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The name itself conjures up heavenly images…

A perfect wedge cut away from a mound of soft, moist cake, sitting innocently on a crisp, flaky base…

A careless drip of berry sauce pouring down its sides…

A couple of bright summer fruits adding a pop of colour…

A dollop of whipped cream resting gently on the side…

A tiny swirl of chocolate sauce, almost like an after-thought…

Who in his or her right mind will NOT want to reach out a finger and take a sly lick off from such a plate, faced with this kind of a glorious sight? Sigh…

But Mumbai’s love-affair with the cheesecake is a fairly recent phenomenon. A decade ago, only a couple of places in the city had it on their menu once in a while – I remember running around town craving for one, but not having much luck. Having ‘tasted blood’ with those gorgeous and elaborate ones up on the display counters of cafes lining the South Bank of the Yarra River in Melbourne, it was my favourite go-to dessert… you know, the ‘one-dessert-solves-all-problems’ kind!

One of the places to offer these was Pot Pourri (remember the iconic restaurant in Bandra which served as the ONLY familiar landmark for confused non-Bandra-ites?). Another was good ol’ Churchill with its dense New York-style Cheesecake that kept flying off their little display fridge. Then came Basilico’s moist Blueberry Cheesecake… and they probably should thank me for its permanent status on their menu 😉

Like all good things to eat, the Cheesecake found pride of place in the city’s heart and slowly captured the imagination of chefs at restaurants, cafes, bakeries and pastry shops, where you can easily order for and enjoy one today, although the quality is always a gamble.  Unless if you get your hands on a precious, tried-and-tested recipe from the hallowed corridors of Chefdom, and make it yourself, like I did!

The warm woody interiors of Indigo Deli Malad

Recently, I was at the launch of the 6th Indigo Deli of the city… SIXTH! Yes, Mumbai’s appetite for good food never ceases to surprise, does it? 😉 This one at Inorbit Mall, Malad has all the hallmark Indigo touches of warm, woody interiors and a chirpy, diner feel, along with the elaborate menu common across all the delis.

Eggs on the Beach – as good as it looks!

An interesting innovation of Risotto with Bhavanagri Fritter

But apart from their signature Eggs on the Beach, Bagel and Lox, Wafer-thin pizzas and the ‘gotta-have-them-all’, fabulous desserts, this one has a few must-try Daily Specials… the Spinach and Garlic Risotto with a Bhavanagari Fritter, the Pan-seared Halibut with a piquant Mustard Mash, and the ‘Burger with Works’ with its own ‘wicked’ sauce, that  rises straight out of your table like a tall skyscraper!

I had almost worked through a massive meal of these specials when Executive Chef Jaydeep Mukherjee came around, insisting I try their Crusty Ham n Cheese Quiche, and then soon after came back with slices of the thinnest Carbonara Pizza ever, fresh and bubbling from the oven. So I made a pact with the Chef… a devil’s pact on hindsight, considering how full I was already! I promised to try ALL his recommendations in exchange for his gorgeous and simply unmatchable Lemon Cheesecake recipe!

A huge portion of Creme Brulee, flambeed with Sambuca by Chef Jaydeep Mukherjee

It wasn’t easy, but I kept my eye on the prize and got there. When I gobbled up the last bite of the perfectly crusted, giant Creme Brulee that the Chef recommended and personally flambéed at my table, (with a very generous pouring of Sambuca on top!), he finally relented and gave me the recipe. But when he heard I was going to use the beautifully aromatic, green and large ‘Gondhoraj’ Lemons found only in the Eastern parts of the country, his enthusiasm reached a different level! A priceless discussion followed on the merits of different kinds of lemons, substitutes for ingredients and many other Chef-y tips that the Chef willingly shared and I eagerly tucked away into memory!

My Gondhoraj Lemon Baked Cheesecake with Lemon Zest

Wickedly dense, mildly sour, beautifully perfumed and delectably moist is how my Gondhoraj Lemon Baked Cheesecake turned out. Thanks to a simple, secret recipe, oodles of encouragement from one of the premier Chefs of the country, and a food-high at one of the best places to eat at, I am now, really and truly, ‘Cheesecake empowered’ 😉