India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Wine & Dine
January 20, 2014


Text by Shirin Mehta

Until some years ago, Mumbai was a city of 5-star restaurants. Then came the surge of stand-alone establishments, some good, others not. In the changing fortunes of these with new ones sprouting up and shutting down, the 5-star hotels have been quietly plotting their own strategies. Suddenly, the city’s fine diners have a slew of eateries to choose from.

  • Classic-Lobster-Salad
    Classic Lobster Salad
  • L&S-at-Intercontinental,Marine-Drive-(6)
    L&S, Intercontinental, Marine Drive
  • Leela-Mumbai20
    Le Cirque Signature, The Leela
  • Mango-&-Pea-Shoot-Salad-
    Mango and Pea Shoot Salad
  • Mutton-sukha
    Mutton sukha
  • San-Lorenzo-Bar
    San Lorenzo Bar
  • Spaghetti-schillaci
    Spaghetti schillaci
  • Stir-fried-prawns-with-superior-@-Mekong,-Palladium-Hotel,-Mumbai
    Stir fried prawns at Mekong, Palladium Hotel
  • The-Konkan-Cafe-16
    The Konkan Cafe

“Mumbai finally gets a penthouse with a bar and lounge that puts it on the international map – a decadent jewel in the sky with 360 degree views of the glittering city at its feet….” says Gayatri Ruia, promoter and director, Palladium Hotel of the swanky-sophisticated new space offering a spectacular vantage point of Mumbai city from the 37th floor of the hotel. The Penthouse features Li Bai, the Asian Bar with its New Age, edgy cocktails as well as Mekong, the oriental fine dine restaurant, which we will discuss here. As we go to press, EXO Bar and Club opens its doors with other restaurants planned for the near future.

The coveted tables of course are against the large bay windows. The high ceilings are clad in wood, ebony veneers echo the warmth of these and bamboo lamps disperse a golden glow, creating a surreal feeling. The food of course has to compete with the view! This includes tastes from the Chinese province of Yunnan, moving on to Vietnam and Thailand. Specially procured herbs and spices from these regions make for surprising new flavours.

We decide on a mix of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. We start with some refreshing pomelo salad with softshell crab (Vietnam), a tangy prawns with mango salad (Thailand) and a Chinese concoction of chicken with honey and dried chilli. The different cuisines seem to go well together. A chicken and shrimp fried rice wrapped in lotus leaf (Vietnam) makes a change from the popular Chinese fried rice, the steamed sea bass with ginger and soy (Vietnam) is tender and delicious as are the stir-fried prawns with chilli and basil (Thailand) and the French beans in yellow bean sauce. For dessert, the custard and cream buns prove to be a bit chewy though the chilled mango pudding is refreshing.

Overlooks Mumbai’s green oasis, the racecourse and the Arabian Sea.

Two private dining areas make for an exclusive experience.

A fine selection of handpicked teas.

This has been a dinner to remember, not least of all because we are guests of Mario Maccioni, director of the iconic New York-based fine dining brand Le Cirque, (son of the legendary Sirio Maccioni) and his lovely Tarun-Tahiliani-clad wife, Maria. A treat indeed for the senses and the palate as Michelin noted chef Matteo Boglione from the flagship restaurant in New York, who perfectly fits the bill of the ‘sexy chef’, turns out amazing creations, some signature dishes, others conjoured up especially for Mumbai epicures. The restaurant itself is small and cozy compared to its spacious sibling in New Delhi and more relaxed and chic than New York. “I Love it here,” says Maria, who feels a spiritual bond with India on this her first visit and hopes to taste the local cuisine including Jain food. “The restaurant seems to hug you!” she exclaims in delight. Which indeed it does, with its subtle play of warm colours, subdued lighting and sophisticated furnishings. The tableware of course is Villeroy & Bosch and the stemware Schott Zwiesel.

Spectacularly presented, the menu is perhaps amongst the best that one can have in Mumbai – French-Italian cuisine designed for discerning palates. We start with the caprese which presents a duet, the classic one of mozzarella, tomato and basil and a deconstructed version. The signature poached lobster with avocado salsa follows – the lobster has a certain tanginess, the avocado a certain freshness, aptly paired with a Chardonnay Fontanelle Castello Banfi 2009. The black truffle risotto is a perfect option even for vegetarians, creamy with the subtle hint of truffle and mushroom. Those who have chosen the black olive pappardelle in lamb ragout look pleased with their dish, paired with a Pinot Noir Allan Scott Single Vineyard Hound 2012. And onto the most succulent, pink and rare lamb chops, with balsamic lamb jus. At this point, we are told about the excellence of the vegetarian option of cauliflower flan which we hope to taste another day, when the stomach permits!

The mille foglie is a surprise dessert and a delicious one with caramelised eggplant, white chocolate mousse and dark chocolate sauce; just when we thought we knew it all with eggplant. And, as well, the best crème brulee, this side of the Indian Ocean – creamy, crunchy, desirable, all at once. Mario tells us that the crème brulee as we had it that day, was invented on his father’s request, after he had been served a crème brule once with a sugar coating so thick, they handed out a mini hammer to break it. Good food and great conversation. A delectable evening, to be sure.

Lobster salad, spaghetti primavera, paupiette of black bass and Dover sole.

The hallmark service of the iconic fine dining Le Cirque brand in a more relaxed and chic setting.

From the classics of France and Italy, to the premium wines of Napa Valley, to new world wines from Australia, Chile and New Zealand.

