The bad news is, Cheval is gone. The good news is, the owner’s young son stepped in and converted it into a hip, teenybopper zone, but with F&B good enough to warrant a visit no matter how old you are (you can never be too old for their insanely good looking milkshakes) or whether you like using sketch pens to doodle on their menu (seriously, they’ll soon start putting up the best ones).
The cocktails are the perfect mix of gimmicky and straight up, with the best of both worlds. When you’re tired of sucking on the Gola cocktail, move on to a coconuty, fruity concoction called Gin Kane. Whisky lovers, you’ll swear by your glass of Adam’s Godfather. Something for the lady? Look no further than the delicious Mango Bite-Kaffir champagne cocktail.
The food is a happy smattering of global cuisines, but it’s the Indian dishes that see most experimentation. Definitely order the melt-in-your-mouth Raan Bao, the no-one-can-eat-just-one Magic Masala Potato Skins and an interesting Crispy Spinach Salad. Do leave space for mains, for 145 does a mean Butter Chicken Bunny Chow that’s as rich as it’s amazing. We do wish the dessert menu were a bit more imaginative, but we’ll happily settle for the sinful Chocolate Brownie with Salted Caramel Filling. Don’t forget to ask for a chuski to end your meal, and contemplate your next visit while you’re at it.
P.S. – There’s a pool table, free Wi-Fi, unlimited coffee pours for freelancers working there, and sheesha too!
A luxury Japanese restaurant from Bahrain (you read that right), just opened in Mumbai, and it fits right into a market that desperately needs more of its kind. At Juhu’s Ramee Guestline Hotel, Ruka occupies a fairly large space divided into two separate dining areas. Price-wise, it’s a bit stepper than the likes of Kofuku, but a lot more afforable than the Jap fare at most five-stars. Given the fantastic quality of ingredients as well as the skill of the chef, we won’t be complaining.
Ruka’s staff is very well trained, and we’re happy to report that their recommendations really are standouts. We munched on steamed soybeans drizzled with sea salt while waiting for a selecton of sushi and sashimi. The eel or unagi sushi was a hands-down favourite, followed by the freshest salmon sashimi you might sample in the city. Also decent is their prawn and black bean dumpling rolled in spinach, which overshadowed the prawn cheong fun. Too full for mains but too impressed to not try any, we got the reliable Double Cooked Prok Belly Skewers with a portion of fried rice. Don’t forget to end your meal with a luscious chocolate and hazelnut fondant or the more traditional Tropical Chawanmunshi.
One Street Over
Perhaps no other chef in Mumbai has won fans and favour like Kelvin Cheung. After single-handedly propelling Ellipsis to top restaurant status – and temporarily moving back to the US – Cheung is back, this time in the suburbs. With chef de cuisine Boo Kwang Kim at hand in the kitchen, this latest venture offers American comfort food with Chinese and Korean influences. Cheung even jokes that the food is basically broken down into three categories – stuff he eats before drinking, while drinking and when hung over.
Mixologist Arijit Bose stirs up Ellipsis (we can’t resist comparing) caliber cocktails – our absolute favourite being Painkiller (a blend of rums, orange, pineapple, coconut cream and a smidgen of nutmeg). The Kelvinator, made using the chef’s poison of choice, Jameson, with Campari and martini rosso, is another pick. We love that OSO offers you the choice to buy the kitchen beer or shots to acknowledge a fantastic meal. Vegetarians, you’ll love the fact that the hardcore carnivores in the kitchen really did look out for you. Do yourselves a favour and order the burrata, thankfully presented minus the usual tomatoes and pesto, and with an imaginative, genius combo of carrot marinara, carrot top pesto and fermented carrot vinaigrette. Bonus points to these guys for managing top quality produce – from baby carrots to burrata – all locally, thereby keeping prices in check.
Another gem is the unusual cauliflower salad, which comes with cashew hummus, pomegranate and mint-parsley chutney. Fans of Cheung’s chicken and waffles at the Sobo eatery, you’re going to love this version a whole lot more. There’s also some cheesy, homely gnocchi that’s best shared by at least four people. And while the brown butter choco chip cookies are spot on, we do hope for some more desserts to join the roster pretty soon. Until then, we’d be happy to return for the rest of the menu, and for midnight munchies post debaucherous Friday nights.
