Tuesday 29 November 2016

Happy 60, Gaylord.

In 1956, Kwality group opened an eatery in Churchgate which grew on to become a legend in the passage of time. November has been a bittersweet month for Indians following the chaos caused by the overnight demonetization. However, there are still some things which brighten up the darkest night. Gaylord's sixtieth anniversary party was one of them.

This be the season of weddings and Gaylord looked prettier than most marriage venues. Its sixtieth birthday party had a lot of big names on the invite list. Celebrities, journalists, Social luminaries and even some bloggers like yours truly.

Ask anyone who has lived or has even been to this part of Mumbai and everyone shall agree that Gaylord is an icon among eateries. Its ever evolving menu has attracted people from all walks of life to it. Whether one is a struggling actor, a big film producer, a decorated army man, a celebrated adventurer, a renowned journalist, a tired office goer or even a humble blogger - everyone loves good food. Gaylord's rich Indian food and its famous bakery are two highlights of our fair city. Started by the Lambas in the 1940s, The Kwality group has been nurtured by three generations of the Lamba family. And Gaylord Mumbai is one of their finest crafts.

Like good wine, Gaylord has only grown better with time.

This restaurant introduced fine dining to old Bombayites and new Mumbaikars alike. From fine food to snacks and ice creams - Kwality group has been a pioneer in the Indian restaurant industry. Though the parent group is headquartered in Delhi, its Mumbai's establishment is arguably its most popular outlet. And it can charm even the most travelled of people as was seen in this very party with invitees going gaga over the lavish cheese and biscuit spread.

Several kinds of cheese and biscuit platters adorned the fancy spread in the centre. One could pick a drink of their choice and grab the exotica on the platters. Live music provided the perfect backdrop as a singer dished out popular pop and rock numbers from the 80s Billboard.

What Birthday party is complete without a cake? This regal delight was undoubtedly the centrepiece of the party. This classy cake embodied the spirit of "Yeh hai Bombay meri Jaan" with a print of Marine drive on it.

And here is a picture of the Lamba family. Dhruv Lamba, a third generation member of the family uncorks the ceremonial champagne and brightens the scene with festive cheer.

This fabled restaurant finds mention in many global guidebooks including the Lonely Planet. No trip to Mumbai can be complete without a visit to Gaylord. Be a part of History, savor classy North Indian dishes and have a grand time at Gaylord. Sixty gone and the restaurant is still in its prime.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

The Spare Kitchen - Worli, Mumbai

After wowing the suburban audiences in Juhu, The Spare Kitchen(TSK) finally opens its doors in the town at Worli's Atria mall. Though the deserted mall may feel a bit awkward to the patron, rest assured its still better than an overcrowded mall coming in between you and good food. Atria has recently been a magnet for a few big name eateries and this pleases me a lot.

The place is huge with close to about 150 covers. I am pretty sure this means that one will mostly never have a reservation hassle. The ambiance is mix of formal and informal. It feels very modern. The silver and grey theme infuses classiness while the furniture makes it look like an evening place. There is even Salvador Dali hidden in the walls. The lighting is dim lit which feels like a running theme in all restaurants from Chef Rakesh Talwar's stable.

The food is a mix of North Indian with a bit of western and the Far East. There are some classical Indian favorites on the menu too like Dal Makhani. There is also a Pizza section with a lot of Indianized pies.

Fennel Infused Martini - A sweet and sour drink. Though the fennel could not be felt, it had the pleasant calm of cucumber in it. A sober drink (if that oxymoron makes sense) for the refined masses.

Planter's Punch. A mix of Dark Rum with orange and pineapple - This was a polar opposite of the one above. It had a candy like spunky flavor and a party vibe in it.

Fish cooked in Papillote  - This was Basa baked in parchment paper. The visuals were a perfect emulation of the French delicacy. The flavor was mildly spicy and salty. Though I did feel that another fish could have been used instead of the gooey Basa.

Chowpatty on TSK platter is a crowd favorite at the Juhu installation so it was imperative that we try it here too. It was a mix of Mumbai's popular street food on a single platter given a bit of a fine dine make over. Potato Vadas, Bhel, Pav Bhaji and Pani puri adorned the platter. While everything else tasted like their street food namesakes, the pani puri felt a bit different as it used an oatmeal like mix instead of the classical pani puri mix.

