Ever imagined eating at a café in Europe with its cool ambience, flavoursome meals and scintillating aromas of fresh bread? Well, this café in Noida offers that. A passionate venture coming from a family of bakers, this green space has fresh meals, a wide variety of cakes, bakes and dips, green décor and cheery owners. The brainchild of Gaurav, a hotel management graduate, and his brother Tushar Dhingra, a Cordon Bleu Chef, this café offers a plethora of continental fare.
Aptly located in a serene neighbourhood of ATS Hamlet, Sector 104, this serene space is where you can find ‘me’ time, family time and hangout time. At Alma, the owners Gaurav Dhingra and his Polish wife Bogusia promise a joyful experience for their guests.
Alma means soul in Spanish. The roots lie in the Latin word, Almus, which means ‘nourishing’. And that’s the thought behind this café—soil to soul. The café operates on the principle of fresh produce and local ingredients. The ingredients are sourced from a nearby farm, and fresh produce means optimized flavours and maximum nutrients. It also means being patient when you order, while the chef ensures that you get a hot and delectable platter.
This is Noida’s first indoor green café and it won the Best Café of the Year (North) and Best Design Cafe awards by Food Connoisseurs of India. Designed by SARAL Methodized ideas, it houses almost 400 oxygenating plants such as Areca Palm, Pothos, Bamboo. These improve the air quality and keep the indoor space cooler, thereby leading to lesser use of air-conditioning. Hydroponic plants are on the anvil too. You can even buy these plants.
The café prefers to grow common herbs such as parsley and basil. Upcycling to minimize wastage is another USP. The food waste is turned into compost within the premises, ensuring organic compost. Some plants and organic compost packets are on sale as well. And all the glass bottles are used as planters.
The large menu comprises sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, pastries, smoothies and more. It does get difficult to make a choice, but you get some lesser-known delights too such as Polish Pierogi or fried dumplings. Pierogi is a popular dish among Central and Eastern European cultures served with a fresh salad and sour cream, they are soft to bite into. I had this dish only once before at a Polish dinner, so it is good to enjoy a plate here.
Then there are the bite-sized melt-in-the-mouth Vol-au-Vents. Some credit this puffed pastry to the famous French chef Antonin Carême (8 June 1784 – 12 January 1833), known for his grand cooking style. Others say that this petit gateau or little cake is mentioned in a 1739 cookbook Les Dons de Comus by François Marin, written much before Carême’s birth. They truly live up to the promise at Alma.
Bringing authentic pizzas to Noida, there is a handcrafted stone oven in which the signature Napoletana is baked. Bogusia assures me that this is exactly the way it’s cooked and served in Italy. After all, the art of making this pizza is included on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. The way to eat this Naples-style pizza with a soft base and the herbal cheesy top is to roll the slice like chapati and bite into it. Best eaten the moment it reaches your table, else the flavours flatten out. I would say have this with kombucha; it is a delightful experience.
I also recommend the bruschettas, scones with orange marmalade, Kashmiri walnut fudge, coconut cookies and sourdough bread. If you like low cal dishes, then there are soups and salads too.
It’s not just the aroma and the flavour, but the plating is also a delight here. Edible flowers and carefully crafted sauces and sips make it a joyous meal. But the garnishes change with the season for ‘everything fresh, seasonal and local’ is the buzz in this cafe.
There are herbal teas, cool shakes and smoothies. But I personally like their Hazelnut Latte and mint tea. I have yet to try a cold coffee. The dessert section is an enticing one with fresh pastries, tiramisus, truffles and cakes.
All the sauces and dips are made in-house too, so there’s a Basil Pesto, Beet Hummus and more. You can buy these fresh dips too. There are a variety of fresh breads such as focaccia, sourdough, breadsticks, buns and pizza base.
I loved their dark almond butter. They also have gift hampers. Browse around to find jams, healthy oils, muffins too. I vouch for the cookies and muffins. They are sure to make high tea a delight.
The café, promoting sustainable living, organizes exhibitions and workshops under the ‘Conscious Living’ banner. And during my visits, I have found entrepreneurs who make products from upcycled materials – handmade shirts, resin tables and natural bath and body care products. Giving a boost to budding entrepreneurs and artists, Bogusia also organizes workshops such as clay-modelling and kombucha-making.
There is a facility to order directly from the café on the website. You can state your preferred pick-up time too, should you like to go there personally. Of course, it’s best to confirm if they deliver to your location.
If you want some ‘me’ time with a book, then the café has a bookshelf on which you might find something worth a read. You can sit and read in these green surroundings. It is also well-connected to the Greater Noida Expressway, which means you can enjoy a good meal, even get one packed, should you be on your way to Agra or Vrindavan via Yamuna Expressway.
As I was bidding adieu, Bogusia mentioned that there are full plate meals too. And I would like to go back for the Sri Lankan Curry the day I don’t feel like cooking.
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