6 restaurants and bars that are setting trends
Circus themes, old school settings and vaporized Jaegerbombs are among the latest successful themes in Mumbai’s F&B space
The all in one – Mighty Small, Lower Parel
If you’re visiting gaming venue Smaaash at any point of time, you’re going to be one of these people – the kid who wants to play and then have a fun snack after; the parent who must tag along, and wants a nice drink as a reward; or the grown-up who wants to play AND wants that drink after. Whichever one you are, you’re going to love the circus-themed Mighty Small.
There’s everything you’d like in a carnival atmosphere, and some more. The drinks menu accommodates everything from cutting chai and five kinds of lemonade to extensive juice, sangria and Long Island Iced Tea selections.
We had to avoid constantly craning our necks towards the dessert bar, where chefs are whipping up customized milkshakes and sundaes, using their wide selection of cookies, cupcakes, sauces, meringues and what not.
The arrival of the starters was what finally brought us out of our googly-eyed daydream. Perfectly crunchy Chilli Cheese Lollipops, the softest Disco Idlis and a fantastic Chicken 65 are sure to make anyone happy. There’s also a Koliwada Popcorn Chicken, which – true to its name – you’ll find yourself polishing off with rapid ease. The Kheema Ghotala Fondue – although a great idea – is a little lower on flavour than we expected, and scooping up the kheema with bite-sized quares of pao is not a convenient task either. Main course is restricted to one dish, since the larger part of our appetites was to be saved for dessert (obviously). Fortunately, the Mangalore Ghee Roast Chicken Curry with Appam doesn’t disappoint.
If you can’t make up your mind about what to order for dessert, go with one of their preselected combos. We got the Mint Choco Chip + Triple Choco Brownie + Crushed Mint Meringue milkshake that was instant heaven. The other worthy indulgence is the Cookie Monster Sunday that packs in all the cookies served at Mighty Small, along with vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch ice creams (you do have the option of downsizing to one scoop, but why?), salted caramel, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and crushed Oreos. That was one mighty good end to our meal.
The one for all occasions – NRI, Bandra Kurla Complex
He’s India’s first chef to earn a Michelin star, so when London-based Atul Kochhar announced not one but two venues in Mumbai, no one could wait. The first of them, NRI or Not Really Indian, is now open and has a really cool concept (read more about it in our interview with him here). Intrigued by the prospect of sampling global food created by Indians all over the world, we landed up at the posh BKC space.
Even mid-week, every table was taken, and the crowd was a lot more mature than we expected. Also, more foreigners than we’ve ever seen at a restaurant in India. We suppose Kochhar comes with that reputation, and proceed to our entrée of Dalim Shakarkhandi Chaat – a delightful sweet potato-based snack. Grilled Calamari is well spiced, but smaller pieces would be a lot easier to eat. The Mamak Lamb Chops are beautifully marinated, but sadly too tough.
We’re about to say we’re disappointed, but it isn’t long before that argument drops. Without exaggeration, the Caribbean Goat Curry and Malacca Bobra Pork make for one of the best main course experiences we have had in months. Make sure you order a few rounds of the Trinidadian Buss Up Shut Roti to mop up every bit of that divine mutton gravy. As for that pork, we were singing paeans to it even a week after our meal.
Dessert is another super successful affair. Kochhar chooses to have all his sweet treats prominently displayed on a cart a la mithai wallas, and that gives you a great chance to look at what you’re ordering. Bounty fans, you’re going to love the Chocolate and Coconut Torte, and orange lovers, the Marcaibu Orange is a luscious chocolate-based dessert that ought to be on your list.
The bottom line is, we’re going back. Multiple times.
The old school bar – The District Lounge, Kemps Corner
We can’t keep count of the recent pub and lounge launches in the city, but we can’t think of a single one that’s similar to The District Lounge. It’s not a hip place serving drinks in fancy glasses, or fusion food in prison plates, and we certainly don’t expect the younger lot to flock here. But guests of the Shalimar Hotel – where this watering hole is located – are going to love heading down for a nightcap (The Drinking Monk is your best bet). And regulars of the bar it replaced have made a beeline for it too.
We don’t fault them, because the food we ate here is first-rate. You won’t regret an order of the Papad Chicken Tikka Roll, which is surprisingly not one bit messy, and is packed with flavourful, juicy chicken. The Open Chilli Chicken Toast has been a favourite at the previous venue here, and the new owners have retained it as homage. The menu may be refreshingly short, and more Indian than any other bar in the city, but there’s still plenty to choose from. Our recommendation is to skip the so-so Baida Roti and even the mains in favour of the lipsmacking, stuffed Butter Chicken Naan. It’s one dish that singlehandedly has us looking forward to our next visit to The District Lounge.
Coming to the drinks, there’s some potent mixes, apart from the usual fare. We loved Elderflower Day – a G+T spiked with refreshing elderflower. Taste wise, there’s also the easily-shareable Pot Full of Pimms that we’re guilty of polishing off on our own. Our only complaint to the owners – and they promised to ponder over it – was that the large apparatus they serve the drink in means one can only use a straw, and thereby misses out of the juicy bits of fruit floating about.