Fish cakes were pan fried fish cutlets with a serving of coconut rice. The flavor felt salty and very coastal. There was a Konkani essence to it. The fish cakes were soft and delectable. The pairing with the rice seemed to work well.

Khepcha rice with prawn tasted very Burmese in construction. The flavor was smooth, the aroma inspiring and the perfect rice really caressed the tongue. Its appearance looked ordinary in a restaurant obsessed with deconstruction and plating. However, the dish let its flavor do the talking. It was food for the soul. The dish of the night.

Strawberry Rasmalai Cake was high on the optics but timid on the flavor. This was a "no bake" variety of cheesecake with subtle strawberry flavoring and bits of rasmalai in and around the thing. I have definitely had better.

Sea salted caramel Kulfi was the unsung hero among the desserts. Whilst its appearance did not match the flair of the Cheesecake above, its sweet flavor was quite a treasure trove. The sea salted caramel had blended perfectly with the Kulfi and did not feel like an external add on. The kulfi itself was very creamy, soft and yet retaining its identity and not becoming an Ice Cream. This was by far the best Kulfi that I have had in a long time. Regardless of what one eats in their other courses, this Kulfi is the ideal finisher.

The service was excellent and the staff was well trained for a new restaurant. Service has always been one of the strongest points of Rakesh Talwar's restaurants and TSK at Worli was no exception.

The pricing is definitely on the upper side however I will be honest and admit that it felt lower in comparison with other fine dines in this side of town.

The menu diversity, the deconstructions and the fusion food are the restaurant's top selling points. It is a place where one could try something completely new on every trip. I always respect creativity and chefs who like to promote avant garde. If you are in Worli then TSK is a great place to drop by. If you love good food then TSK is worthy enough to travel to.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

Map Co-Ordinates
The Spare Kitchen,
Atria Mall, 4th Floor,
Dr. Annie Besant Road,
Worli, Mumbai

-I was invited to the place along with a shipload of bloggers and influencer folks. As such the meal was on the house, however my review is neutral and based of my eating experience alone-

The Spare Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday 13 November 2016

Crave - Prabhadevi, Mumbai

I must admit that despite eating at Crave's for almost about a year, I never actually got around to write about the place. Though it is a hole in the wall kind of a cafe, the place offers some great food. The menu has changed recently and there will be a lot of older items that I can no longer write about. But better late than never.

Crave is to most cafes what pen drives are to Floppy disks. Small place, mostly delivery oriented but the food here is amazing. It is the kind of place to order pizzas from while watching the big game. It is also the kind of place to go to in the evening with a bunch of friends. There is not much to talk about the ambiance, its spartan and its comfortable.

Crave fries are the good old things that we have longed to eat since the vintage era of fast food. These fries are tasty and are the real deal. A much welcome change to super oily fast food fries or defrosted Mac/King fries. It goes well with the various dips available at Crave.

I framed a mix of the various appetizers that are available at Crave. The Brown Chicken Marinara Bruschetta felt herby and contained a lot of garden spices. It tasted great with the white cheese and chives dip. The Tomato Bruschetta tasted like it tastes anywhere else, though it was far cheaper than what one would get at a place like Moshes. Jalapeno poppers went well with the Chilli garlic dip. The garlic bread was far better than that from a mainstream pizza place.

The Roast was full of juicy chicken with caramelized onions and cheddar. It was a dirty, messy but an "oh so good" burger. This is one of my favorites at Crave.

Bacon of Hope had a perfect mixture of onion, ham and cheese. This trio can taste amazing when present in the right place and right quantities. The Bacon gave it a rough and meaty texture. If you love meat than this is the pizza to go for. While it was not quite the gourmet pizza that I longed for, it was several times better than the pizzas from popular pizza joints. My money is always better spent on Crave's pizzas.

The Chicktease was a naughty and a huge burger. This tasty whopper would leave your hands messy as well. It used sweet and spicy BBQ chicken with heap loads of coleslaw and cheese. The flavor was amazing and it definitely was a tease to the tongue. This is a good choice against my "former" favorite Roast.

The place offers packaged unbaked, cream based cheesecake which is not much different from those offered everywhere else.

Crave's Tiramisu seems to be using the similar cream material as the cheesecake above, though the flavor is a lot better and more authentic. The serving portion felt a little small though.

