Creme Brulee in Koliwada
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After some tussling with the GPS, when I finally reach the headquarters of the Indian Coast Guard at Koliwada village in Mumbai’s Worli neighbourhood, my olfactory senses are assailed by the many varieties of fish being hawked in the tiny lane. I am surprised by this unusual choice of location for a French restaurant. A sign hangs above the teal-coloured bungalow. It says Slink & Bardot.
I walk down a long sun-dappled passage. Black and white floor tiles, soft jazz, a book-lined wall and a stylishly lit lounge all channel French chic. Good Earth’s Pavitra Rajaram brings her trademark aesthetic to Slink & Bardot, lending each of the restaurant’s distinct sections its own mood and feel.
I am met by Nick Harrison and Alexis Gielbaum . Harrison is the manager with a hands-on approach while chef Gielbaum is the man behind the scenes who likes his food to do most of the talking. The two first met in 2014 when they were working at the French café Le Bistro du Parc in Delhi. They then moved to the Olive Bar & Kitchen in Bandra, Mumbai. They realized that they both wanted a restaurant of their own and many proposals, meetings, and tastings later, they found a likely partner in Riyaaz Amlani, who encouraged their vision of modern French food and channelled it into Slink & Bardot.
The restaurant, which opened on 15 May, only serves small plates. It’s a conscious decision to break the formality associated with French fine-dining and make it a more fun and immersive experience.
Harrison, a Canadian, was hooked to India on his very first trip here as a tourist in 2009. He returned time and again, holding different jobs. Although he has a wealth of restaurant experience and has also trained at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, it is the front-of-house action in a restaurant that excites him. As Slink & Bardot’s manager, he dons many hats—from playlist maker to in-house mixologist and taste guide. “Alexis is a very visual and minimalist chef and the food he serves is very instagrammable. My job is to take it beyond this and help people to contextualize the dishes.”
Gielbaum , who had been working in different establishments in Paris—from Michelin-starred restaurants to rustic home-style bistros—arrived in India almost by chance, in response to an ad put out by the Bistro du Parc. “My food is a little bit of everything, from French fine-dining to café staples. What is important to me is the selection of dishes, and keeping in mind who our customers are without compromising on the quality of the food,” he says.
The buffalo cheek bourguignon I taste is a case in point. “The original French dish is a stew with wine and dijon mustard. Here, even though I present it atop fondant potatoes with mustard foam, the taste is immediately recognizable as that of a bourguignon. We play with French classics but at the same time retain their essence. I am not your stereotypical French chef who wants to scare his customers or say that this is how you must eat French food. I am, in fact, quite chilled out,” he says.
Slink & Bardot’s logo is a plump snail. “It is a play on the classic French dish of escargots as well as the slow and relaxed vibe we wish to promote,” says Harrison. He also tells me about their plans to procure snails from a local supplier. For a restaurant that serves only French food, almost 98% of the ingredients are sourced locally; this keeps prices competitive, in a range of Rs220-500. “For us, this exposure to fresh indigenous ingredients keeps us sharp as we experiment more,” says Gielbaum . A lotus- root crisp in the Chicken Liver Parfait seems to illustrate the idea—taking a very Asian ingredient, and turning it into a Western textural element. Each dish showcases one ingredient as the hero.
In the run-up to the opening, Harrison and Gielbaum tweaked the recipes and plating on a near-daily basis. What remains constant is the ethos behind each dish and Slink & Bardot: playful, sexy, without a template.
Slink & Bardot, 329/A, Thadani House, opposite Indian Coast Guard, Worli village, Mumbai (6pm-1am; closed Mondays; 022-2430 1127).
Dinner à deux
Just like the partnership between Slink (representing sensuous elegance) and Bardot (one of the great icons of 1960s French glamour), here are some of Alexis and Nick’s recommended pairings
■Cherry Picker’s Martini + Provençale Vegetable & Goat Cheese Terrine
This pair will feel like a walk in the garden. The tart and sweet vodka-based Cherry Picker’s Martini pairs perfectly with this light and refreshing dish from the south of France.
■Lavender Pisco Sour + Confit Lamb Croquettes with lavender jus
Lavender is synonymous with the tranquil fields of Provence. Experience this flower in its sweet and savoury applications.
■Barrel-Aged Boulevardier + Gratin Dauphinois
To stand up to the sheer strength of a whisky-forward, barrel-aged behemoth, a dish has to be a flavour bomb—and this hearty French classic lives up to the challenge.