“I love baking kaffir lime croissants. I developed the penchant for these while I was working at Restaurant Daniel, in New York,” says Freny Fernandes, the petite chef who recently set up a dessert bar, Moner, in a leafy Bandra lane in Mumbai.
In shades of salmon and teal, and warm light fixtures, the pastries here are delicious. “Dessert bars are extremely popular in Bali, London, NYC… and I wanted to bring the concept to India,” she smiles. Moner is a result of a clever blend of her parents’ names—Monica and Peter. The desserts at the bar woo you with their refined European flair. It’s because of Fernandes’ French fixation that developed because of her internships under Michelin-starred chefs.
“I have learnt tremendously from my experience at the prized restaurant Daniel in New York and Noma in Copenhagen. I believe we are not quite there with our pastry in India, as yet,” she says. “There needs to be an equal emphasis on plating. Each dessert is like a work of art for me, it must be perfect.” In a heartbeat, her fingers fly about and she plates Dawn in the Meadows a light, luminous and citrusy green apple and kaffir lime sweet with mini meringue kisses and sliced green apple. “In nature, we thrive, that is why my creations are inspired by nature in the special dessert degustation menu that I have created. You can choose between three, or five courses,” says Fernandes, passion shining in her eyes.
Walk through the Woods arrives as a gleaming chocolate coulant with chocolate ganache, warm liquid caramel centre, crackling cocoa tuile, and a carefully arranged quenelle of coffee ice-cream. “I want to offer a Michelin-star experience in a bistro styled space,” she says, looking up momentarily as she crafts her next showstopper called the Phases of the Moon, which presents an elegant crescent sprawl with Earl Grey gelato, berry coulis, chocolate ganache, and soil.
Shilpi Madan in conversation with Freny Fernandes