Lounge Reviews | Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House, Serendipity and Le Kitchen Gallery,Mumbai

Two gorgeous old Bandra bungalows are converted into all-day cafs and a popular city caterer sets up a month-long, pop-up restaurant

BROOKE BOND TAJ MAHAL TEA HOUSE

The good stuff

The 3,500 sq. ft space is not only exquisitely decorated in an intricate blue and white porcelain theme but is also smartly designed to function as a multi-purpose venue in a neighbourhood that has it all.

Option 1: Recreate scenes from your favourite childhood storybook over a traditional high tea service ( 650) in the main tearoom—complete with scones, clotted cream, finger sandwiches and petit fours. Option 2: Plonk yourself on the Bombay Fornicator in the den or the window-facing rocking chair in the sunroom and drift off to your happy place, waking up to a pot of one of their excellent house blends ( 120-200). Option 3: Finish a book over lunch in a quiet alcove— they have over a hundred titles strewn across the study. Option 4: If your knowledge of tea doesn’t cut it, there’s no reason to remain uninitiated. Ask the friendly staff to conduct an impromptu tasting session.

We went for option 5, a weekday breakfast when the place was so empty it felt like your very own bungalow. The tea menu has two pages dedicated to milky masala chais and we opted for the ones with the most obscure ingredient mix: the Karipatta Delight ( 130) and the Malabari Vanilla Coconut Tea ( 160). The spicy and strong curry leaf-infused tea was closer to a home-made masala chai while the sweet coconut milk-based concoction tasted a lot like a tender coconut payasam. Apart from other fun milky teas (Parsi Mint, Kashmiri Saffron, Orange Blossom and more), there are iced teas, tea lemonades, chai lattes, tea smoothies and even filter coffee on the menu.

All teas come with complimentary raisin and oat biscuits and buttery shortcrust cookies but it’s worth getting into the food menu—it’s modern, with unexpected twists to familiar comfort food. We especially enjoyed the idli burgers ( 180), coin-sized rice cakes topped with a beetroot and chickpea patty with lemon grass and curried mayonnaise. We’re definitely going back for dishes like the Kerala Peppered Chicken Breast with a Parsley and Fennel Risotto ( 520) and the Herbal and Spiced Vegetable Tortellini served in a Green Cardamom Chai Emulsion ( 500), served only for lunch and dinner. If you’re after something a little less adventurous, there are simpler soups, salads and sandwiches. Going by the excellent waffles we tried—golden and crunchy, served with clotted cream and mango jam ( 240)—the simple desserts (Apple Crumble and Crepe Suzette) should be fairly fail-proof.

The not-so-good

The all-day restaurant really wants its customers to linger, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself alone in a room from time to time. Some of the flavour combinations, like our coconut milk tea, may not work, so it might be better to stick to the familiar in both the drinks and food menus. We were also disappointed with our order of Eggs Benedict ( 280). The poached eggs were overcooked—the yolk fully set like one in a hard-boiled egg.

Talk plastic

Unlike the Bru World Café down the road and other branded coffee and tea shops, the Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House is a premium experiential lounge, and definitely pricier. If you stick to just tea and snacks, you may not spend over 600 per head but if you choose two teas, two dishes and a dessert, as we did, expect to shell out anywhere from 1,500-2,500 for a meal for two.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House, 36/A, Sanatan Pereira Bungalow, St John Baptist Road, off Chapel Road, Bandra-West (26420330). Open daily from 7.30am-11.30pm.

SERENDIPITY

Another all-day café in Bandra with a pretty location but perplexing menu

Every time we convince ourselves that Bandra’s cramped food and drink-scene has no more space to expand, the suburb surprises us with the most unique new venues. Serendipity occupies a secluded but heart-warming spot just off the congested Dr Ambedkar Road and behind the popular Pali Village Café.

The good stuff

The old bungalow building is delightfully decorated—with lots of colourful baking equipment and retro accent pieces scattered across the split-level eatery. It is almost like a version of the edible house that Hansel and Gretel visit. There’s also al fresco seating.

There is no bar but if the owners ever apply for a drinks permit, we would love to spike the excellent Mulled Cider ( 250), fresh apple juice spiced with cinnamon and star anise. Their version of the hot chocolate comes quite close to our favourites at Suzette and The Birdsong Café and scores bonus points for the use of heart-shaped marshmallows as toppings.

The not-so-good

We felt entirely lost during the entire duration of our dinner at Serendipity. The menu descriptions were like incorrectly translated stickers on cute Made in China or Made in Taiwan stationery. Take, for instance, the introduction to the food philosophy: “Inspired by crafty cook ways and fresh ingredients of the season. Greeting you into our dining room. Offering the most established selection of fresh and local produce." While our server and the chef tried their best, it was obvious they weren’t ready to run the show without a supervisor. The pricing is too steep for home-style dishes.

Talk plastic

Dishes are priced at 370 for snacks and 550 for mains. Desserts and drinks start at 250. We paid 2,097 for a meal for two.

Serendipity, 76, Pali Village, behind Pali Village Café, Pali Naka, Bandra-West. (30151943). Open daily from 9am-midnight till 23 August; and from 6am-midnight thereafter.

LE KITCHEN GALLERY

The good stuff

The pop-up restaurant has the look and feel of a professional stand-alone eatery. The House of Tales exhibition space is kitted out with comfortable dining tables and chairs, cutlery and glassware are handpicked to match the different dinner themes. There’s a DJ who plays popular music and there’s even a bartender who mixes fresh fruit mocktails. Themes vary from ingredient-specific meals like Cheese, Chocolate, Mushrooms and Lemon grass to cuisine-driven dinners like the Caribbean one we attended.

While the starters included plenty of veggies, chicken and seafood options, there was a choice between two vegetarian, one chicken and one lamb dish for the main course. The Curried Lamb with Parboiled Rice was superbly cooked in a mildly spiced coconut gravy with generous chunks of fork-tender meat. The desserts—a Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Coulis and a Pineapple Upside-down Cake—were generously portioned and fabulously plated, complete with edible glitter and moulded chocolate sculptures.

The not-so-good

While Le Kitchen’s team is extremely ambitious with menus, we’re not sure all their themes will translate into great tasting meals. We weren’t particularly impressed by the Corn and Green Peas Calzone and the Creole Chicken—they didn’t adhere to the Caribbean flavours and their addition to the menu felt forceful and unnecessary. Making a dinner reservation on Trekurious.com is cumbersome since not all the menus are displayed date-wise.

Talk plastic

All meals are priced at 1,200 per person and include welcome drinks, mocktails, a soup, starter, main and dessert.

Le Kitchen Gallery is open for dinner only (8.30pm and 10pm) until 13 September at the House of Tales, 21 Dr VB Gandhi Marg, near Ayub’s, Kala Ghoda, Fort. To make a reservation, visit www.trekurious.com/experiences/gastronomonth-with-le-kitchen-gallery. All meals are priced at 1,200 per person.

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