On a rainy afternoon, we troop into Veranda, a recently opened fine dining restaurant located on the first floor of Hotel Executive Enclave, Bandra West. My first reaction is that it’s incredibly beautiful. Walls adorned with Indian art, classic white interiors set off by multi-coloured, floral chair cushions, lots of indoor plants and pretty lamps and a refreshing view of the rainy landscape outside the large windows do create the illusion of a veranda. Chef Monish Rohra greets us immediately upon our arrival and leads us to a corner table beside a window.
Being relatively new and unknown, the spacious restaurant is nearly empty and I love the absence of noise and disorder. Classy lounge music at just the right volume enhances the appeal of the place. The menu is limited but eclectic. But we don’t really have to play the deciding game because Chef Vohra has curated a special tasting menu for us. And we are to be catered to by several members of his staff. “All these paintings are for sale,” Rohra informs us cheerfully. The restaurant also has a little home décor store called ‘Cocoon’. All this art is completely in sync with the restaurant’s philosophy of serving deconstructed Indian cuisine. But will the food turn out to be as delightful as the tasteful interiors?
Veranda Soup: 5/5
A creamy, golden concoction of pumpkin puree and blue cheese among other delights, this soup is absolutely scrumptious. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a soup so fast.
Desi Gazpaccio: 4/5
This tomato soup pales in comparison to the spectacular veranda soup but is spicy and flavourful in its own right. It’s thinner than the veranda soup which might appeal to some.
Baby Beetroot, Arugula and Quinoa Salad: 5/5
A wonderful combination of soft and sweet yoghurt-filled beetroot, quinoa, cheese and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, this salad is as pleasing in taste as it is in appearance.
Dravidian Mini Idli and Amusebooze: 5/5
Don’t expect large quantities (there are only two mini idlis) but do expect decadent ghee-soaked idlis served on a bed of lip-smacking pumpkin puree. The aam panna palate cleanser termed ‘amusebooze’ by the Chef is served in test tubes and has us smiling in delight.
Dahi Bhalla: 5/5
All the reviews for this restaurant have been piling praises on their dahi bhalla and they are all right. A deconstructed version of the well-loved snack item, the dish consists of two items – the dahi and the bhalla. But the dahi is actually baked yoghurt infused with tamarind gel and pomegranate reduction and the bhalla has been reimagined as ural dal fritters soaked in sweetened yoghurt, topped with crispy potatoes. The whole thing is thus a complete innovation and the mint green chutney to go with it has you moaning in ecstasy. Sweet and soft, tangy and squishy – this dish is an explosion of flavours and textures. For best results, have some dahi and some bhalla in every bite.
Palak Bhindi Chat: 5/5
I’ve enjoyed baby spinach pakodas several times but it’s the first time I’m digging into okra pakodas as well. The fact that they are topped with delicious sweet and spicy yoghurt, chutneys and sauces makes this dish the perfect companion to rainy afternoons.
Tandoori Mushroom Gazpaccio: 5/5
This is the most un-Indian dish on our table thus far. As a huge fan of mushrooms, I enjoy the various varieties in the dish to the hilt. The edamame and cherry tomatoes are lovely as well.
Baingan ka bharta with basket of assorted rotis: 5/5
I’m actually more in favour of a paneer-based main course but when the first morsel of bharta hits my mouth, I realise how wrong I am. This is the best baingan bharta I’ve ever had. It’s perfect in terms of juiciness, spices and texture and goes brilliantly with the basil khulcha, sun-dried tomato khulcha and missi roti. Now I know why the Chef was so confident when he assured us we’d love it. Don’t ask me which was the best of the three rotis because I really can’t choose.
Gulkhand Choco Bar: 3/5
The choco bar is nice but we can’t detect any gulkhand in it. I like the crunchy paan-inspired topping.
White Chocolate Souffle: 5/5
This is obviously the winner between the two desserts. A warm soufflé oozing with white chocolate, a scoop of chocolate ice-cream and crunchy bits of caramel chikki complete the decadent dessert. I’ve never had anything quite like it and it’s easy to finish it in seconds.
Kala Khatta Margarita: 5/5
What an excellent twist to the margarita the bartender has given. Sweet and tangy with a hint of saltiness, I find this drink to be the ideal accompaniment to my meal.
Tamarind Bloody Mary: 4/5
I’ve never been fond of the Bloody Mary but the tamarind is an artful addition. Be warned though, it’s extremely tangy and quite dense.
Classic Mojito: 3/5
Between the Mojito and the Caipiroska, I prefer the latter. The drink is a bit insipid and closer to lemonade than a cocktail.
Watermelon & Basil Mojito: 5/5
This is a Mojito I could really learn to love. The watermelon lends body and sweetness and the basil endows the drink with a unique flavour. This is nearly as tasty as the margarita.
The dishes are spaced apart perfectly and I feel neither too replete nor wanting at the end of the meal. I enjoy the lavish tasting menu all the more because of the staff’s willingness to explain the ingredients and the concept behind the dishes. After all, every dish has a story. And the story tickles one’s palette as much as the flavours themselves. On that note, let me reproduce Rumi’s ‘A Moment of Happiness’:
A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the verandah,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.
We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden’s beauty
and the birds singing.
The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.
You and I unselfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.
In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land.
Address: Hotel Executive Enclave, 331, Dr Ambedkar Road, Pali Hill, Bandra West
Reservations: 022 33126749
Average cost: Rs 3000 for two
Opening hours: 12 Noon to 1:30 AM (all days)
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