My review of Brown Sahib last week preceded high drama...everything from angry mails from ’loyalists’ of the four-week old eatery to colleagues — who had no hand in the review— getting blamed and labelled as prejudiced. And while I dutifully bore the brunt for having miss spelt the name of a dish, it was quite amusing to hear the most ridiculous argument ever — that I’m not eligible to review a Bengali restaurant because I’m not one myself. Pray, going by that, I would soon need to set up a team of Italian, Chinese, Lebanese, Greek and French critics, not to forget Kashmiri, Rajasthani, Marwari, Awadhi and Gujarati. Wish me luck!!
Moving on, this week my antennae guided me to the picturesque Garden of Five Senses near Mehrauli. FIO Country Kitchen and Bar, the new Indo-Italian joint, with blaring music and beautiful outdoor seating was quite a temptation and I found myself drawn towards it, only to have my reverie interrupted by “Sorry, we don’t allow kids.” There was indeed a naughty li’l one with us that evening who seemed more taken by the loud bar music than the accompanying adults. As we were about to turn away in disappointment, the host took pity. A sympathetic — “We shall allow you in the outdoor seating area as an exception, since we don’t want to turn you away” — later, we found ourselves seated in the open, with soft blankets provided by the management as the kindest gesture. The landscaping at FIO, short for Fiona, a romantic Italian name, is breathtaking at night, with colourful lights and installations adding a hint of glamour to the lounge bar surrounded by greenery.
Our dinner began with Antipasti Alla Fio (Rs 500), and the first bite reminded me...yet again that Indian palates would take a while getting used to super salty cured meats. The Indian entrées of Murg Malai Kebab (Rs 350) and Fish Tikka Ajwaini (Rs 350) were terrific to say the least, especially the latter, with carom (ajwain) lending a perfect flavour to the tandoori fish.
The main course was again a mix of Indian and Italian, so Pepperoni Pizza (Rs 425) and the Pasta Penne All’ Arrabbiatta (Rs 375) competed for attention with Kosha Murgi (Rs 450) (PS: see, I’m still not shying away from Bengali food) and Nalli Walla Gosht (Rs 450). With a mix like that, I could almost visualize the Indian chef crossing swords with the Italian counterpart in the kitchen, waiting to see whose fare does better with the guests. In all honesty, my vote goes to the Indian in this case. The mutton dish was par excellence and I’ve rarely come across a place which has got the mix of spices right to the last micro per cent. The chicken tasted a bit sweet, and though my Bengali friends do add some sugar to Kosha Mangsho (the original mutton version of the delicacy), I really don’t think the added sweetness does any good to the chicken.
The pepperoni was crisp and nice, and the garnishing of radish leaves on the pizza was interesting. With much anticipation, we ordered Tiramisu for dessert and it was disappointing to be told that it had ‘got over’. Settling for steaming hot Panthua Gulab Jamuns (Rs175) was more out of compulsion than choice (it was realllly cold in the outdoors). Now the verdict. The negatives of FIO are high pricing and extremely slow service. The high points are the very accomodating and polite attitude of the management and the gorgeous décor. Food ranges from average to good. The place is fast becoming a page 3 hotspot. Worth a visit for sure…without the kids!!