Mumbai eating! The communal dining experience at LPQ
I cannot stop gushing about my weekend trip to Mumbai with the kids and I truly apologize for those who are getting sick of it. But there are a couple of more fun things that are share-worthy, so bear with me!
After the Elephanta trudge, Rachna introduced us to this really neat place Bombay-ites speak of fondly. LPQ is La Pain Quotidien, a Belgian chain started by Alain Coumont with the simple objective of serving healthy, tasty, fresh bread. The food was delicious indeed, supposedly locally sourced and organic, superbly put together and subtle in its flavours. We ate tartines, grilled fish and lots of bread plus the delectable apple crumb, entrenched in the memory of my taste buds!
But what really stood out was the experience of communal dining that LPQ offers. They asked us if we wanted to sit at the communal table when we entered and it seemed like a fun idea. I didn’t expect much, however. Perhaps being a Dilliwali I thought it would just be a formality with people continuing to interact within their own groups. Boy, was I wrong!
Within the first few minutes, I had made my first eye contact with a dignified lady who was eating alone near our seats. I think she was amused by my smart-alecy reply to Aadyaa’s smart-alecy question, I forget what it was. Many smiles flew back and forth.
After a bit, a young mother and her cute son moved from a separate table onto the communal one. Soon enough, the kiddo was commenting on what we were doing and saying. Then he threw some question at Aadyaa, she answered back with some help from me on how to frame sentences in English, Hindi being her first language. Soon, the two kids were chattering away and strolling through the space and they had successfully broken the ice for the grown-ups to chat. An elderly couple (European, I thought) across from the young mommy wanted to know what she was drinking, and a lively discussion on drinks ensued with us listening in.
We must have spent two hours plus there, nibbling away at our food, chatting, laughing, just being. Got me thinking about how insular we are usually, going out to eat and only talking to the people we already know really well. Sometimes even hesitating to smile at strangers, avoiding eye contact even; or rather, not bothering to seek out contact. I am always having fun smiling at strangers and seeing how they will react. Some return surprised hesitant smiles, some broad ones and others just stare back. It’s entertaining. At LPG, however, things are set up so you broaden your social world and it’s a great thing! I found this article about communal dining that lists its pros and cons, for those of you who want to know more (there is an entire coffee table book on Alan Coumont’s philosophy at LPQ, fascinating!). Personally, I quite enjoyed the experience and would be excited to try out other communal dining restaurants in my future travels.