The iconic Konkan Café at Vivanta by Taj President has re-opened in a completely new avatar with redesigned interiors and many additions to the old favourites on the menu. The exterior boasts a massive wooden door that welcomes you into the nallu kettu or typical single courtyard house in Kerala. Five kamsya bells, made by blending five metals so that the vibrations generate positive energy, hang outside and one of these is chimed, with our permission, to make our entrance auspicious. A rangoli made out of granite adds to the momentum. A coulourful umbrella at the entrance creates atmosphere and may prove an ushering palanquin for those who celebrate their birthdays here! A diya wall with South Indian velaka (standing diya), an exterior stone jail inspired by ancient houses, original pillars restored and brought from an old haveli in the interiors of Kerala, a central intricately carved granite column symbolising a deep stumbh with elephants and festive boats and rosewood furniture hand crafted by master-artists from Kerala add to the authentic atmosphere.

The bright interior puts you in the mood for some authentic Konkan cuisine, perfected by Chef Ananda Solomon, Corporate Chef, Taj Business Hotels. A glass of solkadi is refreshing and prepares our appetites for more. We start with large slices of surmai tawa fry and some tickle prawn curry, soaked with hot and pillowy appams and jowar bhakri. A selection of four homemade pickles (coriander, onion, tomato, coconut) make for a delicious accompaniment. The kombdi vade, chicken with gravy, is pungent and this is had with some hot and fine idiappam. We end with a mapilla meen biryani, a fish preparation served with raita, sweet chutney and green chutney. The attention to detail and the layering of chutneys and breads, the eye to authenticity is what is great here. We end with elaneer payyasam and adda payyasam, one served hot, the other cold and South Indian coffee served in two metal tumblers to cool and tumble in the traditional way.

Authenticity of design, craft and cuisine sourced from The Konkan Coast, from Alibaug to Kasargode, Kerala.

Kamsya, an alloy of 80 per cent copper and 20 per cent tin commonly called bronze is considered a healing metal. Due to its beneficial qualities, Chef Ananda decided to use this cast bronze alloy for all thalis, katories and water lottas.

Salman Khan, Sachin Tendulkar.

The iconic London restaurant San Lorenzo, owned by Lorenzo Berni, comes to Mumbai’s tony suburb of Bandra, at the Taj Lands End. Opened in 1963, the Knightsbridge restaurant became internationally known during the ‘Swinging London’ decade, drawing Hollywood stars, royals, sports legends, artists and musicians, including Sophia Loren, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers, Andy Warhol and the Rolling Stones. It seems appropriate that the Taj Lands End that draws A-listers from this suburb, should be chosen as the fitting venue.

Italian chefs Alessandro Bechini and Marco Foroni, trained at the flagship restaurant, make sure that the cuisine is authentic, paying homage to rustic Italian gastronomy and drawing inspiration from Lorenzo Berni’s family recipes. The menu has much for vegetarians to choose from.

When we visit, a white truffle festival is underway and the chef plies us with tasting portions from the special menu. A bouquet of fine Italian flavours accosts our palate. A ‘creamy’ polenta piemontese with mascarpone, parmesan cheese and truffle shavings; focaccia tartufata topped with parmesan cheese shavings; risotto san miniato with porcini mushrooms; a light crespelle con funghi e ricotta filled with porcini mushrooms; veal cutlets in white wine sauce and melted emmenthal cheese and an unusual truffle flavoured vanilla ice cream, further garnished with truffle shavings. More than the pizza and pasta fare that the city is used to, for sure….

Risotto with prawns and courgettes, tagliata of chicken breast with balsamic sauce.

The wine list features 64 Italian wine labels while the Prosecco Bar serves up a mean kir royal, fruity bellini or dessert cocktail.

sports a casual maritime theme with white and navy walls and black-and-white seascapes on the walls.

“This is all about comfort food with a little twist,” says Chef Paul Kinny, of the Intercontinental’s latest eatery that doubles up as the hotel’s breakfast room and coffee shop. Diners are in for a little surprise whatever they order from the multi-cuisine menu. There is no mish-mash here, however. The dishes have been inspired by street food from all over the world to which the chef has added something of his own creation. The team travelled around the world from the streets of New York to Indian khau gallis and bazaars; from the soi’s of Bangkok to michelin star restaurants to put together the fun-filled repertoire of dishes. The menu includes a selection of Warm and Cold Small Plates or what is called the ‘Shorts’ and an extensive list of ‘Longs’.

We start with lobster thermidor maki rolls which may make purists shake but which, in the spirit of things, taste rather good, with a little hint of cheese blending with the wasabi! A selection from the stone hearth flatbread pizza highlights red curry spices, bird’s eye chilli, red onion and chicken with a distinct Thai flavour. The base is paper thin and crispy. A highlight according to me, are the steamed pulled pork buns with pork doused in apple hoisin and mounted with jalapeno. The corn bhel is unusually presented and placed perfectly on what could be a rather large and particularly flaky puri. The corn kernels are giant size and the mixture is punctuated with peanuts that add a good crunch. “This is our tribute to Mumbai,” Chef Kinny tells us. Another throwback to the city is the Bombay Masala Club that draws inspiration from the street sandwich and incorporates a spicy salsa and potato topped with melted cheese. The non-vegetarian version features ham and cheese and is served with some crunchy hot fries.

A relaxed and urban vibe with eclectic black and white prints, quirky curios from around the world and lounge tables and deep sofas to spread out on, in comfort.

A great location on Mumbai’s Marine Drive with outdoor seating on a large balcony overlooking the sea. Perfect for January weather.

The green apple crumble deconstruct, a fun culinary experience.

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