On weekend nights not too long ago, Minoo Desai Road would be lined with plush cars and staggering people. Ghost, the nightclub that replaced Privé, isn’t quite getting the same love. So now, after dark, the lane is bustling with cycling kids and strolling women from the adjacent Koli colony.
In these new times, The Pier — which has replaced Prive’s neighbour and erstwhile popular Japanese restaurant Tetsuma — has been understandably conservative.
The name is a nod to the harbour outside, and if the brown-and-navy blue room had a dress code, it would be ‘smart casual’. Its upholstery is matte leather cloth; nautical artifacts from Colaba Causeway’s shops accent the lounge area just past the entrance.
Owner Samir Chhabria (who managed Privé and Tetsuma) and chef Ratish Dabre (previously with Indigo) have put together a menu of what they call ‘European comfort gourmet’, in a place and at prices that today would be considered more fancy diner than fine-dining. Most mains average from R500 to R800 (Tetsuma’s starters were more expensive), and portions are good to share.
The Pier’s long bar along most of one wall serves a clutch of house cocktails, including Pier Berries, which contains ‘fresh frozen’ fruit, but the bartender has a heavy hand with the syrup; to be safe, ask for it on the side. To be certain, however, pick the Lord Byron with Scotch, Grand Marnier, Martini Rosso and bitters.
On the menu, sesame seed-crusted cubes of rare tuna are juxtaposed with mini balls of watermelon and muskmelon, a few sprigs of cress, and streaks of a creamy pickled ginger sauce — crunchy, sweet, meaty, spicy, all together.
Vegetarians won’t go wrong with the white quinoa tabbouleh. The caviar-like seeds pop perfectly between the teeth and are brightly dressed with bits of peppers and parsley. With the stuffed baby portabellas, though, the stuffing of cheese and broccoli pesto doesn’t do much for the fabulously flavourful mushrooms. The fungus’s potent umami would be better employed in a different preparation.
The duck leg confit here is almost a confection — caramelised meat swathed in a savoury tangerine jus with layers of sweet citrus and zesty, pleasantly bitter notes. A side of sweet crunchy snow peas and bacon squares is good enough to finish off first. The fowl is chewier than it should be — the staff said that’s a problem with the domestic variety, and that they're working on getting their supply from France in a few weeks.
Texture is not a problem with the zucchini and eggplant parmigiana — stretchy cheese holds thin discs of vegetables that still have bite, and the French bean tempura alongside has serious snap.
For dessert, a little ramekin of crème brulee is lush enough, and not too sweet if the nut-laden biscotti it comes with is used as a scoop.
Chhabria, who was working the room when we visited, said he has deliberately kept both the investment and prices low at The Pier. It makes business sense in a flighty market, as long as the kitchen is not sloppy. From what we saw, it isn’t.
- Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
Mumbai’s first microbrewery has taken more mountain-moving than owner Gregory Kroitzsh anticipated.
The Vermonter quit his job at an Indian insurance company three years ago to work on the project. He leased the spot in 2011 and has since been paying rent while coping with the crags of Mumbai’s licensing processes. The last one, which will allow him to brew onsite, will bring cause for cheer in a couple of weeks.
Until then, The Barking Deer offers tipplers domestic and international brews (including spice-infused Indus Pride and Catalan pilsner Estrella Damm), Sula wines and a couple of spirits. But beer would go best with the reasonably priced grub of pub staples like potato skins, empanadas and chicken tikka as well as ‘comfort food from around the world’.
The warm brown room, with arching antler-like fixtures hugging the ceiling, is well-suited to lingering. Seats at the bar will be even more fun when brewmaster Benjamin Johnson gets working with the massive gleaming steel and copper vessels behind it.
Get the chermoula prawns. Its skewered sweet soft shellfish is gently spiced, so pair it with a hoppy beer.
TBD’s crumb-fried sticks of oozy golden cheese would be perfect if the bready casing was a touch thinner and the beer-and-tomato salsa less runny. More serious diners can design their own sandwich, choosing from an array of breads, spreads and stuffings. Multigrain bread and basil pesto make good picks.
Standards succeed, but the experimental stuff at TBD needs small nudges. Rawas is not an ideal fish for carpaccio, but might work in a ceviche. White chocolate bread pudding is made too sweet with caramel sauce.
