Restaurant Review: The Konkan Café – Stale Old Wine In A Shiny New Bottle

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First things first. I’ve got to admit that this review is a little off the grain. I say this at the onset, because for the first time I am about to review an eatery that has existed for a good number of years—16 to be precise—and is not remotely new by any stretch of the imagination, as is the norm of this space. But with tales of a ‘refreshed’ ambience and a ‘brilliant’ new menu being spread by the restaurant’s enthusiastic PR department, I simply had to bend a few self-imposed rules and check out the new and improved (?) repository of west coast Indian cuisine The Konkan Café that sits pretty at the lobby level of the Vivanta By Taj President Hotel in Cuffe Parade.

Throwing caution to the wind, my friend and I trudge into the seemingly welcoming space sans a reservation. In our defense, it was a weekday lunch time and no one expects to make a reservation for a simple lunch. A sentiment not echoed by the host apparently. After what seemed like a good ten minutes, said host finally takes us to a table for two, rather sulkily as though by coming unreserved we had ruined his life forever!
First of all, coming to the best part of the new The Konkan Café—the décor. Plush, ornate and decadent are the best adjectives to describe the interiors and furnishings that revel in their sumptuousness. Stone columns with feature walls adorned with lamps, a faux central Nallu Kettu courtyard replace the rather gimmicky look and feel of the café’s earlier avatar. But sadly the food does the exact opposite.

Gone is the homely taste of comforting dishes like the soothing Avial and the delicate Meen Moily. These have been replaced by the spice-killed abominations like a fiery Thechyacha Jhinga that leaves a searing red hot pain in the pit of your stomach both with its volatile green chilly overdose and its Rs 500 price tag. Stringy (and stingy) pieces of mutton masquerade as the avoidable Mutton Chaap, while the luscious crab Denge Pepper Fry is the only saving grace in our choice of appetisers.

Summer coolers like the Aam ka Panna (that we dubbed the aam panna aka ordinary panna) and the blushing pink Solkadhi barely make the muster with their strictly OK taste, never mind the fact that they show zero innovation. Mains are a procession of ho-hum dishes like the coconut milk-saturated, bland mutton Attirachi Istew, fluffy Appams that sure make the grade and the well-made raw jackfruit with whole spices Phanasa Chi Bhaji. Adding to the mediocrity of the meal was the unremarkable and rather thin-bodied Hirvi Surmai Chi Kalvan and Mangalorean spinach Basale Gassi that desperately needed some salt loving.

A rather limited five-item dessert section is made up of shockers like a stodgy, awful Bebinca that had the food-proud Goan in me revolt at the carelessness in which this otherwise delicate mille-feuille doppelganger was constructed. We hoped the tender coconut Elaneer Payasam would redeem The Konkan Café, but all it did was exacerbate the severe dearth of good desserts here.

And for some bizarre reason, although the restaurant was barely half-full, our server seemed in a hurry for us to finish our lunch and vamoose. Seriously, hadn’t he ever heard of the concept of a leisurely weekday lunch?
But despite all its very apparent flaws, The Konkan Café deserves a visit. While certainly not for the food, it certainly takes you on a visual journey down the languid Konkan belt with its eye-pleasing aesthetics. Now if only superb interior design could leave our tummies satiated…

WHERE? Vivanta By Taj President, 90, GD Somani Rd, Cuffe Parade. Call, 022 66650978
HOW MUCH? Rs 3,500 for two without alcohol.
WHEN? 12.30 pm to 2.45 pm, 7PM to 11.45pm
WHAT’S HOT? The new decor is easy on the eye and creates a soothing space to enjoy a relaxed lunch… if you are allowed that ‘privilege’ here that is!
WHAT’S NOT? The over-priced, barely above average food and the very snooty, patronising wait staff that can do with a crash course in hospitality, rapido.
SHOULD YOU GO THERE? Erm… maybe.

This review was done anonymously

Pics courtesy: The Konkan Café and www.online.wsj.com

Post By Raul Dias (102 Posts)

Lists travel, food and luxury as the tantalizing trifecta that defines him. When he’s not travelling, eating or getting pampered at a spa, you'll find him assaulting his notebook's keyboard with a feral vengeance, churning out what he hopes are intelligent, informative and entertaining stories.

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Raul Dias

Raul Dias
Lists travel, food and luxury as the tantalizing trifecta that defines him. When he’s not travelling, eating or getting pampered at a spa, you'll find him assaulting his notebook's keyboard with a feral vengeance, churning out what he hopes are intelligent, informative and entertaining stories.