Category Archives: Whisky

Mayur. Dialling back

Sometimes, I have to give up on my version of things. I have to accept that I can’t feel enough feeling for the story to go on. That in this life, at this exact moment, the universe needs to arrange things differently. Sometimes I have to accept defeat.

And on days like this, when I feel sorry that the world is no longer revolving around my desires, I need to dial back to a simpler time; and if that becomes difficult, then at least to a simpler place that reminds me how uncomplicated life can be if I allow it.

Mayur, in Bombay’s suburbs, is a simple place. I was introduced to this rare, if not only, Udupi restaurant in the city that also has a permit room, by my London family Laxmi and Naman. It’s where a photograph of Lord Venkateswara shares shelf space with bottles of Red Label; where a former policeman plays his collection of Bismillah Khan cassettes over lunch; and where diamond store owners come to unwind (read: drink many drinks) at the end of the day before vegetarian dinners with their wives.

IMG_5733Mayur s also where a waiter was impressed that I only wanted ice with my whisky (Rs. 350 for a single shot of Black Dog), and served me the second best chilli cheese toast (Rs. 120) in town. This one was made with Amul cheese and lashings of garlic, and has magical powers to slow life down to just the one emotion you experience as you bite into a simple piece of toast.

IMG_4824Mayur is also where I am reminded that “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” That chap Winnie the Pooh knew how to dial back.

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Mayur Restaurant & Permit Room, Gautam Apartments, Juhu Road, Santacruz (W), Mumbai – 400054, +91 (22) 2649-0654.

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Filed under Bar, Bar food, Bombay, Whisky

Pitt Cue. A whole lot of love

I wander about life starring in my own movie (yes, usually Bollywood and almost always a romance). When I am crushing on someone or in a one-sided love affair, my imagination kicks into overdrive and turns every conversation into a 70mm moment. Sometimes it gets to the point that even I find myself ridiculous. And on a day like this, I need to get myself to a place with zero possibility of romantic thought. I needed some Pitt Cue action. Nothing like beautiful chunks of meat to make you not turn your life into a movie.

Pitt Cue is the only food truck-turned-proper restaurant I can recall than has single handedly joined all of London’s food lovers into one big fan club. The only exceptions are either vegetarian or one of Time Out’s new food writers.

Every review of the restaurant will tell you how small it is. It’s even smaller in real life. When I first squeezed into the door, past the crowds that were leaving and into more crowds that were waiting, I couldn’t see any furniture for the number of people in there.  I have never been happier to be a single diner as Lovely Blonde found me a bar stool in a corner. The restaurant also has a dining room downstairs. It’s dark, squashed between the kitchen, a staircase and the loo, and I hope I never have to sit down there.

Pitt Cue is so good I couldn’t believe I got through life so far without tasting such food.  I may have been trying to escape romance this afternoon, but there is no denying the love that has gone into everything they do, say, and feed you.

I ordered a Hair of the Pig (their yummier version of a bloody mary with scratchings, £6.50) and decided I love how easy the menu is to order from. You choose…

–          one meat (I chose the St. Louis Ribs (£9.50); other options are pulled pork, brisket, beef ribs and a daily special that keeps changing)

–          one side (I chose the awesome burnt end mash; there is also baked beans, braised sprout tops, hock and beet salad and vinegar slaw)

… and the good boys of Pitt Cue will put it all on one delicious tray.

There are naughty extras too. I couldn’t resist the hot wings (£4) or the crispy shiitake (£3.50). This is wayyyy too much food for one person but I couldn’t stop.

Lovely Blonde came back and recited the dessert menu and I had to go with a Snickers Mess (£4.50). It’s exactly what it says on the tin.

And if I hadn’t eaten enough reasons to return then there was always their perfectly reasonable bourbon and rye list to lure me back. Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Rittenhouse Blonde, Eagle Rare, Sazerac…  this is a lot more than a fleeting crush.

And so I come to terms with the thought that even on a day bereft of romance, one can still find love.

-p

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American, Bar, Bar food, Cocktails, Communal tables, Design, Dessert, Diner, London, Whisky

Dishoom. Nothing wrong with naughtiness

Its about that time of year when the city transforms itself into a ticker tape of Top 10s, Best Ofs and Resolutions. It’s just as easy to get lost in the whirlwind of festivities that December brings as it is to drown in its melancholy. Today was an awful day but I was determined not to let one bad day ruin my week. So I headed to the one restaurant that changed the way I eat Indian food in London. Dishoom’s new Winter Chai menu is exactly what I needed.

To say that I am smitten by the Dishoom-wallahs would be a slight understatement. So I asked my college friend Taimur (aka Prince of Palanpur) to act as my North Star for this tasting. Having just opened the latest entrant to London’s posh dining scene – chef Andy Varma’s Chakra in Notting Hill – he wasn’t exactly without vested interests; but Tai proved to be the most honest co-taster.

Bar-wallah Carl Brown, more dashing than usual, sporting a Movember tache took charge of our drinks and left us with very strict instructions on the order in which to drink them. Here goes (all drinks £5.50)!


The Baileys Chai is a 50/50 Chai-Baileys-Irish-Coffee-inspired explosive start to our tasting. Dishoom describes it best: warm, luxurious and unbelievably good.

Suggestive name aside, the Naughty Chocolate Chai is definitely the sexiest drink on the menu. Its dark, syrupy chocolate lusciously wraps itself around harsh Wild Turkey Bourbon until the drink takes your breath away.

Next is Chai Egg Nog. I hate egg nog. Correction, I hateD egg nog. Carl’s take on the traditional recipe is served up as a glass of cosy cuddles. Treacle-like Goslings Rum will lull you into a sigh just as the cinnamon and nutmeg urge you to reach for more. This sensational Chai Egg Nog was the clear favourite of the night. (I can’t wait to go back and try it ice cold!)