Café Haqq Se
At the end of the day, we might love the wonders of the globe, but nothing beats desi cuisine. And Café Haqq Se hits it out of the park. Done up in local and Bollywood kitsch, this new resto-bar is a cheerful addition to the city’s Indian fare. One of the few places to get the marriage of Indian flavours and continental textures and cooking techniques just right, CHS makes for a wonderful dining and live performance experience. The Lamb yakhni soup is a winner during winters from the soup course. We loved the rustic Kashmiri-style pan-fried Sage Kabargah (lamb spare ribs), the lacy Gul Kebabs filled with a hot rose jam and the Chicken Kursi Miyani. For mains, the Laal Duck Mole, an interesting combination of the Rajasthani laal maas and the Mexican chocolate-based mole sauce is a must try. Also, we highly recommend the Butter Chicken a la Kiev for an innovative twist to serving the beloved Punjabi gravy and the Kheema Shepherd’s Pie baked with a potato bharta/mince. For desserts, try the baked aamrakhand and the delightful roshogolla white chocolate mousse with coffee liquer.
And here are some of the classic city favourites who have some new cards up their sleeves:
Taj Mahal Tea House
Mumbai desperately needs a slice of dolce fer niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. Every pub, restaurant and coffee house in the city is so caught up with becoming the go-to place, the hippest watering hole, the most exciting spot in town, that they try to cram in every possible dangling carrot for every possible customer. Want to hang out with your family? We have large tables and kid-friendly wall colours. Want to work out of our space? We have community tables and free wi-fi. Are we date-friendly? Yes. Saturday night friendly? Yes. Hence, increasingly, it is becoming very difficult to find a peaceful spot in the city. Not to mention that every spot looks just like the other and there is no novelty left anymore.
The Taj Mahal Tea House is nothing like any other space in the city. Done up in blues, whites, pastel yellows and Mediterranean tiles, the tea house oozes the old school charm of laid back Goan or Pondicherry houses – spacious, raw-washed walls, bunches of books and magazines casually lying around, antique furniture, solo armchairs, polished wooden floors and the respected musical instruments of maestros. The place is rarely loud with the staff hardly bothering you at all. You can cosy up in an armchair all by yourself, listen to music, read or even take a short nap, no one will bother you. The tea house has a wide variety of hot tea preparations to choose from along with tea smoothies and milkshakes. From white and yellow teas to green and Darjeeling variations, the tea house has excellent selections. Move on to blended and spiced varieties like the woody Smoky Mountain, the tropically-flavoured Orange Blossom, the hot blend with curry leaves, the wonderfully textured Kashmiri Saffron and our personal favourite – the Malabari style roasted coconut and vanilla bean hot tea. Dig into healthy bites like idli burgers, ragi dhoklas, falafel chaats and excellent waffles. Mains are available too, but we wouldn’t mind settling in with just a plate of bun maska and apricot jam. Sinful.
La Folie Lab
Suburban fans of La Folie got much to cheer about when dessert queen Sanjana Patel not only expanded to Bandra (W), but also tweaked the patisserie format. Her latest baby, La Folie Lab, is a cheery all-day space where breakfast, salads, and all-day food share the stage with nature desserts.
The Lab’s hot chocolate is now one of our favourites in the city, and we’ve been going back every other week for the thick, not-too-sweet cuppa. If you’re going to feel guilty about that glassful, it’s best you pair it with the fantastic Chevre Au Chaud salad. Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, fruits, walnut, goat’s cheese and a lipsmacking mustard-based dressing – it’s got all our favourite ingredients. Vegetarians, the French Onion Tartine is also nice and filling.
A few desserts here are different from the other outlets, noteworthy among them being the Paris Breast Gateaux. From another new addition – the slabs – you’d do well to buy the Rocky Road as well as Strawberry Shortbread variety.
The seasonal menu is short, but it’s going to make you super happy. Dumpling lovers, we promise you heaven if you get the chicken or prawn ones. Both are generously stuffed, and the wrappers are thankfully thin, but the chili oil is the star of the show. Play down the heat with a cooling glass of Rum Diaries – a refreshing concoction of white and dark rum, pineapple and orange juice and a squeeze of lime. Better still is the Frozen Sangria, a new variant in Mamagoto’s Pop Rocks Collection. Trust us, red wine sangria is so much better as a gola!
There’s no special dessert on the menu, but in true Mamagoto style, there’s no way you’re going home on an empty stomach. The mains are so, so filling. Our pick is the Osaka Tube Station Bowl, with subtle miso, soya and mushroom flavours in the broth. Those who like it spicy, look no further than Mama’s Spicy Ramen Bowl – a giant bowl with options of chicken mince or veggies.