One of my fondest childhood memories is conjured up from magical Sunday brunches at the erstwhile Café Naaz. This open air terrace restaurant perched above the lush canopy of trees that are part of the Hanging Gardens’ acreage at Malabar Hill was the perfect place to gorge ourselves silly on the fluffiest of chicken sandwiches, fat potato wedges and gallons of thick malted shakes while looking down on the Queen’s Necklace of Marine Drive down below.
But one day, the magic was gone. Café Naaz downed its shutters… never to return again. Ever since, I’ve been on a mission to recreate those foodie memories of my childhood, searching for al fresco dining places that would give me some sort of nostalgia-laced déjà vu. So, last week, shamelessly taking full advantage of the rare nip in the Mumbai air, I checked out two such restaurants where dining under the stars, while the gentle breeze caresses you, is not a substance-enhanced miasma, but very much a Mumbai reality!
With a decidedly Mediterranean vibe to it—thanks to the white wooden chairs and tables in the outdoor patio area—that is more Capri than Carter Road, Corniche gives you the feeling of being far away from the hustle and bustle of a city like Mumbai. And the salt-laden air that meanders its way in from the Arabian Sea next door ably adds to this illusion.The rather sprawling multi-cuisine restaurant, serves up primarily Italian and Mediterranean fare with a few token Japanese and Thai dishes thrown in for good measure all dished out by Chef Amit Chowdhary.
Super snack options for a ‘quick meal’ (which is an aberration in itself at a place like this!) like the crisp Calamari Fritti, the Uramaki Prawn Sushi and Minute Steak Sandwiches jostle for space on the menu with more filling mains like the generously portioned Prawn Pasta, the Cajun-spiced Norwegian Salmon and the Seafood Paella make up a satisfying fishy trio. Drinks like Carter’s Cooler and the Kentucky Blizzard are super company to the desserts like the cute heart shaped Strawberry Mousse that is perfect in keeping with the romantic weather…
Cost: Rs 1,750 for two without alcohol.
Address: Corniche, B-15, Gagangiri CHS, Carter Road, Bandra (West).
As part of Mumbai’s ‘Green Lung’ of the Mahalaxmi Race Course, Neel is already in the midst of some lush trees and foliage that give it a forest-like atmosphere. Adding to that are the restaurant’s interiors that are done up in earth shades with dark tan furniture, ribbed off-white ceiling buttresses that join the floor and beige walls. But it is the outdoor garden that truly sets the mood with its canopied tables and lamp strewn walls that are magical to say the very least.
Paying rich gastronomic homage to the delectable troika of Hyderabadi, Awadhi and Kashmiri food, Chef Rahul Akerkar of Mumbai’s legendary restaurant Indigo prefers to describe the fare of Neel as ‘Nawabi Muslim Cuisine’. Among the stand out dishes that you mustn’t miss trying are the Ghosht ki Dum Biryani with succulent pieces of meat surrounded by fragrant rice, the Nalli Ka Awadhi Shorba a smoky marrow soup and the subtly spiced Raan-E-Mukhtar (tandoor roasted leg of baby lamb).
Among the vegetarian delights, the Peshwari Rataloo (sigdi roasted sweet potato with traditional Peshawari spices) and the Nadru Paalak Ka Chaman (lotus stem and spinach flavoured with fennel) served up with some soft Bakhumaas flat bread hit the spot real well. As a fitting finale, the Angoori Rabdi (rabdi studded with seedless black grapes) and the Parde Me Khubani (baked apricot halwa) are imperative. And yes, don’t forget to sip on some warm Kahwa Kashmiri tea and enjoy these fleeting days of what we so long to call ‘winter’…
Cost: Rs 2,000 for two without alcohol.
Address: Neel at Tote on the Turf, opp. gate 5 & 6, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mahalaxmi.
Pics courtesy: Corniche and Neel