Monthly Archives: May 2016

Fresh Flavours Galore

Salads are my weakness and Ministry of Salads sounded just like what I needed on this hot and humid Mumbai summer afternoon. So I trooped off to Bhulabhai Desai Road and lo behold, was pleasantly surprised to see this small, but cute and intimate café like eaterie. Salads galore, wraps, sandwiches, healthy juices. The display shelves were replete with the chicest of fresh ingredients and those looked so inviting. Behind the counters, the chefs were deftly tossing salads and preparing sandwiches. Looked like a lot of hard work.

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What’s more, just like make your own pizza or a wok these days, one could make one’s own salad. And there was a lot to choose from. Base, grains, exotic, comfort, pickles, muscle, being some of the several  interesting categories. Strictly vegetarian, the place has so much on offer, that even carnivores will not complain.

I settled for a watermelon and feta cheese salad. One of my all time favourites. Fresh and light,  but not extraordinary. The use of rock melon was clever and it complimented the water melon in more ways than one. The  Big Mix with green apple, rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, broccoli et al,  boasted of a distinct roasted flavour and appeased my palate. The walnuts offered the right element of crunch and the tart green apple was palate pleasing. The lemon mirin dressing further enhanced the flavour quotient.

The unique feature of each salad was their freshness and superior quality ingredients. That’s what made it stand apart.

An Egg Caesar salad with its melange of flavours was delightful and filling. Black Eye, Shabdkosh, Lentil Mental, were other options which caught my eye. Next time perhaps.
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Apart from Signature Salads, there are sandwiches and wraps too, if you are still hungry. The Pesto  Wich sandwich in a multigrain bread was equally a treat for my taste buds. Laden with mozarella, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, there was something familiar and comforting about it. Very home style.

The Leb Mex wrap, was a pleasant surprise. Made of a spinach dough, the wrap felt healthy from word go with hummus, zucchini, spinach and jalapenos. It could have been a little more substantial I thought. Felt a little inadequate, given the price.
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My Pomegranate, ginger and celery cleanser was freshness and wellness personified. Loved it from the first sip. Green apple, carrot, lemon and honey was equally a healthy potion. There are a plethora of options to suit each one’s taste preferences. So no question of boredom setting in.

Apart from the table menu for a dining in experience, there is a takeaway menu. The salads are exceedingly well packed and not mercilessly stuffed in a box. I was happy to witness that.
Lucky people in that area who can order in every other day.

A global concept of a place dedicated to salads this place will be a haven for the health conscious.

Rating : 3.5/5

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Fun Times Back in Bandra

People in Bandra are going to be excited this Friday. Café Basilico, one of Bandra’s hotspots, returns in a new avatar at a new location on Hill Road. Reason enough to celebrate. I missed it terribly, for the short while that it was away.

I was lucky to get a sneak preview. The menu clearly looked interesting with a strong focus on local produce, I noticed.

Not surprising, as the produce is going to be sourced directly from Farhan’s Bhiwandi farm. I am all for seasonal produce and fresh ingredients. Makes a world of difference to flavours in food.

Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

The roast organic tomato soup was comforting, more so as I chatted animatedly with a friend. The smoky flavour was distinct and soothed my taste buds. The slight piquancy enhanced the flavours.

The fig and goat cheese salad was hearty and the ingredients, fresh and crunchy. The Mozarella and Chicken croquettes salad too was interesting and had unique contrasting flavours. We were off to a good start.

Mozarella and Chiken Croquettes - Salads

 

The signature Mediterranean Platter was a treat and the baba ghanoush and hummus particularly appealed to me.

One can rarely go wrong with prawns and the peri peri sea food prawns were fresh and succulent, with a dash of spice to them, just enough to tingle our palates.

The assorted vegetarian tempuras too were well made. I did not enjoy the falafel in comparison.

But it was the Harissa Chicken which got my vote. The chicken was grilled to perfection and swathed in the harissa sauce, it simply melt in the mouth, leaving the taste buds crave for more.

The Basa too was well-marinated, and surprisingly I enjoyed it. And that is a huge compliment considering I dislike Basa immensely. Only creative chefs can turn that around and make it tasty and appealing. Chef Das certainly managed to do that.

What struck me as interesting was the fact that Café Basilico boasts of an extensive menu with several vegan options curated by Ayesha. That truly is much needed today. Kudos!

For people like me who love breads, this place is a haven.The Sandwiches and burgers section  is exhaustive. Hummus & Iceberg or the Chermoula Grilled Chicken sandwiches and the Blue Cheese Beef Steak or the Soya, Barley & Mushroom Burgers, there is something for every palate.

Café Basilico’s pizzas are all prepared from their traditionally organic tomato sauce with  vegan options too. That’s not all. There is an array of pastas to choose from too.

 

 

 

 

One can be experimental and enjoy one’s meal with seasonal fresh fruit juices, flavoured coolers or refreshing lemonade, iced teas and coolers like Tropical Guava Cooler or Cucumber Cooler.

Cucumber Cooler

The menu never ceased to surprise me. There were a plethora of coffees, green tea, premium teas and caffeine free herbal infusions  too. And yes desserts too.

The mini tarts- chocolate, mango and lemon that we sampled were delicious as far as the filling went, but the tart was too soft and crumbly.

Overall, the food is of a very good quality, as is the variety and presentation. The decor is elegant and subtle and gives you the feel of a global cafe, yet, providing you privacy, if you want.

