Catering to a woke palate that demands healthy, vegetarian food made with fresh, organic and seasonal produce, the newly opened OMO, Soul Food Community cafe in Galleria Market, Gurugram, is deliciously avant-garde. Text and photographs by Sumeet Keswani
For a first-timer, the Galleria Market in DLF Phase IV, Gurugram, can be disorienting. So many great retail brands, interspersed with tempting restaurants and cafes, present a problem of plenty. I am almost relieved that I have come with a destination in mind: OMO, Soul Food Community, which opened its doors to the public on March 8 this year. Ever since then, multiple foodies have recommended the cafe to me, and not just because I’m consciously on a vegetarian diet. OMO takes its name from its three brand principles: “Original ingredients sourced from farms; Maternal nourishment in every morsel; Omniscience about the botanical world.” These aren’t words normally associated with European cuisine in India. Colour me intrigued.
The moment you climb the flight of stairs to OMO and enter its soothing, pastel interiors, the cacophony of the Galleria Market dies down. The layout takes open-plan quite literally, with an open kitchen on one side, and on the other, two impressively large live stations of gourmet brands, Ngarum (coffee) and Wild & Raw (salads, juices, and desserts), which were launched alongside OMO by Rajan Sethi, founder & director of Bright Hospitality Pvt Ltd. An abundance of indoor plants—tiny pots placed on tables, bigger pots filling the spaces between tables, large plants covering the exterior of a glass wall, and creepers hanging from the ceiling—belie the heat outside. They also provide delightful pops of colour to the wood-dominated earthy decor and offer a clue to the 100 per cent vegetarian menu. For pleasant winter days—and presumably smokers—there’s covered open-air seating beyond glass doors at the far end. But Gurugram’s raging summer sun ensures everybody’s sheltering inside when I visit.
It’s not often I am handed a menu that appeals to me in its entirety. But it’s not just the vegetarian nature of the dishes that makes them ‘soul food’. The produce is fresh and seasonal, and sourced ethically. The menu’s last page also reveals the origin of the hero ingredients of the dishes. The guyere and zerai cheeses come from a farm in Mukteshwar, while the Parmesan is imported from Italy, and the vegan cheeses for a platter can be traced back to Maharashtra. The kalari cheese from Jammu wins me over—it’s grilled and rolled in flat bread, topped with onion and green chilli salsa, and surrounded by a moat of bright saffron bell-pepper sauce that gives the dish a technicolour look.
I’m told that the Union Territory of Ladakh has produced the sweet apricots that are stuffed into potato dumplings, which sit suspended in a cloud of colourful butter thyme foam. The white and green asparagus from Peru arrive wearing marigold petals, and the subtle difference in the two spears’ taste and texture makes the dish come alive in its buttery puddle of white balsamic beurre blanc.
There is also some fusion at play, for instance when a filo pastry filled with caramelised onions and peas comes dunked in a dense hummus and feta mousse; it confuses but delights my palate all the same. Each of the dishes performs a delicate pirouette of complementing flavours on my tongue, never attempting a drastic manoeuvre and always bowing out gracefully before the next one arrives. It is a testament to the skill of Chef Vanshika Bhatia, who has infused the plant-based dishes with a lot of innate flair and flamboyance. The food is easily washed down with an all-natural berry lemonade—no sugar, preservatives, or guilt added—a choice I make over the wide variety of cold pressed juices also available at Wild & Raw.
Coffee & Dessert
Many novel dining outlets present wonderful innovations in the appetisers and main course only to disappoint with the usual suspects lurking in the dessert and hot beverage sections. OMO is not one of them. Ngarum coffee is made of single-origin, handpicked, organically grown beans from the Northeast. The brainchild of Grace Muivah, Ngarum (literally meaning ‘coming together’) complements OMO’s farm-to-fork food philosophy with its bean-to-cup ethos. My flat-white coffee with almond milk makes me realise why Ngarum warrants a prominent station of its own at OMO.
On the desserts page, there is a sub-menu of daily churned gelato (nine flavours) with custom toppings; the brownies are gluten-free; a rose and pistachio baklava adds some Turkish delight; while apple strudel is the European entry. It’s not just the selection of sweets, the recipes are peculiar too. The ‘true cheesecake’ is a baked dulce de leche cheesecake, with the usual biscuit crumb crust replaced by a shallow pool of olive oil. While the oily aftertaste is jarring at first, I quickly realise that the olive oil adds some much-needed lightness to the dense, heavy cheesecake. I still cannot finish mine, but I also cannot let it go to waste. So, I walk out of OMO with a doggy bag of dessert—and a tacit membership of its ‘soul food community’.
Details of OMO Cafe
Second floor, Galleria Market, DLF Phase IV, Sector 28, Gurugram.
12pm – 12am, every day of the week.
Approximately INR 2,200 for two people.