An infused Gin & Tonic menu and other cleverly crafted concoctions – here’s what we loved (and didn’t) at the city’s latest restaurants and pubs.
The French eatery – Mumbai’s only one – has a lot going for it, starting with its location. Nestled inside a pretty Worli Village cottage, the quaint spot is perfect for a date night with its charming interiors, dim lighting, cheery music and elegant cocktails.
What also works is the small plates concept that encourages sharing and lets you try more dishes without wastage. The French Picnic Basket is mostly a gimmick that Instagrammers are likely to succumb to, but if we’re going to get it again, it would solely be for the glorious red wine jam. Punchy gazpacho – also in the basket – is better off ordered as a standalone dish. Hereon though, the menu fares a lot better.
Seared Scallops are cooked to perfection, served with a tantalizing whiskey cream. Bits and bobs of too-crisp bacon are thrown in, but don’t really add to the dish. Buffalo Cheek Bourguignon melts in the mouth, and its red wine jus is plain addictive. More beef follows, but not as impressively. We aren’t asked how we want out Steak au Poivre done, and it expectedly shows up a wee bit tougher than we expected. Full points for presentation and for keeping the rest of the dish simple to let the meat shine. Another big high is a thoroughly satisfying portion of 36-Hour Belgian Pork Belly that you’re going to definitely want a large plate of. The pork melts in your mouth, as does its accompanying emmental croquette (could we have these as a side dish on the menu, s’il vous plait?).
On another day, we’d opt for a more French dessert, but chocolate hankerings prompt us to get the Dark Chocolate Tartelette that fares just about okay. The tart shell is a little too hard for our liking, but that doesn’t discourage us from polishing off the delectable chocolate-salted caramel filling.
Meanwhile, what’s a date without some cocktails? Slink & Bardot hits the spot here too, with cleverly crafted concoctions that are subtle in flavour but leave an impact nonetheless. There’s one called Sitting In An English Garden Waiting For The Sun (seriously) that’s a little bitter for our liking given the cucumber juice, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Sitting in an English Garden Waiting for the Sun
Better still – and the perfect dessert cocktail – is a wonderful Poached Pear Daiquiri that ends our meal on the best note possible.
Ambience, Seared Scallops and Pork Belly
Some plates are too pricey given their size
Colaba Causeway doesn’t really have any Chinese joints apart from Ling’s Pavilion, so a quick, casual spot is a much-needed addition to the stretch. Kuai Kitchen is bright and spunky looking, but has only four tables inside and two outside, which means it filled up quickly even on a weekday afternoon when we visited.
Diving straightaway into appetizers, we got ourselves the Steamed Wanton Soya Chilli Broth and BBQ Chicken Bao that are a decent beginning to the meal. But coming from the same family that started Royal China, we admit we were a tad underwhelmed by Kuai’s version of the dishes. The wanton wrappers are far too doughy, and the bao has very little filling. Our server insists we try their Truffle Edamame dimsum, but those are just too pasty.
Truffle Edamame Dumplings
The sushi – Crunchy California Roll and Volcano Prawn Tempura Roll – follows a similar theme. They’re okay flavour-wise, but keep falling apart, and are teamed with wasabi that just refuses to have any impact on our senses.. A final appetizer – Dynamite Prawns – is quite the disappointment. There’s nothing dynamite about these batter-fried prawns dunked in a heavy, mayo-based sauce.
Mains fare much better, starting with the beautifully scented Diced Tenderloin in Truffle Oil and the reliable Kuai Special Fish in Soya Chilli Garlic Sauce teamed with Burnt Garlic Fried Rice. We’d suggest skipping appetizers entirely, and opting for mains only for a great experience.
For dessert, Honey Noodles are a fail-safe option, and Kuai thankfully does a great version. We’re served a generous portion with crunchy, sticky noodles and a pretty good ice cream. Having said that, this is a crowded area with lots of tourists, shoppers and more, and to be able to compete with the cheap eats and fancy restaurants, Kuai needs to pull up its socks and perfect the basics.
Mains, bright decor
The answer to ‘What does Bengaluru have that Mumbai doesn’t?’ was once Toast & Tonic, as far as a conversation with some food-loving friends from the city is concerned. Not anymore. As is the norm in Mumbai these days, BKC is the location for this “East Village style” venue, says our press release. Based on reputation alone, we went in thoroughly excited for this one.
Toast & Tonic takes a lot of pride in local ingredients and makes it a point to highlight this on the menu. All our small plates are deceptively simple dishes, packed with flavour. Soft Eggs and Andouille Sausages come on delicious bread with a green mustard spread. The cream cheese is from Bandel, and along with a smear of gin mustard hollandaise, it really perks up a basic dish like this one.
Smoked Cochin Mackerel on Toast follows a similar concept. The fish is given ample room to shine with a green pepper and orange salsa that doesn’t interfere with the taste of the fish, and yet adds another dimension simultaneously. Carne Asada Tostada would likely be our bar snack of choice when we return for a round of drinks. Crunchy tostadas, fresh veggies and buff burst with flavour in every bite. The Naga Chilli Wings are a lot less spicy than we expect, but addictive nonetheless. The only so-so dish is a Seared Pork Belly – it’s cooked fine, but it’s just unmemorable compared to the other dishes.
Smoked Cochin Mackeral on Toast; Courtesy Kunal Chandra
Another standout is the Soft Shell Crab sourced from Bhimavaram. Crispy fried and tossed in finger-licking good Singapore style chilli peanut sauce. You’re likely to wipe the plate clean with the help of the accompanying mantou buns, like we did.
Dessert is the only hiccup in an otherwise stellar meal. Our Mango Semifreddo is too sweet and bits and bobs of black sesame sponge do little to add a layer of taste or texture to the dish.
Crisp Soft Shell Crab
Toast & Tonic’s other claim to fame is their infused Gin & Tonic menu, which we’re in love with. Herbalist – with gin, basil and orange tonic water, and even orange-coriander ice – is an instant favourite. The unusual but enchanting notes of the Ms Rose and Col Cucumber (gin, rose petal and cucumber tonic water, rose petal-cucumber ice) make it another must-try. The highly recommended Bacon Old Fashioned, however, is a bit too strong for our liking.
Either way, the hits at Toast & Tonic clearly outnumber the minor misses, and multiple trips back seem inevitable to be able to cover everything that’s caught my fancy on the menu.
Easy vibe, excellent food and G&Ts