Juhu, the home ground of Prithvi Theatre, is one of those lovely pockets of Mumbai that is unfortunately a little hard to reach. Lined with posh residences, celebrity hang-outs, the original Natural’s ice-cream outlet and the sea breeze from Juhu Beach, this swanky suburb is home to more than one fancy hotel. But Novotel Mumbai is our favourite. We have so many fond memories of this hotel – wonderful sunsets at Gadda Da Vida, a bachelorette staycation for a friend and a few corporate events, all of which let us bask in the familiar hospitality of the Novotel group. But last night, we were there to sample the Navratri buffet at The Square, their 24 hour signature restaurant at the lobby.
The entrance was suitably festive with a wall decorated with festoons and dandiya sticks, ideal for a short photo session before the hunger pangs hit. The lavish menu with an emphasis on vegetarian fare and Gujarati cuisine had been overseen by Executive Chef Kailash Gundapalli, with a special Tam-brahm counter curated by Food Consultant Geeta Hari.
Ms. Hari, resplendent in her pattu podava (South Indian silk sari) ensured that we tried the raw banana bhajias, neer mor (a Tamilian version of buttermilk with lots of green chillies and curry leaves), panagam (a sweet drink made of jaggery and ginger), and “Tam-brahm idlis” fashioned from the special rice flour popular in the South.
We began with bowls of steaming hot and spicy dal rasam. Sous Chef Devendra Kunwar also plied us with a variety of starters such as paneer tikka, fried baby corn and vegetarian kebabs. And how can we forget our friendly server Prateek, who made the excellent recommendation of some Fratelli Sangiovese (their house red) to go with our meal?
While all this special attention was fantastic, we were itching to get our hands on the enticing buffet spread that curved around the seating area. We tried the dhoklas and khandvi from the Gujarati counter, a few salads, capsicum usili, arbi gravy, French beans poriyal and curd rice from the Tam-brahm counter and some dahi wada from the chat counter. Yes, there were all a lot of sections and we couldn’t decide which one was the most appetising. We were absolutely floored by the Tam-brahm fare – Ankita is one herself so you can trust us.
There was even an Ayurvedic salad counter featuring sprouts and an array of raw vegetables. But we were more drawn to the platter of til laddoos (out of place perhaps or maybe Ayurvedic in nature!); they turned out to be melt-in-the-mouth and buttery.
For this feast, the vegetarian dishes had been emphasised as the nine-day menu coincides with the Hindu festival Navratri. But meat lovers wouldn’t be disappointed either as there were plenty of non-vegetarian dishes on offer as well. The Tam-brahm section featured primarily onion and garlic-free dishes sourced from the Palakkad region of Tamil Nadu and fussy eaters had the option of ordering pasta and pizza as well. A choice of varied fried papads, including our favourite sago (sabudana) papad went very well with the food. A pav bhaji counter and North Indian fare such as paneer masala and many other vegetable preparations completed the feast.
But we’re forgetting something, aren’t we? Dessert was a sight for sore eyes – balushahi and milk cake, sweet pongal, mango cheese cake, Florentine chocolate cake, eggless varieties of many indulgences, a variety of ice-creams, a unique “coconut slice” and our all-time favourite baked yoghurt with muskmelon lay spread out before us. We tried many (we aren’t about to reveal the number) of the aforementioned treats and came away replete.
Book your table at 02266934444:
Address: Novotel Hotel, Juhu Beach, Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu, Juhu, Mumbai 400049
Dates: 21-29 September, 2017
Timings: Lunch 12-3pm, dinner 7-11pm
Price: Rs. 1773 per person (can be upgraded to a champagne buffet at an additional cost)