The collegian magnet – Hoppipola, all outlets
Any outlet of Hoppipola we’ve ever been to is always packed, every day of the week. Most of the crowd is college-going, and arrives there with one or both of these two intentions – drink cheap booze, and take great selfies with their cutesy knick-knacks.
It couldn’t have taken the owners too long to figure this out, for they’ve remained consistent with their pricing, and have also launched Vapshots, along the lines of an international phenomenon. Vaping ie inhaling alcohol sounds like a bizarre idea until you try it. Ask your bartender for your poison of choice- anything from a neat vodka shot to a Jaegerbomb, and they’ll vaporize it for you in a specially imported but not-too-impressive looking machine. You’ll have to suck it in with a straw – quite like using a hookah – but trust is, it really is heady and tastes quite like having the actual shot.
Apart from a fantastic price point – Rs 200 for 4 shots – the two biggest benefits are a) No calories and sugar intake, since you aren’t technically imbibing anything and b) The alcohol goes straight to your bloodstream, instead of your stomach.
What you’re also getting – if you choose to ignore some God awful typos and disastrous names (there’s a dish called Spank to the Cock – we’re not even kidding) – is some decent bar grub. Our pick is the Chicken Trilogy, with six juicy skewers in three different marinades and served with as many sauces. Another one – albeit really messy – is the confusingly-named Sanskari, a taco with a chicken tikka and onion stuffing. The Cusiner Ala Italica i.e. focaccia sandwich with pesto marinated chicken is a filling meal by itself, but with too little of the stuffing. Better is the Slider Lambada, with minced lamb and cheese patties.
The faux cruise ship – The Captain’s Table, Bandra Kurla Complex
If you weren’t looking through a glass wall at the same restaurant group’s second outlet of Me So Happi on one side, and at parked cars on the other, you really would think you’re in the dining room aboard the Titanic on your visit to The Captain’s Table. The jazz music (a tad loud by our measure), the elaborate cutlery and glassware and nautical theme décor set the mood without seeming too excessive.
And while it’s pegged as a seafood specialty restaurant, there’s plenty of vegetarian and meat options too. The menu seems a bit random – dishes from all over India and around the world are served here. So on the same page, you’re looking at Kasundi Prawns, Catalan Sea Food Stew, Tuna Sashimi and Nadan Kozhi Curry.
The above mentioned stew is a good start to the meal – hearty and packed with flavour. The same can’t be said about the sashimi, for it is inexplicably crusted with coriander seeds. It’s a combination that doesn’t work for us at all, but the fish is of great quality, so we scrape off the seeds and polish off the rest.
More deliciousness comes in the form of Crusted Crab Cakes – a perfect meal for one with crisp cakes, a perfectly poached eggs, ham and hollandaise. The Butterfly Prawns (stuffed with crab) lack a distinct flavour, but are thankfully elevated by an apricot chutney. There’s also the Pollichathu that’s nicely steamed and lightly flavoured, but our Bengali dining companion insists it’s more like a dish cooked by his grandmother than anything from Kerala.
Too stuffed for mains, we stick to splitting a portion of Mutton Rezala and naan. That rezala gravy is phenomenal, but sadly the mutton reached us chewy and tough. We’re in a good mood, though, and are quite content polishing off spoonfuls of that divine gravy.
Sadly, the desserts we had our eye on were unavailable when we visited, but the Ganache Cake we got from Me So Happi next door, made up with its moistness and not-too-rich flavour.
The one with a terrace pool – Toast, Andheri (E)
T24 Residency’s rooftop lounge, Toast, is a pretty cool space. There’s the usual kitschy décor and some great cocktails to sip on, but it’s a tiny pool one level above that really catches our eye. We’re told they have deals that include unlimited F&B as well as use of the pool, and, well, that’s got us planning our next party.
The menu has quite an assortment, but we chose to stick to appetizers while we sampled the cocktails, which sound far more exciting. There’s a fantastic T Sour, not too different from Whiskey Sour – our usual tipple of choice. The bartenders are also pretty adept at using their smoking guns to concoct an infused drink as per your taste.
The more adventurous ones – and we’re glad they were successful experiments – are the High On Chai and Gin & Jam. The former is rum-based and does a stellar job of infusing the tea flavour, while the latter has the sweetness of jam as well as the tart flavour of lemon.
If you forgive the several gimmicks employed in plating – clearly to make portions appear bigger than they are – you’ll quite enjoy the Crisp Fried Calamari, the Tempura Fried Prawns and the Lehsooni Chicken Tikka. The hands down winner, though, is the beautifully spiced, melt-in-your-mouth Rajma Ki Gilavat.
Skip the lackluster, generic desserts in favour of a Candy Crush cocktail, and you’ll end your visit on a sweet high, quite literally.