Part bakery, part market and all Anita Jaisinghani; that's what Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop, the new upstairs bakery in Upper Kirby's West Ave, is in a nutshell. Located directly above Jaisinghani's Pondicheri, the new addition quietly opened October 23. Drawing on her success as a pastry chef at Robert Del Grande's former Cafe Annie, Jaisinghani infuses her love of baking with her Indian culture, making for a memorable visit.
Two entrances lead to Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop's doors, where intoxicating scents of cardamon, nutmeg, cinnamon and anise mingle in the air. The space has an industrial appearance. Wall-to-floor windows dressed with an eclectic mix of wooden and metal seating, face glass-topped bamboo tables and colorful flowers accented throughout softens the overall look. A long wooden bench-like counter provides extra inside seating and supplement accommodations surround the outside of the bakery.
Jars of aromatic spices adorn walls of the market portion and a burlap-lined cart filled with cookware is the centerpiece. An open kitchen provides a front seat to view the pastries coming together. Rows of brightly colored vegetables and fruit highlight the adjoining juice bar-where beets, turmeric and ginger blended drinks are prices from $6 to $8.
The main attraction is the bakery and pantry items. A refrigerated case holds most of the bakery's treasures, where everything is made in-house: cold beverages, saffron fruit granola yogurt and jars of chutneys, apple pickles, ghee and curries. Chicken salad is one of the few deli-style items inside the display, sharing real estate with beautifully decorated spiced chocolate truffles and pumpkin chai pie by the slice ($7) and in its entirety ($80).
Near the register is an ever-rotating display of sweet and savory pastries priced from $3-$6. One minute pickled vegetables topped with microgreens adorn thick slices of toast, the next generous slices of coconut cake dusted with powdered sugar and berries. The selection is bound to change, making it near impossible to drop by in hopes of picking up a piece of Jaisinghani's rich and decadent Cafe Annie Brownie-the dessert where it all began.
Currently, Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. After its grand opening on November 1, the bakery will share the same hours as downstairs Pondicheri.
[Photos: Jakeisha Wilmore]