Recently, I was in Mumbai on work and stayed back to try out a few new joints. Slink and Bardot, Aarth, and House of Nomad (HoN). That last one was ironic, for it was pretty much my nomadic way of work life that was bringing me to Mumbai in the first place. Slink & Bardot was at best meh-plus, Aarth was even more unimpressive although, to be fair, their food was a better fit than their garish furniture. I think Mumbai really needs to get its standalone game squared up. The Table and Bombay Canteen are all they seem to have by way of good solid stable outlets so far. And yet, in spite of such widespread mediocrity, standalones are collectively and seriously denting the hotel business.But then along comes one hotel (Taj Lands End—the missing apostrophe drives me up the wall), which decides to take on standalone outlets at their own game.
Instead of inaugurating yet another fine-dining fancy outlet, Parveen Chander, old hand and good friend, decided to up shutters with a gastrobar. Imagine a bar, which is decked out like your local and serves great food and drinks at equally aggressive prices. This is not like Delhi five-stars, where an outing can set you back a packet. Instead, with some awesome cocktailing for Rs 650, this is among the most value-for-money places I can think of. And no crummy service charge to boot!
For a simplistic gastrobar with rock-bottom pricing, the key is getting the small things right. HoN may distantly look like many standalone places, but it’s not a cheap crass set-up with Chinese furniture. Here, the detail is king. The upholstery is the softest of leather, the glassware is the most expensive and finest from Zwiesel, the lighting is planned, the bar design is a study in ergonomics and the music, as effortless as it sounds, is curated song for song. It’s loud yet muted enough to encourage conversations and picks up as the evening descends. Even the bar and restaurant areas are demarcated with soft elements to direct crowd flow. The cocktails are among the best I have had in Mumbai in recent times and few places can match them in range or execution. The food alongside was innovative and inviting.
Now, I am no fan of fancy hotels—I love frequenting Social and Ek Bar, which I think are great (MasalaBar, not so much)—but I have to admit that when it comes to new places, hotels have to be more matter-oriented than your average standalones, for unlike the latter, which often evaporate and reincarnate every few years (or get bought by some VC fund), hotels have to make sure that whatever they do has longevity built into it. HoN reflects this sentiment without having to shove it in your face. So you won’t be told who the designer was or how awesome the acoustics are, you will just be invited to walk and discover the superlatives for yourself. I have always maintained that I do not do reviews and this is not one either, just that coming on the heels of some very average sorties, this was like a breath of fresh air.
En suite, back in Delhi, I had a bit of a Burgundy binge. Vincent Girardin (VG) as a winery isn’t as old as the region it hails from, but the freshness they bring to their wines (thanks to long-standing winemaker Eric Germain) and the region is truly heartening. Recently, we were regaled by Marco Caschera, VG’s commercial director, who came down from that treasured piece of soil called Meursault (in Burgundy) and gave us an unparalleled masterclass in the region of Burgundy and its wines. In times when there is no end to taxes, and hoteliers and retailers just care about selling the wine with the maximum discount, it’s refreshing to see Vishal Kadakia of Wine Park go against the grain by importing some top-of-the-line stuff that would be equally at home on a Michelin list anywhere in the world.
Caschera took us through the various appellations of Burgundy as interpreted in the wines of VG and it was simply amazing to see how two grapes—Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—can make for so much variety as soil and climate change every few kilometres. Burgundy is so tiny and quaint that every drop is precious. But the wines don’t get bigger and bolder as they get expensive, just gentler and more subtle. If ‘less is more’ is the essence of great wines, then no place captures it better than Burgundy. I just hope VG gets listed at sensible prices, so that we can afford it rather than just admire it from a distance and talk of the one time we tried it.
(Written by Magandeep Singh)