Multi-level, noisy and completely open to the courtyard around it, Mai Tai Lounge (MTL) is likely to elicit two first reactions among patrons. One, with all that popcorn aroma wafting over the tables, it’ll make you want to go to the movies. Two, you’ll be looking around to see how you can get inside the restaurant.
It feels like there should be something else — a dining room, an upstairs — but the only inside at Mai Tai is the kitchen. There is an open bar, high tables to one side, booths beyond that, and tables a step below at courtyard level. Just further, are people either queuing up to get into PVR, or standing around and watching people at MTL get blotto.
With a name like that, we suppose, that’s the idea. Mai Tai Lounge is an American chain of Polynesian-themed restaurant-bars started by the late Victor Jules Bergeron, more popularly known as Trader Vic. Bergeron claimed to have invented the Mai Tai cocktail, just like his peer and fellow tiki-bar chain owner Don The Beachcomber did. At Mumbai’s Mai Tai Lounge, there’s is a silly playfulness across the menus. The cocktail list starts with the delicious, lemony Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, followed by pages with sub-heads like ‘Strong Drinks’ and ‘Coconut Drinks’. The descriptions don’t always prepare you for what might show up. My dining companion’s rum-and-orange-based Tiki Puka Puka came in a large bowl with a short stem, and was too pink, sweet and girly for his tough guy looks. (There are several stories online about the after-effects of this drink, though.)
MTL’s grub can be broadly described as American bar food, with names like ‘Menehene hummus’ (with green chillies and roasted garlic), and ‘Lomilomi bruschetta’. It’s definitely not gourmet or anywhere close to memorable, but the guys in the kitchen know what they’re doing, and they turn out very satisfying plates.
Our roasted tomato linguini was al dente and the sauce in it was fresh and light, ‘Cho Cho’ folded beef strips on skewers were rare as requested. The hibachi that came with it though, kept dying out, so we had to eat them cold. It’s really sad that MTL chose basa (a friend calls it the Chetan Bhagat of seafood) for their grilled fish dish. However, it was perfectly cooked — and the chilli lime sauce on it was delicious. I felt like telling the many people drinking out of bowls on the tables all around us that they should line their stomachs with the jalapeno cheeseballs, little bombs of not-quite-spicy crumb-fried fat. Mai Tai is clearly designed as a place that encourages drinking first and eating later.
(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)
- Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
They’ve got bread, cake too
Of all the cake shops in Mumbai, Marie-Antoinette probably has the cleverest name. Even better, it is run by a French couple, Marc and Severine, who are almost always hanging out in the sunlit, charming, garage-sized room. On the day we visited, Marc came over to our table, saw our iPad, and said, “We have free Wi-Fi. The password today is financier”. As in the French cake, not a private equity and venture capital guy. It’s just one of the treats that MA offers, along with quiches, paninis, juices, milkshakes, tea and coffee, and the most handmade-looking macarons we have seen — small, and a little wonky.
The bread on our chicken panini was light, crusty, and beautifully grilled, even if the filling suffered from asymmetry: one half was all cheese, the other all chicken and crisp veggies.
When we called for tea, the staff recommended their ‘Thé Gourmand’ offer — one tea, two macarons and one financier for R189. We picked a strawberry cake, and Severine offered us an extra plain one to try. MA’s version (it’s typically made with almond flour and brown butter) was delicious — ultra moist, buttery, appropriately spongy and just enough for two bites. The strawberry one had chunks of strawberry in it, seeds and all, but was so neon pink, Katy Perry would have happily applied it on her lips. Ditto our preserve-filled strawberry macaron. MA’s macarons — in coffee, caramel and chocolate — are light, and crumbly enough, but a touch too sweet.
Don’t leave without checking out the shop upstairs. Severine’s love for India and Mumbai (“Much better than Paris, you know!”) is reflected in her fabrics and the dresses she designs. Fancy cake and flowy clothes. Madame Deficit would approve.
— Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
Once in a blue moon
There is no Buddy Guy this year, but the line-up of the third edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival is just as remarkable with blues legends such as Walter Trout & The Radicals, The Dana Fuchs Band and Popa Chubby playing for the first time in India. For two days, Bandra’s Mehboob Studio will alter its grungy vibe to fit the slow, groovy and relaxed world of blues music. Two stages on both days will see a healthy mix of Indian and international blues artists, who will cover a variety of blues styles from funk and R&B to hard rock and Chicago-style blues.
