Discovering authentic French food with the Renault Kiger
Last February, I attended my first ever Auto Expo, a major milestone in the life of a petrolhead. There are some things that I remember vividly even today, such as the Renault pavilion. Among the more attractive setups, the pavilion sported Renault’s signature bright yellow theme and the French carmaker showcased some of its stunning concepts – the Symbioz and the R.S. Vision 2027. The former is a selfdriving mobile lounge in which the front seats swivel by 180 degrees for a living room effect while the latter is a radical 1340bhp F1 concept car with four-wheel-drive and fourwheel- steering. I was also smitten by the cute Renault Zoe, one of Europe’s best-selling EVs. At that point, I wondered when Renault would launch something as head-turning in India, with a design that reflects the brand’s French roots.
Fast forward a year and Renault has delivered exactly that with the Kiger – a car that marks the brand’s entry into the hotly contested compact SUV segment. Among the many things that makes the Kiger special is its value equation. It is the most affordable SUV in its segment and yet Renault has packed it to the brim with all the bells and whistles; there are no compromises here. And then there’s the other USP – its quirky and nonconformist design that’s typical of French cars. The LED DRLs and LED headlamps appear striking, the flared wheel arches lend the Kiger a muscular stance and it has a lovely SUV-Coupe roofline. Plus, there’s the surfacing with curves, cuts and creases all around.
So, to celebrate the Kiger’s launch in India, we decided to do something that connects with its French origins. We headed out to indulge in some authentic French gastronomy – croissants and cheese. I was conscious of the calories, but I hadn’t tasted authentic French food in years, so we had to go and explore what we could find in our home base of Pune. And while at it, why not dive deep into the intricacies of preparation, focusing on the craft that makes them truly French? We could have gone searching for some fine wine as well, but as we were driving all day, we kept wine out of the equation. Absolutely no drinking and driving!
Our first stop was right next to the Ed’s house, at La Bouchée D’Or, a French bakery whose name translates into a ‘mouthful of gold’. Founded by Brice Poisson, a chef based out of Paris, the aim was to bring the taste of France to India. Up until last year, Brice himself regularly visited Pune, ensuring that the purest of ingredients were used to maintain authenticity, but because of the restrictions on travel, the frequency of his visits has been reduced. While Brice continues to supervise, Rajeev Kher, director of La Bouchée D’or, along with Rupa Purandare, the patissiére (pastry chef) are now in charge. Having attended the world’s best cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rupa simply doesn’t go wrong with croissants (pronounced kwa-son with the tricky rolling ‘rrr’).
The bakery, however, was at the opposite end of the city, and this meant I had to drive for an hour to get there. With the manual Kiger, I had my apprehensions — the constant action of clutch-in, clutch-out in city traffic is tiring and I prefer driving cars with auto ’boxes in these scenarios. But the Kiger felt surprisingly effortless with its light steering and clutch. Moreover, Renault’s 1-litre turbocharged petrol engine, christened TCe 100, makes the Kiger a proper hoot to drive. All you need to do is whack the throttle open, let the turbo spool up, and when the boost comes on, you’re breezing past traffic. You can also toggle between the drive modes – Sport, Eco and Normal, depending on your mood and the situation, the fantastic digital cockpit changing colours with modes.
At La Bouchée D’or, Rupa took us through the baking process of croissants before we could begin relishing them. “Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are croissants. It’s a lengthy process where we first make lamination sheets using France’s President butter followed by processing it with flour. It’s then rolled in a dough sheeter and refrigerated for 24 hours. After that, it’s proofed, where it rises and then we bake it,” says Rupa, sounding extremely passionate about the recipe. Just like Renault, authenticity and quality is what La Bouchée D’or is famous for and they make sure that customers enjoy the best. “All our breads and croissants are made in the night, freshly baked at 6am and by 9am, our team heads out for delivery to our clients for a typical French breakfast.” Crunchy on the outside, buttery and soft on the inside, the flavour was reminiscent of the croissants I used to gorge on during my time in France. And that’s not all, La Bouchée D’or makes luscious baguettes, quiches, and macaroons as well, all of which, we enjoyed for a hearty meal that afternoon.
By that time, the sun was right on top of our heads and the mercury was hovering at 37 degrees Celsius. We headed to our next stop, ABC Farms, which houses one of the largest cheese factories in India. The Kiger’s cabin isolated us from the heat outside, with the auto climate control cooling the cabin in minutes while the great side bolstering on the seats meant we weren’t getting tossed around while driving over bumps.
A traffic snarl on the way caused delays but the Arkamys 3D surround sound and connected car tech including Android Auto meant our mood stayed breezy and we were humming to our favourite tunes all through.
It was time to learn about the art of cheese-making, another of France’s renowned traditional industries. The French believe that there are somewhere between 1,000 and 1,600 varieties of cheese made in their country. Back home, I was more than happy to find a place that produced about seven varieties, all produced using traditional French methods to maintain authenticity. At ABC Farms, we were welcomed by Sohrab Chinoy, the owner himself along with daughter Diana Saldri. With Camembert, Roquefort and French Morbier, Sohrab re-introduced me to some of the favourite cheeses I used to relish during my time in France. These are household names of cheese in Europe and to find authentic blocks of these varieties, made in India, was special. But Buchette D’Anjou and Aisy Cendre were the ones that caught my fancy. The former is ripened in wood ash while the latter is ripened in charcoal, and both these flavours act like palate cleansers after meals.
After relishing a delectable platter of Camembert, it was now time to head back to base. It had been a long day, and the Kiger, just like these French delicacies, was crafted with authenticity by Renault, for India. Designed by design teams in France and Renault India, its striking design turned heads all day on Pune’s streets while the zippy performance allowed me to head from point A to point B without any hassles. Alameen had driven it down from Mumbai, and he was surprised by the Kiger’s excellent highway stability and its ability to effortlessly cruise at triple-digit speeds.
It’s not just the cars, Renault cares about its clientele as well. With the world shifting towards digitisation that allows minimal contact and better safety amidst the pandemic, Renault has introduced a one-of-its-kind Virtual Studio that lets you explore the Kiger using a web visualiser. You can personalise the car using various accessories, get a 360-degree view of your personalised car, see what each option costs, and even book a test drive. That said, with the aggressive pricing, a choice of engines and transmission options, Renault certainly has a winner in its India lineup.
As for a Francophile like myself who loves the French way of life, I’m happy that I can now truly satiate my hunger for some authentic French food, even if that means putting on a few kilos!