The place uses self service so no comments on that part. The store manager was quite a polite mister and was well informed on the food.

The pricing seems to be on par with Cafe type restaurants in the area like Home Chef for example. Its slightly lower than Starbucks and Cafe day though. The food quality is greater than what one would find at a Starbucks.

Since I have been to most places in this locality, I would safely say that Crave is the best American fast food eatery in this side of Prabhadevi. The food is amazing and appropriately priced. The only place that would come close to Crave in the Pizza-Burger segment in all of Dadar is Home chef but then Home chef takes a rather long time to deliver.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

Map Co-Ordinates
Shivalik Building,
Adjacent to Tata Motors,
Prabhadevi, Mumbai

-Though I was invited on my latest run to the place and the meal was on the house, this post has elements from the times I paid for my own meal as well.-

Crave Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Global Chaos - Fort, Mumbai

There are restaurants which have multiple cuisines on their menu but end up making things taste similar. Won't it be a luxury if one could eat a Kebab Appetizer, a Chinese main, an African second course and an Italian dessert? Won't it be even better if all of these tasted authentic? Well this gets taken care of at a great extent in Global Chaos.

Though the name says Chaos, it does not literally mean that. The menus are easy to navigate through and you can form an opinion quickly. The only chaos exists in the form of choice. With so many delights on the offering, what does one choose?

Located in the crowded but posh locality of Kala Ghoda in fort, the place could initially be a little hard to spot. The ambiance is reminiscent of a typical fine dine restaurant. It has a formal vibe to it and most of the patrons seem to be office folks from nearby places. Judging by the large number of six or more seater tables, I assume that they get lots of large groups at prime time. The place feels more lounge like at night when the lights become more prominent.

Shellfish Bisque soup is based off Creamy French soups. This had a smoky, creamy and savory flavor to it. The Shellfish added umame to the mix as well. It wasn't salty and its flavors felt like the deep sea. It also a had a sweet undertone due to the usage of brandy in the preparation but this can only be felt at the start. It was a proper French soup if you ask me, a good way to kick off the meal.

Cheesy Chicken Tikka had a lot of chatpata powder and chaat spices. The onion was also coated in a bit of pickle adding a bit of an "achari" flavor. Though the cheese wasn't perceivable, this kebab was creamy, spicy and felt like a fusion of chaat and Tikka kebabs. An interesting flavor, but the chaat masala suppressed the tikka spices and the cheese.

The Burnt garlic chilli noodles was a good main with the flavor of burnt garlic and basil acting as an earthy base. The Chili however was not properly married to the dish with the chef simply peppering it with paprika flakes. Powdered red chili would have worked better, paprika simply add a different kind of flavor.

Sichuan Chili Chicken curry was spicy, loaded with sauces and had a delectable aroma. This was on par with the curry served at other Chinese Fine dine restaurants. Barring the paprika flakes, the other elements worked well for the curry and noodles. The two complemented each other well as a main. I would recommend this combination to the reader.

Blueberry Panna Cotta was absolutely the best panna cotta that I have had in Mumbai. It beats all previous favorites easily. It had a thick consistency, was creamy and boy did it jiggle like a jelly. The flavor was appropriately sweet and it pampered my taste buds gently. My compliments to the chef for this. Note that The panna cotta was a regular vanilla panna cotta, the blueberry compote was just added for aesthetics.

The service was a bit problematic - while the Captain level staff was professional and displayed proper etiquette, my server made a lot of mess ups. Instead of getting noodles, he got rice. His sleeves touched the curry while serving. He did not ask for nor recommend any drink. He was not informed that the restaurant was out of stock on pork, took him twenty minutes to find out and relay it to me.
So I suppose this area can be improved a bit.

The pricing is similar to most casual diners in the area. The foods quality justifies the prices for most cases in my opinion.

The multiple cuisine offering seems to work well for Global chaos for now. One hopes that they will maintain food standards and only improve in times to come. Would I visit again? Most definitely, I would hope though that the service is better and that they have pork next time.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

Map Co-Ordinates
Global chaos,
Mistry Mansion,
Opposite Mumbai University, M G Road,
Fort, Mumbai

-I was invited to sample the grub. My review however remains objective.-

Global Chaos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Friday 4 November 2016

Sunday Brunch at Square - Novotel at Imagica, Khopoli.