However, the kitchen gets stuff like steak right. In a city of many maltreated filet mignons, we’re happy to report that here we got ours medium-rare as requested, on a glossy and dark ‘pale ale reduction’ of which we could have had another gravy boatful.
We’re glad Kroitzsh is a patient, persistent man. When the taps at TBD finally start running in a few weeks, it won’t be a day too soon.
— Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)
Dancing for Shiva
An assorted group of devotees — youngsters, couples, families, children and senior citizens — gathers on the picturesque terrace of the Thiruchembur Murugan temple in Chembur.
Lined with tiny shrines featuring intricately carved human and animal figurines on their facades, this terrace has been the only venue in the city for several Indian classical dancers to offer a Natyanjali, or dance offering to Hindu deity Shiva, through the past week.
On Sunday, the weeklong run-up to Mahashivaratri will reach its conclusion, with 28 dance gurus each offering a short, five-minute Natyanjali from a chosen Indian classical dance form, whether Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam or Odissi.
On Saturday, there will be performances by students and up-and-coming dancers.
“It feels divine to dance in front of the Nataraja idol, offering dance as a form of worship to the god of dance himself,” says Jyothi Mohan, a Bharata Natyam teacher who will perform on Sunday. “Amid lit diyas, incense and the distant sounds of the aarti, you are reminded that Indian classical dance and music was born in our temples.”
The Thiruchembur temple has hosted an annual Mumbai Natyanjali every year since 2005, in association with its welfare wing, Shanmukhpriya.
“Each year, we try to offer quality performances while maintaining a balance between established and up-and-coming artistes and institutes,” says TS Nair, part of the organising committee of the Mumbai Natyanjali.
— Humaira Ansari
Travelling through time
Bandstand performances, sola topees, old couples line-dancing, men at work in Godrej’s
sprawling typewriter factory in Vikhroli, and a sunlit room at the Taj, with
the Gateway of India looming in the background.
These are some of the images of her community, frozen in time, that screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala is showcasing at art gallery Chemould Prescott Road all this month, in an exhibition titled Parsis.
The exhibition of 93 photographs offers snapshots of the life, culture and religious practices of Parsis in Mumbai between 1977 and 2000.
Taraporevala began taking photographs of Parsi people and spaces in Mumbai in 1977, as a hobby. By 1982, she had decided to publish a book on her community. Titled Parsis: The Zorastrians of India, it was released in 2004.
“Over 30 years, though not continuously, I took so many pictures for the book that I have lost count,” says Taraporevala, laughing.
Now, with funding from the Tata Group, coinciding with the Focus photography festival, of which the exhibition is a part.
“Selecting less than a hundred pictures from all the photographs I have taken was gruelling,” says Taraporevala. “I have tried to select those that showcase the city as well as the community’s way of life in it.”
— Riddhi Doshi
It’s strange to think that Swar Sadhna Samiti, a Mumbai-based institution dedicated to promoting classical music, is run mainly by Parsis, among the most Westernised of India’s communities.
As prominent merchants in colonial Bombay, Parsis were among the first to adopt the English language, and Western clothes and music. However, many members of the Parsi community were also drawn to Hindustani classical music via Parsi theatre, which featured live music and vibrant sets and was very prominent in the 19th century.
Set up by late sitarist Keki Jijina in 1963 and supported by his student, Aban Mistry, one of the first professional woman tabla players of India, Swar Sadhna Samiti has held a concert every month since its inception, offering a platform to young musicians and dancers.
“We have organised more than 600 such concerts over the past 50 years,” says Jiten Zaveri of Swar Sadhna Samiti. “Entry is always free.”
The samiti also organises a free annual festival called Swarsadhnotsav every March, at Chowpatty’s historic Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
The highlight of this year’s 48th annual three-day Swarsadhnotsav, which ends on Saturday, will be a tabla jugalbandi today by maestro Nayan Ghosh and his 12-year-old son, Ishaan.
Ghosh Sr, also an accomplished sitarist, is a versatile musician who shot into the limelight as a young student training first under his father, tabla maestro Padmabhushan Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, and later under tabla legend Ahmedjan Thirakwa.
In the past, he has performed on the sitar to the accompaniment of his son on the tabla. “At the Swar Sadhna Samiti festival, we will present the 16-beat teen taal,” he says.
Among others who will perform at the festival are dhrupad singers Ramakant and Umakant, known as the Gundecha brothers, and khayal singer Kedar Bodas.
— Amarendra Dhaneshwar