There’s really a lot to love about Soufflé S’il Vous Plaît – the new cheek-by-jowl bistro in Churchgate helmed by Alexis Gielbaum and Nick Harrison (the duo behind the city’s sultriest bolthole, Slink & Bardot).
The not-so-subtle hint lies in the name itself. Yes soufflés do command pride of place on a menu embedded with a Francophile’s favourite dishes; but the very concept of a soufflé (signifying “breath” in French) has metaphorical connotations too, manifesting in whimsical motifs of a cherub blowing air kisses in cosy corners of this beautiful new restaurant.
Designed by Pavitra Rajaram, the interiors evoke a laid-back charm offset by the knockabout atmosphere characteristic of a quintessential French bistro. The outdoor terrace is idyllic on a cool December’s evening, while nuanced shades of pink set a moody tone inside. Tables are topped with marble, the cutlery is purposefully-aged and the walls paying homage to Brigitte Bardot and Godard’s 1960 film, À bout de souffle.
A dash of tropical flair isn’t amiss either, consonant with Bombay’s balmy surrounds, with frozen cocktails and jackfruit margaritas, lending a bit of zip to your night out!
The menu is an ode to traditional French treasures , thoughtfully rendered with local ingredients where possible.
Simmered for 12 hours and topped off with garlic-brushed croutons and gratinated Himalayan Gruyère – the French onion soup renders a familiar jolt of comfort with each indulgent sip. Meanwhile, homemade ravioli is stuffed with some of the first artichokes ever farmed in India (harvested in the hills of Ooty!). Tinged with black truffles, it arrives lightly bobbing in a parmesan broth.
Uniting mind and palate in unexpected delight, Chef Alexis’ carefully-calibrated creations also include Carottes!!! A dish that dabbles in six different textures of this humble root veg. As for the soufflés, well they’re as impeccable as you’d hope for – baked, steamed and perfectly-timed to grace your table with their jauntily-billowing, feather-light presence.
The selection is impressive, paying an homage to fromage with the likes of Roquette & Parmesan and a twice-baked Blue Cheese Soufflé in the works. Truffle & Camembert is a worthy choice if you have the appetite for just the one, with musky notes of black truffle lending a sharp foil to the intense richness of the camembert.
It’s not all perfect admittedly.
Sliced potatoes stacked with Bombay Brie and garlic cream – the Gratin Dauphinois is a tad too stodgy, lacking the melting, craveably-creamy quality of this staple side dish from the French Alps. Vegetarian options also tend to veer towards a heavier side, especially when compared to the extensive seafood and meatier dishes typical of French cuisine, running a varied spectrum from Stuffed Ballotine Chicken and Duck Confit, to a Seared Seabass so tender and delicately-flavoured, that it melts on R.R.M.’s first bite.
Of course, one could argue that with its unapologetic servings of carbs, cheese and butter – Soufflé brings a breath of fresh air to a city crazed by the latest fitness fads, keto diets and eateries predicated on #cleaneating.
If good times here start with a savoury soufflé, they most certainly should finish with a sweet one – whether in the form of a caramelized banana soufflé (paired with gin ice cream) or an unsurpassable rendering of a classic dark chocolate soufflé, that will have you scraping every last vestige of it.
Verdict? Hunker down here for an evening of old-fashioned revelry and let yourself go unapologetically overboard!
Soufflé Sil Vous Plait, Ground floor, Nagin Mahal, Veer Nariman Road, next to Ambassador Hotel, Churchgate | Tel: +91 8657512648