Sure, I love my beverages! Give me a nice glass of crisp chardonnay on a warm summer’s evening or a mug of cinnamon and nutmeg-spiked hot chocolate while the rain is playing pitter-patter and I’ll thank you a million times. But here’s where it gets a bit weird. I’m so not one of those people who can quaff down glass after glass of beer/wine/OJ etc. etc. while sitting down for a meal. I’ve given it a try on a couple of occasions, but I’m always left with a bad taste in my mouth. Literally!
Perhaps it also has something got to do with the fact that I prefer to savour the taste of a dish. To suss out that hidden ingredient playing elusive to recognize or that subtle umami caress of a piece of yellow fin tuna shashimi on my tongue… without any such ‘encumbrances’ that go by the names of libations aforementioned.
So, just what do I do when I need something to wash it all down? Simple. I stick to good old H2O. And I’m more than happy doing that, all thanks to the newest sensation to rock my cozy little culinary world here in aamchi Mumbai. Enter the Flavoured Water.
Yes, after years of cribbing about the lack of these ‘waters-plus-a-little-extra’ in India, while enjoying a glass of yummy roasted rice water called sungyung that is de rigueur at Korean Restaurants the world over or while sipping a lemon-spritzed tumbler of water in a Santa Barbara café, I can proudly say that I can now do the very same thing right here, right now.
Besides offering you a choice of still or sparkling water, the people at the rather whimsical Smoke House Deli at Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel also urge you to try out their house (and on the house!) water that they jazz up with a sprig of mint and a few slivers of lemon. The divine tasting water goes perfectly with everything on the menu leaving behind a lingering hint of refreshing mint and lemon that overpowers nothing served up on your plate.
Speaking of refreshing, doing their bit to elevate a simple jug of water to another level is The Pantry in Kala Ghoda who ‘do’ their water with discs of cooling cucumber. Here’s a sneaky lil’ confession: I sometimes drop in here just for the delish water! And I’m also happy to report that Salt Water Café in Bandra is the latest to join the flavoured water bandwagon with their lime-infused aqua.
But luckily for me I don’t have to visit a fancy restaurant every time I need to satisfy my flavoured water urges. Enter the packaged version of flavoured water that goes by the name of B’lue and that is available in 500 ml bottles in flavours like apple, peach and guava all for Rs 30 a pop and buy-able almost everywhere across our island city.
Even spas have jumped on to this watery bandwagon (or should I say band-boat?). When I checked out the Dadar branch of the Birla Kerala Vaidyashala for a spa story I was working on, I was served a drink of medicated ayurvedic water served in a copper tumbler. The doctor there told me that the mildly herbaceous flavoured pinkish-hued water was made from the bark of a tree called padimuguam that is a cooling agent that is also antiseptic. Other ayurvedic spas too serve such similar water to guests, I am told by friends who’ve been to some.
I also happened to chance upon a rather unique brand of herbal water that is available in stores and that goes by the name of Amrith Moolika Paniyam. The medicated water is available in quantities ranging from 20 liter canisters to 200ml cups. This water that comes from Mysore contains the essence of herbs and spices like sandalwood (for cooling), cloves (for gums and teeth), sarsaparilla (purifies the blood) and usheera or khus that is also a coolant. I simply can’t get enough of it.
So, the next time you’re out at your favourite restaurant or spa, do try and resist the urge to order anything to drink other than a tall glass of water. And ask the server/attendant to throw in a slice of lime and you’ll know what I’m talking about!
• Smoke House Deli, Main Courtyard, High Street Phoenix, Phoenix Mills Compound Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel.
• The Pantry, Ground Floor, Yashwant Chamber, Military Square Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
• Salt Water Café, 87, Chapel Rd, Reclamation, Bandra (West).
• B’lue (available at most general stores)
• Birla Kerala Vaidyashala, #19/19A, Kohinoor Centre, Opp Siddhivinayak Temple, Veer Savarkar Marg, Dadar. (other branches cross the city as well)
• Amrith Moolika Paniyam (available at most general stores), P/8-D, V.S.S. Complex, opp. Kamakshi Hospital, Mysore.