Funk legend Robert Randolph, who has made it to the list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time, will be making his second visit to the event this year. Randolph has earlier performed as a special guest with blues veteran Buddy Guy, but this time he will headline Day Two with his band, Robert Randolph & The Family Band.
Singer, songwriter and actress (she played Sadie in Across The Universe), Dana Fuchs is described as a ‘more emotional and energetic Janis Joplin’ by critics, and her typical New Orleans blues style is one to look out for this weekend. Electric blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Popa Chubby and guitar powerhouse Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers are also a must-watch. The Indian selection of blues musicians includes Vivienne Pocha, Big Bang Blues and our favourite, Shillong’s Soulmate.
The festival will also see Cajun food specialties from New Orleans, such as gumbo and a Sunday Blues Brunch (1 pm to 3 pm) with Michael Messer & Second Mind. Messer, a virtuoso slide guitarist, will also be conducting an hour-long slide guitar workshop on Sunday.
While you are hanging out at the festival, you can also saunter into the ‘Gibson Through the Lens’ photo exhibition that will showcase 77 iconic and rare fine prints of legends with their Gibson guitars, captured by 30 renowned music photographers.
Finally, wait for Day Two’s signature finish: An all-star-jam with all the blues legends on stage together.
- Bhairavi Jhaveri
A second fiddle
The principal format for the presentation of Hindustani music is a solo performance. Over the years the ‘jugalbandi’, essentially a duet, has caught on and various combinations have become popular. While solo recitals usually have performers following the paths of his or her own imagination and creativity, in an instrumental duet, he or she has to intuitively respond to the fellow musician as well. It is the interactive nature of the form and its resultant spontaneity that makes the jugalbandi so interesting to the listener.
Suburban Music Circle, perhaps the oldest surviving music circle in the city, will feature Dharwad-based violinist duo BS Math and Akkamahadevi Math in a jugalbandi this Sunday. BS Math is a product of the Veereshwar Punyashram Parampara from Gadag in Karnataka. This sect enjoys pride of place among musical traditions and many eminent artists such as Basavraj Rajguru and Venkateshkumar have honed their skills there. Math, now a senior citizen, trained under Puttaraj Gavai, a revered musician from the region. “Our music is a cross between the Kirana and Gwalior gharanas of vocal music and we give priority to evoking the ‘rasa’ (juice) of the raga,” says the musician who has also performed in France.
Akkamahadevi, his wife and pupil, will engage him in a violin duet. “We are inseparably intertwined not only as a married couple but also as musicians,” she says. “Therefore, we are able to synthesise our musical ideas without any friction. The two will be accompanied on the tabla by Rajendra Antarkar, one of the most accomplished tabla players in Mumbai.
— Amarendra Dhaneshwar
New, from down under
A spray can, decorated with shiny black and silver squares, is the only element on Reko Rennie’s huge pink canvas. The diamond patterns distinctly echo Australian aboriginal art, but nothing in the rest of the work does, and that’s just how Reko wants it. The canvas, one of 20 artworks by 10 Australian aboriginal artists, is on display at Message Stick, a show at the Cymroza Art Gallery in Breach Candy.
The works may seem simplistic, but are loaded with meaning. The aboriginal artists draw on traditional motifs and patterns to create contemporary works that comment on the current social, political and cultural scenes in their country. You could say that they put the ‘original’ in ‘aboriginal’.
Reko, who lives in Melbourne, uses his works to talk about how art enthusiasts back in Australia tend to romanticise aboriginal art. His own creations are an attempt to break free from those very stereotypes. “People think that aboriginal art and culture, even in today’s modern day and age, is all about desert, dancing and painting dots,” he says. “I want people to know that while we are still connected to our traditional roots and cultures, our lives and art are as influenced by urban life as others.”
Hence, the repeated use of diamond-shaped squares in Reko’s work. The motif is a symbol of the aboriginal group he belongs to, and the spray can, for instance, represents the beginning of his artistic career as a graffiti artist.
Works by other artists include photographs, text-based works, and paintings created in the old aboriginal style of using several dots. The exhibition has been organised and curated by Art Bank, the Australian government’s initiative to promote the nation’s art scene by renting out works to display across the world. This exhibition has travelled to Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa over the past 18 months and will go to Vietnam next. The works are not for sale.