Here’s what we loved (and didn’t) at the city’s latest restaurants and pubs.
Farzi Café, High Street Phoenix, Mumbai
You’d initially wonder why the owners would open a new Farzi Café not even a kilometer from its first Mumbai outlet in Kamala Mills – but considering the latter runs to packed houses and the former is in the forever-bustling High Street Phoenix compound, you realize it’s a great idea.
When we walked in on a weekday, the place was buzzing at lunch time. In terms of décor, not much is different – the café retains the aesthetic of its other outlets, and even the menu is only tweaked in a few places. Why change a good thing?
Lovers of sweet corn soup will delight in the cream corn chowder that comes topped with Cheetos to add an addictive crunch. The black sesame tikka is beautiful to look at, and tastes better – the use of minimal ingredients allows the perfectly cooked chicken to shine. Also succulent are the grilled chermoula prawns (just as good without the accompanying tomato chutney) and the subtly spiced dhaniya potli murgh (again, just as good without the kulcha we are served with it).
Farzi Café also has an excellent selection of cocktails. Our order of Bootleggers Knees (cardamom infused gin, honey syrup, lime juice, orange bitters and cardamom foam) and Black Magikk (gin, elderflower cordial, lime juice, egg white and angostura bitters) is on point, and both drinks warrant repeat orders. An added bonus is the range of bar bites to munch on while you enjoy your tipple. Guntur chilli chicken is expectedly addictive, and the tandoori margarita kulcha is sinfully cheesy. We’d skip past the keema mirchi fritters that seem a tad unimaginative compared to the other dishes – and the salan cream accompanying them doesn’t add much in terms of flavour.
Mains are a mixed bag – there’s a lovely haleem risotto that gets its rich flavour from eight hours of cooking. Goan prawn curry is delicious too, but not among the more memorable dishes in the meal. We’ll save that distinction for dessert. The patishapta meuille fille is delicately plated and light on the palate, teamed with incredibly fresh coconut cream. A more conventional option – but just as sinful – is the flourless chocolate bar teamed with tutty fruity ice cream and fresh fruit pearls.
What we like: Consistent quality, innovative ideas
What we don’t like: Nothing, really
The Urban Foundry, Mumbai
The spacious, split-level property in Colaba, where Ellipsis once stood, is now home to Pune’s popular The Urban Foundry. The outpost is minimal and moody in décor – exposed brick walls, mesh overlays and mismatched chairs contribute to the look. Interesting lighting fixtures play on the ‘foundry’ vibe, while the cutlery and some of the serveware are inspired by nuts and bolts, screws etc.
The menu is exhaustive – with inventive dishes that are inspired by Indian and global cuisine. Ranging from bar bites and nibbles to more robust and eclectic plates, there’s plenty to pick from. On one end of the spectrum is a beautifully cooked Thai chicken thigh (how we wish the flavour was a bit stronger), and addictive bacon vada pao, while on the other end is the fancier avocado dynamite pizza (overpriced if you ask us, but so very addictive). A bheja fry sui mai makes us wonder why no one else has ever had the idea before – texturally, the softness of bheja makes for a great (albeit somewhat bland) stuffing for dim sum, easily fixed with a good dose of chili oil. Our pick of the starters, though, is a lip smacking Kerala steak chilli with juicy, tender meat and a restrained yet addictive masala coating.
The bar menu is extensive as well, and picking a cocktail isn’t an easy job here. Asking the staff for their recommendations is a good idea here – give them an idea of your spirit and flavour preferences and they do a great job of making a selection for you. Our experiments covered both ends of the spectrum, and we’re happy to report they were successful. For those who like their drinks light and summery, the 1804 Asiatic Society (white rum, hibiscus flower extract, grenadine, Darjeeling tea, bitters) goes down rather easily. On the other hand, Smoked New York Sour (bourbon, red wine float and egg white) is sure to please those with a taste for straight up drinks.
Our good run so far falters a bit with mains. Videshi pork chop Chettinad is fantastic in terms of flavour, but it is overcooked to the extent of being rubbery and extremely difficult to cut into. Dal baati khowsuey is, again, a great idea, but the smaller elements ultimately fail to add much in terms of flavour.
Thankfully, dessert somewhat brings us back on track. Samundar ka moti is the kind of dish we’ve seen at a number of places – a molten chocolate sphere that gives way to reveal more elements inside. It lacks in novelty, and the taste is generic. Redemption comes in the form of the little gulab jamun rabri cones – ingenious and a fail-safe end to the meal.
What we like: Décor, innovative food
What we don’t like: Overcooked pork