from the Munjal Group, opened a branch at Galleria last month.
Its façade looks like any other ordinary café—the special is inside. Comfortable chocolate coloured leather seating; mocha and ochre coloured walls, fitted with wooden shelves stacked with breads and croissants, that Choko la also retails, on one side and an artwork with bold splashes of blue, moss green and chocolate on the other; and a wood panelled ceiling—
all create a sense of visual jazz. Rows of uniquely coloured cupcakes, cheesecakes and other delectable desserts such as tiramisu and lemon tarts share shelf space with an array of chocolates. Chocolate truffles, handmade pralines, single origin chocolate bars, mendicants, tuiles and rochers—are laid out in full view of the scrutinising diner—over the service counter, and inside the glass display unit—giving them their due importance. Chocolates, after all, are the raison d’etre of Choko la.
No surprise then that the café, that visions itself as being the best chocolataire in the country, derives its name from the Mayan verb, choko la’j, pronounced Choko la, which means, “to drink chocolate together.” The menu opens out to a short chocolate lexicon explaining familiar yet unclear terms such as ganache, couverture and truffle. It goes on to detail Choko la’s signature collection of hot and cold chocolates that come in three cocoa contents: Hot Chocolate with 70.4 per cent cocoa; Choko la Dark with 53.8 per cent and Choko la Milk with 33.8 per cent.
Leaving the chocolates and their derivatives to the end of our meal, my companion and I start our meal with Choko la’s Natural Soups. While traditional minestrone with colourful seasonal vegetables and macaroni (Rs 110) was a great way to start a meal, the winner was my companion’s lightly seasoned and perfectly blended curried carrot and coconut soup (Rs 95). The Thai Warm vegetable Salad (Rs 140) kept the good taste going; and while an asparagus, artichoke, spinach, dates and raisin salad tossed in a tangy Thai dressing was filling enough, we couldn’t just stop there.
While chomping on crispy potato wedges with gently flavoured garlic aioli, we skimmed through the menu. Carnivores beware! Choko la is a vegetarian café. While it does serve mock meat dishes, go with their pizzas (Rs 205) and/or any of the sandwiches (Rs 125-175) and you will not miss your pepperoni or bacon strips. We shared the Choko la Club
(Rs 175) and were impressed with layers of toasted whole wheat bread interspersed with fresh and sun dried tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, cucumbers and emmental. Caprese (Rs 175), with buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil pesto and olive tapenade on rye loaf comes highly recommended too.
At last it was time for the Choko la desserts. I decided to sample a roundel of white truffle with mocha filling. As I bit into the hard exterior, the soft filling oozed out onto my fingers. Just as well it’s a casual restaurant, as I almost licked my fingers in full view.
While we went on a week-day, if other branches are anything to go by, Choko la’s weekend breakfasts are to die for. American pancakes, crepes, churros, Spanish omelets and eggs Benedict—they have it all.
In a rush to serve different and the now popular fusion food, restaurants these days forget to get their basics right. Choko la has a limited menu but each dish it plates is made with the best ingredients, and done to perfection. It is just the place to exchange sweet nothings with a loved one, over an indulgent dessert; catch up on the latest gossip with friends over salads and pasta; meet a colleague over an espresso; take the family for a week-end brunch; or take a moment to enjoy its classic hot chocolates just by yourself.