While global experts work on ways to save the environment, this green café in Noida has rolled out many initiatives for a healthy, nutritious dining experience
A passionate venture coming from a family of bakers, this café is a green space with dancing rays, artistic plating and fresh food and bakes. It reminds me of the friendly neighbourhood place where Amitabh Bachchan penned his book in the movie Baghban (2003). Remember actors Lillete Dubey and Paresh Rawal with their cheerful banter and cheery space, that’s what you’ll find here with Gaurav Dhingra and his Polish wife Bogusia. 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. So, here’s all that makes the meal a delight here:
1. Soil to Soul
Alma means soul in Spanish. The roots lie in the Latin word, Almus, and it means ‘nourishing’. 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 be patient when you order, for the chef ensures that you get a hot and delectable platter.
2. Green Space
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.
The café prefers to grow some common herbs such as parsley, 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.
On the anvil is hydroponic greens growing unit. “It’s a scientific process and we will grow lettuce and other herbs. We will be using these in the café and some will be on sale too,” says Bogusia.
3. Flavours of Europe
The menu comprises sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, pastries, smoothies and more. But there are some lesser known delights on the menu 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.
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 says that this petit gateau or little cake is mentioned in a 1739 cookbook Les Dons de Comus by François Marin’s, written much before Carême’s birth.
Bringing authentic pizzas to Noida, there is a handcrafted stone oven in which the signature Napoletana is baked. I am assured by Bogusia 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 herbal cheesy top is to roll the slice like your chapati and bite into it. Best eaten the moment it reaches your table, else the flavours flatten out.
If you like low cal dishes, then there are soups and salads too. It’s not just the aroma and the flavour, the plating too is 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 and some cool shakes and smoothies. But I personally like their Hazelnut Latte and mint tea. There is healthy Kombucha too in different flavours.
The café used to organize musical evenings with cocktails on the weekend, but COVID-19 has put a halt on these. However, once conditions return to normal, the plans to revive these are there.
From the regular fruit and cheesecakes to exotic hazelnut, tiramisu, red velvet, truffles, there is a range that will satiate every palate. You can order them online but they need 48 hours. There are options to modify the shape and choose eggless ones. If you are in a hurry, then the bakery counter always has good options.
6. Breads, Dips, Cookies, Brownies
All the sauces and dips are made in-house, so there’s a Basil Pesto, Beet Hummus and more. You can buy these fresh dips from the bakery counter. There are a variety of fresh breads such as focaccia, sourdough, bread sticks, buns, pizza base etc. I loved the dark almond butter. There are hampers as well. Browse around to find jams, healthy oils, muffins too.
7. Promoting Sustainable Lifestyle
The café organizes exhibitions and workshops that promote sustainable living. And I 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 organized clay modeling and kombucha-making workshops too. With social distancing norms in place, these have been put on hold.
8. Loyalty Rewards
Far from being a one-visit cafe, it offers loyalty points and you can redeem them as and when you have accumulated a certain amount.
9. Takeaway & Delivery
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.
10. ‘Me’ time
If you want some ‘me’ time with a book, then the café has a shelf on which you might something worth a read. You can sit and read in these green surroundings.
As it is located within the commercial complex of ATS One Hamlet, the area is upmarket, neat and clean. No ruffians and noise in this neighbourhood. 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.
The café started a tiffin service too but as people have begun to move out, the service is available only for advance orders. As I was bidding adieu after a five-hour conversation, 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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