Cafe Basilico lived up to my expectations yet again.

Fun times are back in Bandra and how!

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

 

Very English, Very Desi

Be desi, buy desi. We, Indians, may not really be following this diktat, especially when it comes to desserts, nowadays, as unfortunately, Indian sweets like ladoos, gulab jamuns., pedas et al don’t really find favour with the younger generation, who prefer pastries, cheesecakes etc. But Ranveer Brar, along with the Dakalia family of Gangour Sweets and snacks,  Juhu are going to change that.

With English Vinglish, India’s first desi patisserie, where desi or Indian sweets are served with Western influences, Indian sweets will be fashionable once again.

Using molecular gastronomy, Chef Ranveer Brar presents the best of regional desserts in unique western ways. Fresh mango yogurt parfait with crunchy balushai sticks and smoked cardamom honey lie cheek by jowl with Doodha tartlet, with whipped kesar pista dark chocolate ganache and reduced sweetened balsamic vinegar.

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There is something for every palate in this cute little store. And I was no exception. The Sweet Potato & Gulab Jamun Cheese Cake got my instant vote, even though it did sound like a strange combination at first. The textures meshed well perfectly and the flavours too complimented each other. No where, was the sweet potato an aberration. On the contrary it lent itself well to the dessert.

The Amrakhand cheese cake unfortunately did not entice my palate. I found it cloyingly sweet and my mouth was filled with the overtly creamy dessert.

Amrakhand cheese cake

 

Pineapple halwa and hazelnut creme tart, I thought was an interesting combination. The halwa was firmly ensconced in the tart and laced my palate with a myriad textures.

Other creations include the Double chocolate pudding with khada masala strawberry compote and whipped shrikhand; and the Kheer khadam truffles with five-spiced ganache and toasted caramelized kaddu ke beej.

The fare on offer is truly avant garde and unique, something, one typically expects of a chef of Ranveer Brar’s calibre. Add to that Gangour Sweets’ years of expertise. The result is bound to be wow.

Chef Ranveer says,  “The sweet tooth  of every Indian defines and dictates every relevant moment of our lives. This sweetness just changes form and style with time. What stays is the perennial combination of spices and sweet and the passion for mithai. It’s this perennial love that we try and bring you through English Vinglish – A refined stylised balance between traditional Indian sweets and the modern patisserie is what we strive to achieve here.”

And there are not desserts only, that one can dig into at English Vinglish. Breads, soft-centered chocolates and bars, Indo-traditional Baklawas and fillet-stuffed dates, savoury delights, are also on offer.

I loved the Makai – dhaniya and flaxseed bread, which I relished for breakfast next morning. It was moist and flavourful. Sweet Badam Brioche Loaf, Mini Foccacia, Curried Masala Baguette, are some of the other interesting ones.

English Vinglish proved to be a journey of rediscovering Indian desserts the western way. Definitely, one I was not really acquainted with, but happy to have embarked upon.

 

Of Teas and Treats

I felt like royalty on Friday evening last, as I sat at the Atrium Lounge at Taj Lands End Bandra, Mumbai sipping an aromatic  cup of Kenilworth Estates Midgrown and bit into a dainty chorizo sandwich and a creamy fruit tart.

Making Afternoon Tea a highly fashionable beverage, Portuguese Princess Catherine de Braganza brought the royal court’s favourite drink to Mumbai in myriad flavors and aromas. And Taj Lands End is celebrating that.

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Delving into the rich cultural traditions of the Western suburb of Bandra, replete with historical anecdotes, the Atrium Lounge at Taj Lands End recreates the family ritual of a rendezvous over a cup of tea.

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Chef Namit guided us to the buffet spread of the Hi Tea. Dainty sandwiches, freshly baked scones, Bebinca, the quintessential Portuguese dessert, Lamb croquette, custard tarts,  Bolo-d-arro – Rice and coconut muffin, Queijo Fresco – cream cheese tartlets, Chicken Cafreal Buns, Bifanas and a lot more,  were aesthetically laid out on the table. Oh! what a treat for the eyes and palate this was.

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I was glad that some Hotel in the city had taken the initiative to revive the fashionable afternoon tea. After all, from where I come, Kolkata, sipping tea in Bone china tea ware at 4 pm is indeed a way of life. To relax, enjoy your cuppa and chat, is a luxury, this fast-paced city of Mumbai is devoid of, but something we all need to indulge in, sometimes, if not daily.

Anirudhya Roy, Executive Chef, Taj Lands End said, “The most quintessential of customs observed by Bandraites have been acquired by the Portugal and European traditions. Inspired by the ceremonious means of enjoying a good time with family and friends, we have introduced a lavish menu of teas and delectable treats to make afternoons a memorable time of the day. ”

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An array of well brewed teas were on offer, apart from the delectable finger food and desserts, all faithfully representing Bandra and its rich heritage. The service was as always, impeccable and I loved the fact that interesting stories and bits of relatively unknown information was being shared, as we sat back and enjoyed our Hi Tea.

What elevated the tea experience further was Taj Lands End’s  association with Kulture Shop which showcased iconic pieces of art, at Atrium Lounge. Art and Afternoon Tea? I was actually transported to another era.

Affordably priced, given the variety and quality of food and teas on offer, this Bandra Hi Tea at Atrium Lounge is worth giving up your work for.