The most dangerous place on the seas - The last island in this sea of ship wrecks lied ahead of us. It could be the compass' final resting space. But it wasn't going to be easy, was it? As our ship sailed towards the Farway Island, a large reptilian leviathan emerged from the waters. This thing was massive, at-least four times the size of a Kraken. The monster lunged at us intending to swallow the ship whole. There was no way we could dodge something so big. "Brace yourselves mateys..."

I remember going to Adlabs Imagica last year. I also remember seeing Novotel Imagica sitting near the entrance looking grand as ever. Now, its not a new thing to have star hotels in or around big theme parks. One often cannot cover the entire park in a single day and might require an overnight stay or two. Disneyland has a big hotel, Universal Studios has one too and so does Adlabs Imagica. The theme park is the principal attraction but the hotel is a top place in its own right.

Now to avoid confusion here, I am going to split this piece into two. One shall chronicle the food experience I encountered at Novotel's restaurant Square and the other would discuss the Hotel stay-in experience. Since you see the brown script at the top, you know this one will be about food ha.

I have been to many places - Star resorts and more. And, I can positively say that Novotel's Square emphasizes on food as an essential part of the Hotel experience. The food here was amazing with a very large spread that changes every day. There is proper diversity with many different options under many different cuisines being available. Comparing this with my stay at Ramada in Goa, I would say that Novotel at Imagica is a far more superior Hotel when it comes to the food they serve.

The resident restaurant Square and a bistro like restaurant near the lobby serve as the eating joints in the property. While the is fit for a quick snack or something, Square is the classy centerpiece of the Hotel.  The platter is huge, one of the largest that I have seen in India. In fact, I'd say a brunch experience here is something worth individually coming for. Square at Novotel has recently launched its Sunday Brunch which is to food lovers what Oxygen is to mammals.

The Brunch serves a lot of things that would suit a breakfast platter and a lot that would suit as lunch. The choices are huge and to top it, the platter changes every week. Above are some of the things that I tried. PS : The green triangle thingies would be Matcha cakes. I'd be making an understatement here if I say that one is spoilt for choice here. The choices were beyond what I could count.

The Brunch also combines some other elements like Live music (We had a nice young band playing numbers from the 80s and 90s) and cake mixing(More on that later).

So here are some of the things that I really loved. Do note that they may or may not be available later on as the menu rotates. The Sunday brunch has an extra large platter bundled with other activities.

Cheese Bread - This bread was predominantly made from cheese. Yep, you heard it right. There was crumbly flour bread somewhere inside but the cheese with a bit of capsicum dominated the plate. This looked good and tasted amazing. It made a great part of the breakfast bit of the brunch.

First Mate : We cannot dodge it, we cannot outmanoeuvre it and its shitty skin is too hard for cannons to make an impact.

Captain : The best way out is always through. Sails at full. Head towards the beast at full speed.

Quartermaster : Are ya out of your mind? The creature will eat us.

Captain : Our ship is but a marble to it in comparison. And we really don't have a choice.

First Mate : I'd too say that you are out of yer mind but your face suggests you have a plan.

Chicken Ham Terrine was an absolute delight. Made to resemble a layered cake, this delightful treat used chicken terrine slices and cheese slices in an alternating fashion giving it a multiple layered appearance. The flavor was amazing as the salty savory chicken's flavor fused perfectly with the cheddar slices. This was probably the best fusion of cheese and chicken that I have ever had - Definitely a star in the breakfast and salad station.

Gulabra Chicken Tikka was creamy and smooth. The meat was medium rare and there was a hint of Gulkhand or rose petal jam in the kebabs giving it a fragrant and a sweet undertone. My first time with such a kebab variation.

Chicken Roulade with cinnamon jus - This left me quite surprised. I have had roulade all over Mumbai and yet I haven't found one that I can like. And strangely miles away in the country side, Square's Roulade was perfect with juicy flavor packed in every bit. The cinnamon jus felt much like a balsamic drizzle though its well known that those are close as far as flavor goes.

(The ship enters the creature's colossal mouth.)
Captain : This monster's mouth is large enough for our ship to sail inside unscratched. 

First Mate : Enlighten me why are we allowing our ship and ourselves to be eaten like this?

