Colour me jaded, but I’ve learned to exercise a bit of caution when it comes to new restaurant openings in the Bay.
Pin it down to one-too-many lacklustre experiences at the new-age style of restaurants continuously popping up across the city – each holding much promise and potential at the outset, but ultimately failing to pack a punch due to an amateurish execution and shoddy service.
But perhaps the purpose of these recent disappointments has simply been to highlight the more winning additions to Bombay’s thriving food scene?
Since none of us ever want to find ourselves demanding a refund on calories which didn’t taste half as good as we’d expected (or was that just me at Jia recently?), here are my top picks for the new cafes, eateries and establishments well-worthy of a visit…
There’s a homely appeal to this cosily cheerful café in Fort – brought to us by the folks behind Food for Thought at Kitab Khana.
Favourites on the menu include the avocado-toast (layered with pickled beets), the black-paneer bowl (served with noodles, in a surprise fusion twist) and the spiced banana cake (tinged with a hint of ginger) for afters. Scribble away on vintage postcards as you inevitably wait for your second round of dessert – the friendly staff will be more than happy to send it off for you! More on hidden gems of Bombay cafés, here.
Plenty Café, 3-B Raja Bahadur Mansion, Mumbai Samachar Marg, Fort
POH – Progress Oriental House, Kamala Mills
For a contemporary spin on Asian classics, head to POH. The Progressive Oriental House adopts a more-is-more attitude when it comes to piling on innovative ingredients and experimenting with wacky pairings. The result is a riot of flavours and textures – which work for the most part – and a dining experience which is as much about the food as the stylised experience. Full review, here.
Sequel Bistro and Juice Bar, Kala Ghoda
For a more virtuous meal – free of gluten, dairy, refined sugars and the like – try Sequel’s new bistro in Kala Ghoda. While it’s unlikely to be the B-town star magnet that the original in Bandra is, no doubt the prospect of acai berry bowls, matcha lattes and nice cream will be the stuff of every fitfood-foodie’s dreams this side of the Sea Link too.
We only hope that in the coming weeks, the staff are better trained on the A-Z’s of the at-times esoteric ingredients (sourced from as far as Peru and Mexico). As our visit went to show, the end result can otherwise be a comedy of errors until the intended dish arrives.
Sequel, behind Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
La Folie Lab, Kamala Mills
Another Bandra export to rejoice over is the South Bombay outpost of La Folie Lab – a simple and fuss-free spot, where the fresh and feisty food does all the talking. Think beautifully-textured salads, tartines and creamy burrata cocooned within flakily-golden croissants (among other high-level pleasures!).
Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Sanjana’s pastries are always an irresistibly-inviting proposition too… but if you’re going all in, my recommendation would be the tiramisu pancakes or waffles drenched with homemade Nutella ganache. Or you know, both.
La Folie Lab, Unit no. 10, Trade World ‘B’, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel, Next to ICICI Bank
Kode, Kamala Mills
Billed as a ‘freestyle’ bar & kitchen, the latest venture from experimental restaurateur Zorawar Kalra, has all the makings of becoming the trendiest dining and drinking destination in this burgeoning complex!
Unlike at Farzi or Masala Library (his fusion-themed restaurants), there’s no molecular gastronomy involved though – instead, the globe-trotting menu runs the gamut from Asian to Mexican and Mediterannean cuisines. With a menu this expansive, it’s almost unsurprising that the service we experienced was a tad haphazard, and that a few of our dishes missed the mark.
But here’s why I’d still revisit:
The vibrantly-buzzy vibe. The crazily-creative cocktails (which arrived with their own ‘appetiser’ and ‘dessert’ among other accoutrements). Certain stand-out dishes (including spicily-seasoned quesadillas and the Turkish-style manchego pizza – or pide). And finally, noticeably thoughtful touches such as the petit fours hand-picked out of a jar by our table, as we settled the score at the end of what was ultimately an enjoyable evening!
Kode, Gate No.4, Kamala Mills Compound, Lower Parel.
Toast and Tonic, BKC
Meanwhile across the Sea Link, I recently raised a toast to the city’s finest G&T’s at Toast and Tonic, the rustic yet smart Bombay outpost of Manu Chandra’s celebrated restaurant in Bangalore.
Far from your average tonics, the flavoured infusions here sing an adagio of floral, fruity, and herby notes, while there are a variety of gin brands to whet your whistle too (I was delighted to spot both of my favourites, Tanqueray No 10 and Hendrick’s on the extensive list!).
As for the food, starters and afters seem to be the headlining acts, with mains proving a surprisingly dispiriting affair.
Wander in for the G&T’s. Find sustenance in the flat breads (the five mushroom and melted burrata flatbread is unmissable – draped with a green mustard spread and tinged with a fennel spice mix and traditional Karnataka-style tomato gojju). And make sure to stay on for the ice creams – the coffee-cardamom topped with banana bread crumbs, is a triumphant way to finish!
Toast & Tonic, Ground Floor, Jet Airways Godrej Building, G Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East).
Hemant Oberoi, BKC
Right around the corner from Toast and Tonic, you’ll find celebrity chef Hemant Oberoi’s flagship restaurant. Subtle twists and thrilling textural variations are at the heart of the globally-inspired menu here, taking their cue from his many food-fuelled travels over the year.
I could revisit for that camembert cheese soufflé alone – but for more highlights, do have a read of my full review, here.
Hemant Oberoi BKC, G Block BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East, Mumbai.
Moving back to familiar territory (not Kamala Mills, but close by), we have Gymkhana 91.
Situated unobtrusively by the entrance of Raghuvanshi Mills, the beautifully-arched bay windows and striking 8-foot clock on the tiled façade are telling of the colonial inspirations housed within this cavernous space. The clock is in fact a nod to a bygone era when clock towers would chime the end of a long day, signalling it time for the city’s gentry to return home after having spent the good part of an evening drinking and dining in the members-only gymkhanas!
Widening the accessibility of Bombay’s gymkhana culture is indeed the key aim driving owner Aditya Hegde, with his family having provided catering to the Chembur and Ghatkopar gymkhanas for twenty years now.
Much like in the remaining gymkhanas of today, seating is cleverly divided across both loud and more intimate areas, while the staff are quick to warm up once a level of familiarity has been established. Most importantly, many dishes take their cue (and indeed name) from their patrons, Kuber kulchas and Rati aunties chutney edu pattice just two examples!
Raghuvanshi Mills, 1st Floor, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai
With many new and exciting restaurants still slated to open this year, I still have my work cut out for me… So do check back soon, as I’ll be updating this guide with the latest noteworthy recommendations.
If you have any tips for me, please do share them in the comments below or tweet me @foodiediaries.