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Your weekend fix

A meal at Cheval, French for horse, proves to be well worth the gamble. Be sure to bet on dessert.

mumbai Updated: Dec 24, 2012 16:30 IST

The food
A winning steed

A meal at Cheval, French for horse, proves to be well worth the gamble. Be sure to bet on dessert.

Cheval is French for horse. The Kala Ghoda eatery's signage is painted on the newly whitewashed wall that was covered, not too long ago, with artist Sunil Padwal's mural of a black horse blazing across a block of fuchsia.

Inside, on one of the restaurant's rough-hewn pale walls, is a fluid, freehand sketch of a horse in black paint. The equine theme ends there, and despite its name, Cheval is not a French restaurant. It features cuisines from different parts of Europe across its three rooms, each of which has starkly different lighting and colour schemes.

On the menu, Italy is represented well, with pasta, risotto and a whole array of pizzas.

From France come dishes like fish en papillote, French onion tart and Gruyère soufflé.

From the UK, there are pies, rarebit, posset and sticky toffee pudding. (Chef Will Bowlby trained under celebrated British chef Rowley Leigh at London's Le Café Anglais, which serves Anglo French cuisine.)

We skipped pizza for the unfamiliar and less ubiquitous, and discovered that the avocado-millet stack is a thing of joy. The creamy fruit was layered with little white pearls of millet, which made us wonder why anyone would ever eat couscous. The stack was tart, nutty, buttery, and fresh - a lovely start to the meal. The chicken liver parfait matched it, with a quenelle of creamy, smoky, not-funky liver mousse opposite another of mustard-stippled fig relish and fragments of thyme-flecked champagne jelly in between.

In comparison, the fennel-apple salad was needlessly awash in dressing, and the apple slices were mealy. Cheval's service was intuitive on the night we stopped by. When we stopped after a bite of the rarebit - it was less exciting than a simple grilled-cheese sandwich - the staff took it off our table and, generously, also our bill.

Among the mains, our gratinated aubergine melanzana was even tastier (and fattier) than the parmigiana at Sundance, if that's possible. And a chargrilled chicken thigh with chorizo and French beans, served on a spring onion mash cake, had superbly juicy meat matched well with the tang of chorizo, the snap of beans and the carb-laden comfort of spuds.

Our last course outshone the rest of the meal. Every once in a while, there's a dessert that tastes better than it sounds or looks. Cheval's passion fruit crème brûlée tasted new and wonderful even after a dozen spoonsful. Even if your meal has a few misses, this dish alone should ensure that you head out at a happy trot.

- Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi

Arabian delights
Sufra is possibly the prettiest takeaway eatery in the city, tiled and painted in white and saturations of cobalt, including the shade most associated with Morocco, Majorelle Blue.

There are Moorish metal lanterns filled with fairy lights, and massive decorative pickle jars on the shelves. A small upstairs room is almost hidden behind a crystal bead curtain.

Chef Moshe Shek's latest venture is supposedly named after an Arabic phrase that means 'Come to the table', and is taglined 'Pure Middle Eastern Takeaway'.

Expectedly, then, the menu features shawarmas, kebabs, falafel, hummus, labneh and more. But Sufra is not without its novelties. Among the bakery items is manakeish flatbread stuffed with za'atar or cheese, and a cream-cheese pudding called ashtalieh (ashta is Arabic for cream).

We started our order with T-Arabia, Shek's Middle-Eastern interpretation of iced tea, with dates and tamarind instead of sugar and lime. It was delicious and full of flavour, if a touch too sweet.

The lamb and cracked wheat kebabs and the falafel were perfectly seasoned and each good enough to make a meal of.

Our manakeish bil jibneh, stuffed and folded over a mild, tangy cheese, was more exciting topped with the excellent moutabel and sumac-laced fattoush salad; it could be dry and repetitive by itself. Not so the ashtalieh. The thick, pudding-like texture takes some getting used to, but it grows on you, fast. Shek says it's been flying off the shelves. We don't wonder.

- Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi

(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)

The event
Join a midnight tea party

Starting at midnight today, painters, poets, actors and sculptors dressed in Victorian costumes will perform, swirl in circles, have conversations in hushed tones and hold tea ceremonies in dimly lit rooms, with slow trance music playing in the background.

Called Miko Kuro's Midnight Tea, this experimental art event will be held over 12 hours, with 48 artists from the US, Canada and India showcasing paintings, sound installations and performance art and conducting poetry readings and creative discussions, punctuated by tea ceremonies.

Conceptualised and curated by US-based poet and community art organiser Natasha Marin, the event has travelled through the US and to France, Greece, Canada and China, and is being held in Mumbai in collaboration with city-based artist collective Visual Disobedience.

Viewers - or participants, as Marin prefers to call them - can join in at specific points through the 12 hours, or trail the artists as they move from venue to venue.

With the event made up entirely of impromptu acts, there is no schedule. All that is definite is that the event will begin at Worli's Tao art gallery and end at the Lakeeren gallery in Colaba.

'Participants' may sign up for a single three-hour session or for all 12 hours. In each session, artists will respond to the instructions of the curator or to music playing in the background.

"Each event is contingent upon the guests, who co-create the ritual with the artists rather than just watching from the sidelines," Marin said to HT, via email. "Midnight Tea is an arena for creative engagement."

And if trailing artists through the wee hours seems too daunting, you can head to the Last Ship art residency in Santacruz at 9 am and watch a three-hour video of the Mumbai event instead.

- Riddhi Doshi

The exhibition
Loops of chaos

A girl on a swing looms over visitors at Delhi's India Gate monument. Below her, hundreds of people mill about, oblivious to her presence.

This is a still from artist Vishal Dar's film, Girl on a Swing, exhibited alongside three other films and two installations at Chemould Prescott Road, in an exhibition titled Rise of the BROWNationals.

The still encapsulates the theme of the exhibition - how chaos in governance, politics, infrastructure and value systems is causing misplaced behaviour in countries where Brown Nationals reside (read, South Asia).

"The girl on the swing symbolises the conflict inherent in the fact that women in our country respect soldiers and yet we hear of incidents of soldiers raping women in troubled areas where they are posted," says Dar. "The exhibition explores this gap in logic and how citizens grapple with it."

Citing the recent case of a 23-year-old woman gang-raped and brutalised in a moving bus in Delhi, Dar asks: "Who and what makes the culprits think they can commit such a heinous crime and get away with it? It is all a result of our displaced emotions and logic, born out of a displaced political and social structure."

- Riddhi Doshi

The concerts
A feast of fine arts

The Chembur Fine Arts Society is hosting a weeklong festival of Hindustani classical music till December 28.

The Panchashatotsavam festival began on Friday, with a performance by vocalist Sanjeev Abhyankar. Today, santoor player Satish Vyas will perform. The festival will also feature vocalists Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Devaki Pandit, Ajay Pohankar and Dhanashree Pandit Rai.

While Pohankar, 64, is the seniormost musician performing at the festival, sitarist Chirag Katti, at 27, is the youngest.

Recently back from a tour in the US, Katti, who began his career at age 12, is known for his energetic strokes. He trained under his father Shashank, a sitarist and composer.

Though he calls himself an exponent of the Imdadkhani gharana, which boasts of sitarists such as Vilayat Khan, Katti also listens to and studies sitarists of other schools, such as the Maihar.

"This is a very important part of the process of educating oneself," he says.

At his Sunday evening concert, Katti is likely to play ragas such as Puriya Kalyan and Vachaspati. He will be accompanied by Aditya Kalyanpur on the tabla.

- Amarendra Dhaneshwar