Quartermaster : Ok we are inside the beast's mouth. Now what?

(Ship starts rocking uncontrollably as the creature begins moving)

Andhra style Fish Curry was a mixture of many flavors, and sensations. Its initial appearance was that of a rough textured coastal curry, and sure enough the coastal flavors were right at the front. Then there was a minor resemblance to sambhar in one of the tasting sensations. In totality it was a humble and a good dish, the stuff you would like to savour after a long tiring day.

Mexican Lamb Stew was one of the best things in the Brunch. I have never had this dish before so its flavors invoked a sense of romance. The romance of trying something new. This slow cooked stew was salty, a bit spicy and even a bit tangy. The aroma was quite appetizing too. Even as I write about this, I smack my lips reminiscing its flavor and wondering when will I get the opportunity to eat it again.

Murg Angarey Ke sholay - Loosely meaning Chicken embers of sparks - this was a spicy tikka kebab with a dry and addicting flavor within. Its spice felt like a hot desert with a firestorm raging in the middle.

Steamed Fish in Plum sauce was a mildly savory fish tossed in a subtly sweet plum sauce. The flavor was quite unique as a mix of savory, sweet with a bit of umame. If the fiery kebab above represented fire then this was certainly was the ocean incarnate. The dish was easy on the tongue and would certainly please most palates.

There was a rather huge selection of desserts so just let me list the two that I enjoyed the most. Red Velvet Cake was creamy and tasty. Square's dessert department was certainly of top calibre. Not only was the dessert platter large, each of its delights were quite heavenly. This cake was quite a party in my mouth, not to mention it was a bit of a hit on my Instagram too. So both a visual and gustatory treat.

Captain : (To Gunner) The outside skin is impervious to cannon fire. The inside however can get ripped even with a sling shot. Blow the bastard from the inside.

Gunner : Ooh, you are the clever one.

Captain : Hope this guy has dental insurance.

Wild Berry Baked Cheesecake was a genuine baked cheesecake with cream cheese and egg. The berry mixture seemed to be made of blueberry, strawberry and raspberry. It imparted a sweet tarty flavor to the delectable cheesecake. The cream on the side had been flavored with the berry concentrate as well.

For people who wished to have a healthy dessert, here is a pretty looking Fruit Bowl.

While the food was top notch, the only thing that seemed to be lacking was the presence of a good mixer in the house. Even basic cocktails like a Mojito seemed to be made incorrectly. However, I felt that this was too minor for coming in the way of an otherwise great meal experience.

There was once a time when crushing grapes with feet was considered a social achievement, well that's old news. Cake Mixing is the new in thing. Post Brunch, Novotel offers patrons the choice of participating in a community activity where people mix Christmas cake ingredients together. Though they won't be able to make their own cake and eat it too, it is possible to eat cake which was mixed by past participants. This activity should last till Christmas so visiting Novotel Imagica before Christmas would be a fun idea.

I cannot comment on the service since most of the Brunch buffet was self service but the staff did display etiquette and discipline expected in a star hotel.

Novotel is a four star property so do expect the prices to be on par with a typical four star property. The place however does full justice with its excellent rooms, service, amenities and most importantly the food. Novotel easily beats several five stars across India in the matters of food.

Adlabs Imagica is India's only international theme park. And Novotel Imagica is the perfect base camp before fun seekers try to ascend the summit of the Imagica excitement. The place is perfect on its own and its Sunday Brunch was one of my best experiences as a blogger to date.

As a blogger, as a food person and as an adventurer - I would highly recommend the reader go to Adlabs Imagica, Stay at Novotel overnight, make sure its a weekend so that you can grab the Brunch.

The Captain's Score : 9/10

(Cannons destroy the creature's mouth from the inside. The creature rises in the air and opens its mouth)

Captain :  All right fellas, full sails up - we are ditching this joint.
First mate : The sea monster seems to be quite high above the water. Our ship will fall to the seas the moment we emerge from this monsters mouth.
Captain : Brace yerself everybody. This will feel like a roller coaster. 

Engineer : (Sigh) More like free fall. Lets hope the ship doesn't split.


Map Co-Ordinates
The Square at Novotel Imagica,
30/31, Sangdewadi,
Off Mumbai Pune Express Way,

-I was invited to a weekend stay at the hotel to experience the place. My review however remains objective.-