Dear reader, today we spent Rs 3,500 on a Noorani-calibre meal for two. Correction: a meal at Noorani would be a vast improvement over the heartburn-courting, yawn-inducing fare we were served at Saffron Bay, a new Mughlai restaurant that opened after many delays at Chowpatty this week. It occupies the same venue that once hosted Inxxia, and has only one thing going for it – in the “pure-veg” desert that is this neighborhood, Saffron Bay has the chutzpah to serve meat and alcohol. Raise a roast, we say!
The restaurant itself is all black surfaces and clean lines, wide-paned windows bringing in the beach. There are also incongruent splashes of neon, with random alcoves lit in fluorescent blue, pink or green light and uninspired wall murals; the only trace of saffron is on the ceiling, which is studded with backlit orange circles.
Since we’re the only guests at the restaurant, a team of enthusiastic but ill-informed wait-staff swarms around us, hovering insistently until we order drinks. Once these are placed, they buzz off in different directions, scandalized that we are embibing at 2 pm but also determined to do this right. But wait, they’re out of the Jamuntini, so can we pick something else? Yes, gin-and-Jaljeera is a good combination, alas – this is ten minutes later – we don’t have that either. Let’s just stick with vodka on the rocks. This they know how to make, along with a puckerish Anarkali pomegranate martini that, like Uncle Max says in the Sound of Music, is “too pink”.
These we soak up with a fat slab of kingfish steak and tandoori baby corn. The steak is well cooked, flaky and light, but smothered in sunny-yellow lemon sauce that tastes like nothing at all. Baby corn is weirdly brittle and biting into it is like eating a slice of pineapple – tingly, hairy and not all together pleasant. Also of strange texture is chicken soup, nicely spicy but powdery on the tongue, the kind we would make from expired packets during end-of-semester exams at boarding school, when our tuck boxes and pocket money had run dry.
Roo(mali) the Day
We reminisce over this as the next course is served, black dal, paneer kadai and mutton rogan josh. The dal comes with a layer of clarified butter on top, which we try not to look at too closely, but ends up being a shade better than decent. Paneer is hard and salvaged only by a nicely cooked, toothsome tomato-and-onion reduction. Mutton, like the kingfish, is good meat married to bad sauce, salty to the point of unpalatable. All these we eat with rubbery roomali rotis and surprisingly outstanding naans, flaky and blistered and glinting with butter.
Then comes our ridiculously inflated bill, which despite our uninspired lunch, we find hardest to digest. Noorani, you’re up next.
Getting there: 39B Chowpatty Seaface, next to Café Coffee Day, Marine Drive, call 23696991, Rs 3,500 for a meal for two.
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