They say; breakfast is the most important meal of the day – amply proved by how popular it is to indulge in a sumptuous brunch, or even breakfast for dinner. And, amongst the most versatile eggy items nestled in the formidable repertoire of this meal is the French toast – enjoyed not just in the beginning of the day, but also as a tea-time snack, a sumptuous dessert, in savoury avatars and even (historically) as a soup!
In Pune, for true lovers of the pain perdu (meaning ‘lost bread’ in French, perhaps to connotate the bread’s little swim into vast quantities of whipped and flavoured egg before being cooked), there is an interesting plethora of choices, casting the dish into both sweet and savoury forms.
Mainly ‘breakfast’ places, both Peter’s Pan and Yolkshire are amongst the few eateries that offer both flavoured options. The former – known for its waffles – does a gorgeous little list of French toasts, with a delightfully simple vanilla-cinnamon and a signature offering of caramelised banana with peanut butter, among sweetmeats. On the savoury side, it has a piquant jalapeno-garlic version on ridiculously soft pieces of egged bread, and another filling signature stack of chicken and mushrooms sandwiched into French toast, then drizzled with generous quantities of creamy cheese sauce. Yolkshire, on the other hand, offers choices that include a plain (sweet or savoury) version, vanilla cinnamon, chocolate, cheese, chicken, and chicken with cheese – all well executed and best enjoyed with one of their excellent coffees. The Breakfast Café whips both varieties, too, with its plain pain perdu, a lovely honey-glazed one, and another that stays resolutely savoury with lashings of salty cheese.
Many other places, however, capitalise on the ease with which this item segues into the dessert category. The cosy bistro Le Petit Amour Patisserie & Bistro, for instance, does a rather fancy French Toast, topped with a sweet-sour, icy raspberry sorbet, brûléed banana slices, a crumbly chocolate soil and a creamy maple mascarpone drizzle. La Bouchée d’Or does an elegant, distinctively European variant, comprising of a thick egg-dipped-and-fried baguette drizzled with sweet syrup, coated with thinly sliced almonds, and dusted with loads of powdered sugar. Over at Skips Café, the two slices come with honey and chocolate, and you could add on a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an additional dash of sinfulness. Or then, head to One O Eight Café, for a soft brioche French toast that comes honeyed, stacked with soft banana pieces, and dusted with aromatic cinnamon; meanwhile, the Cinnamon French toast at Krusty’s is drizzled with a seasonal fruit compote (maybe mango in summer!) and a quenelle of delicate ivory mascarpone cream cheese.
Terttulia, on the other hand, walks a fine balance between sweet and savoury, with a crème brûlée French toast – the archetypal burnt caramel aroma imbued in the crisp-soft bread and a choice of crispy, salty rashers of bacon to accompany it (or fatty, grilled sausages), making for a brilliant combination of both flavours. Similarly, Double Roti offers a sumptuous loaf, served with sticky maple syrup and honey, battling for space with salty melted butter, topped with preserved fruit, a tangy blueberry compote and rashers of crunchy, umami bacon. A classy variant at Moshes brings together savoury French toast with more egg – poached with a runny yolk – and combines this with garlic-tossed spinach and nutty-sweet emmenthal cheese.
And, here is a bit of trivia, while you enjoy a melting slice of any of the above: The beloved breakfast dish is not just known by its Français moniker, but also as German toast, Spanish toast, eggy bread, gypsy toast, and – perhaps the most unusual – ‘poor knights of Windsor’.
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