Need new places to party and hang out this year end? Here’s what we loved (and didn’t) at the city’s latest restaurants and pubs.

El Toro

What’s it about: What El Toro wants to be is a laidback and casual Spanish-themed pub where you can chill with drinks and friends, nibble on appetizers or even dunk into a hearty meal. Tucked away in the quieter side of Bandra, El Toro captures the lazy coastal Spanish vibe perfectly. The yellow walls, colonial no-fuss architecture, wooden details and the well-stocked bar also has a cute B-n-B vibe to it which is not something you find often in this city. It would be picture perfect if there were lodging rooms upstairs and an old caretaker smoking a pipe outside, with the rough sea wind crashing against the windows. I am romanticizing, but El Toro would fit beautifully in such a setting. The food is delectable (even though the chef unfortunately confessed that he has never travelled to Spain and learned all his tricks in London. Learning Spanish cuisine in London is like training in south Indian khana in Mumbai’s Shiv Sagars) and the bar menu is excellent. If you want a slice of easy-peasy during a winter afternoon or on those weekends when the significant other just wants a long meal and no loud music, this is your place to be.   

What we liked: Other than the vibe, I loved the salads – fresh ingredients packed with flavour. The seafood and meat tapas selection is excellent. Definitely try the Vieiras (scallops, cauli puree and orange hollandaise), the Pastel de Cangrejo (juicy-spicy crab cakes), the twice-cooked pork belly in a whiskey-apple sauce, the tenderloin and the ham-cheese croquettes. For mains, I would pick the braised lamb, a wonderful slow-roasted leg of chicken and the seafood capellini. In the dessert course, the sticky toffee pudding is to die for.

What we didn’t: The menu tries really hard to please everyone, which is a major drawback. There are European influences from too many countries which are in dissonance with the vibe of the place. Why serve Italian dishes? It does not fit in at all. Why is there a fish and chips on the menu? I don’t know. It would have also made more sense to explore Spanish cuisine beyond the usual, which is a challenge El Toro does not take up – which is understandable, because the chef would be able to come up with uncommon or hyperlocal delicacies if he had travelled the country enough. Word of advice: think beyond empanadas, quesadillas and patata bravas when someone says “Spanish”.  

MW rating: 3/5

Flyp@MTV

Tandoori Dhokla
Bombil Fry
Galauti Kebab
Roast Melon Sashimi Salad

What’s it about: I don’t know whether Mumbai was looking for a slice of Delhi (I am not sure, but I guess the proprietors would have done their research) but Flyp@MTV – already a hit in Delhi – does fit in better in Gurugram than Lower Parel. The place is a kaleidoscope of vectors, shapes, sculptures and sizes, with every wall and nook packed with posters, kitschy artwork, board game graffiti, expandable tables and neon lights. It’s teeny-boppy on coke – and not the fizzy kind. Flyp takes the same uppity vibe of 145 or Hoppipola and amps it up as a resto-bar cum gig space – high on a northie identity that might just be too much for many people. The food menu, curated by celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, brings back his classics that wow but tries too many experiments that don’t quite take off. The bar menu is pretty generic with just new names for old drinks.

What we liked: The stage is enormous and perfectly suited for live gigs. Flyp is also spacious enough to accommodate large crowds, have a dancing space and maintain clear visibility of the stage from every corner of the pub. The food menu has some classic Brar that definitely impress – the galouti, the nihari and the exceptional qurma-style scotch eggs. The tandoori momos are delicious as are the pork and prawn baos. From the Asian section, the ramen bowls are soul-filling, with balanced flavours and produce.

What we didn’t: The tandoori dhokla is a non-starter. It makes absolutely no sense why a dhokla – quite a delicious snack by itself – needs to be slightly roasted for a half-charred outer coating, adding no new flavour or experience in the process. I know you want to create more vegetarian options but why should anyone pay 295++ bucks for charred dhokla with salsa and a curry leaf foam? The menu also has too many tikkas and kebabs that don’t stand out. And why are we still serving loaded fries and kheema nachos? Can we really not do anything else with them? While most of the bar menu is yawn, some of the in-house cocktails are confusing. There is a tequila cocktail with tamarind and raspberry (why would you combine salty-tart and sweet-tart flavours and overpower the spirit?), a whisky cocktail with kokum and egg white (really?) and a rum cocktail with pineapple, coriander and – wait for it – salt. Whoever made these cocktails need to go back to school.

MW rating: 2/5