Less than two years since it opened up its seemingly limitless space to diners, Tote on the Turf’s dining area has undergone a culinary makeover. The sprawling bar-banquet-dining combination at the Mahalaxmi Race Course grounds in Mumbai has a new restaurant, Neel, with an Indian menu.
While the popular banquet space remains the same, the ground-level restaurant has undergone a subtle physical transformation. The open kitchen has been covered, the walls hold paintings predominantly in shades of indigo, the outdoor patio section has some welcome addition of greenery—and will become more usable as the season changes.
The cuisine at Neel, with Awadhi, Kashmiri and Hyderabadi influences, has been put together by chef Mukhtar Qureshi in a way that a Nawabi Baingan Tikka (grilled baby aubergine with brown onion and cashew paste) can co-exist with a Nadru ke Shami Kebab (minced lotus root patty). “Nawabi-Muslim cuisine,” sums up Rahul Akerkar, managing director and corporate executive chef, deGustibus Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, the company that owns the Tote on the Turf, Indigo and Indigo Deli restaurants.
New avatar: (above) The restaurant space before it became Neel. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Anurag Katriar, the company’s chief operating officer, says the success of their banquets gave them the idea of starting an Indian restaurant. “We do over 600 parties with Moveable Feast—deGustibus’ catering venture—with mostly Indian food and people always ask us why we don’t open a restaurant,” says Katriar. “We realized Tote was competing with our own Indigo in food concept, so we decided to convert this into an Indian restaurant.”
The menu will have a choice of about 75 items initially, including about 50 kebabs, such as Sofiyani Paneer Tikka (flavoured with anise), Jaituni Kumbh Tikka (stuffed grilled mushrooms with a green olive chutney that has a tapenade-like consistency), Adrak ke Panje (New Zealand lamb chops in a spicy ginger marinade) and Bhatti ki Kareli (tandoor-cooked lamb shank in a Lahori masala).
My favourite in the limited menu tasting organized by the restaurant was the Basnu aur Singhada ka Kabab (bamboo shoot and water chestnut patty, tawa seared), which was unusual for me because I have never been too impressed by water chestnut as a food entity. Another interesting variant was the Kali Mirch aur Dhaniye ka Salmon Tikka (black pepper and coriander-seasoned Norwegian salmon), which may not appeal to those inclined towards strong flavours.
Jaituni Murg Tikka. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
“We have tried to keep to the integrity of traditional cooking techniques, albeit with some innovation and creativity,” says Akerkar.
Some fruity options include Kashmiri Seb ki Sabzi (a curry made of Kashmiri apples) and Subz Santre ka Shorba (root vegetables and orange soup). The number of options on the menu may increase once the restaurant settles down.
Neel opens to the public only for dinner from today.
Tote on the Turf, Mahalaxmi Race Course, just before The Mini Club House, opposite Gate Nos. 4 and 5, Keshavrao Khadye Marg, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. For reservations, call 022-61577777.