Cognac Chai and all its Hennessy makes a comeback. While it kicked serious butt last year, today it paled in comparison to the rest of the list.

The menu also has two Winter Warmers – the Winter Pimm’s with cloudy apple juice; and a Desi Mulled Wine, easy (too easy!) to drink but not particularly desi. They’re good but not as good as the chais. Not satisfied with the quantities of alcohol we were consuming, the Bar-wallah treated  us to a Cherry Chocolate Velvet (£9.90). At the risk of sounding like a teenager – OMG! A truly decadent champagne and black cherry cocktail.

There had to be food of course! These are Tai’s uncensored ratings on some of my favourite Dishoom dishes:

  • Paneer Tikka (£6.90) – A
  • Sheekh Kabab (£7.20) – A
  • Black Daal (£4.70) – B
  • Rotis & Naans – B
  • Chicken Tikka (£6.70) – C 
  • Lamb Chops (£10.50) – D (sadly, I had to agree with this one. Today the chops were burnt. No, not caramelised as our server Nuno tried to convince us, definitely blistered. They kindly took this off the bill but we weren’t happy about missing out on the chops!)

Tai couldn’t help but comment on Dishoom’s soul – I don’t think he’ll complain about coming back! We agreed to disagree on the rest of his ratings. We talked about college life in Bombay and London life in 2012. About not allowing one burnt dish to ruin our meal. And not letting one heartbreak break us forever.

-p

Dishoom on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Bar, Bombay, Cafe, Cocktails, Design, Indian, London, Whisky

Whisky. ‘Nuff said.

I was nearly 6 months old when I had my first taste of whisky. Friends who know me won’t find it difficult to believe that I was a tiresome, colicky baby. In the hopes of a full night’s sleep my brand new parents gave me a sip of Tesco’s finest. The opposite of what they intended happened; instead of lulling me into a full night’s sleep the whisky had me in a fit of giggles. All night.

I didn’t return to whisky for a long time after that. Even five years ago, whisky would inspire one of three memories – my father drinking Johnnie Walker Black Label, loud Punjabis drinking copious amounts of Patiala pegs at weddings, and Sean Connery. I’m not sure what changed, when, or why, but almost the same time that I moved to London I began to enjoy whisky more and more. The Manhattan has been a favourite cocktail for a long time, and many would argue that this is a natural progression for the curious. Several years, many whisky mistakes, and lovely Twitter friends later I was introduced to London’s Whisky Squad.

It is one thing to be swanning about town on my Tables for ONE… quite another to be a new, single woman testing out a whisky tasting club. Even as I signed up for an extremely affordable Smoking Section session (£15 for a tasting of 6 whiskies plus you get to help yourself to any leftovers after the tasting), I was very apprehensive about how the tasting session would turn out.

What if they were middle aged bankers pretending to know it all? What if they were incestuous industry folk who would be condescending towards anyone new? What if it turned out to be a room full of single women hoping to find a “real man”? What if it was a room full of men and I was the only woman? What if I said something tasted of perfume when I should have said smoke? What if …

It took less than five minutes with the group to realise I had nothing to worry about. I couldn’t put the group in a box if I tried. There were Jason and Andy who started the Whisky Squad – lovely, friendly and down-to-earth; Dave the reluctant expert who works in IT but could guess the ABV (alcohol by volume) to the nearest .3%; Peter who’s father started a malt whisky distillery; Adele, the beautiful blonde who was happier drinking the whisky than trying to guess its age; Rob, the young Oxford University dropout who has built himself a stellar career at Berry Bros… The one thing that bound this room full of strangers together was an uninhibited joy of tasting whisky.

The session is informal, great fun and unpretentious. We blind tasted six whiskies, discussed nose and palate, and did an embarrassingly bad job of guessing the age, ABV and price of each as we went along. Here is what we shared:

Whisky #1
Popular opinion: Smells like piglets (not pigs) swimming in vinegar
The real deal: A limited edition  Bruichladdich Octomore 4.1 for £87

Whisky #2
Popular opinion: A pointless whisky that disappeared without leaving anything behind
The real deal: A very young Benromach Peat Smoke for £31.95

Whisky #3
Popular opinion: Smells of hospitals and mattresses (maybe even hospital mattresses) but the palate was a clear favourite with the group
The real deal: The 25yr old  Port Askaig for £99.95

Whisky #4
Popular opinion: If there ever was a Charming Chav, this is he   
The real deal: The only non-Scottish whisky of the night from The English Whisky Company,  St George’s Distillery Chapter 11 Cask Strength for £67.49

Whisky #5
Popular opinion: Smoky, burnt wood. It reminded me of the angeethis in Srinagar during the winter of 1989.  
The real deal: My personal favourite of the evening, Elements of Islay Kh1 for £49.95

Whisky #6
By this time the bonhomie among the group outshone any hopes of the prescribed analysis for Whisky #6. I remember a discussion of space dust vs. moon dust but couldn’t be sure :). The last whisky was the Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release for £69.

My favourite takeaway from the evening was courtesy Dave. He said, “There is no such thing as a wrong answer. It’s just not as right as you could be. Yet.

Quite.
-p

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Filed under Non-foodie fun, Whisky

Spuntino. The one?

I knew Spuntino was the one restaurant I will have a long romance with the second I walked in. I first went there last night with friends and even before we began our meal I couldn’t wait to come back for more.

And so I did.

Spuntino has no telephone and you cannot make reservations, and walking in can be slightly intimidating – I felt like I was crashing someone’s dinner party. But then the tattooed waitress smiled, beckoned and made me feel at home.

Ronnie Self, Louis Jordan, Ray Charles and Django Reinhart gently lull me into the Spuntino spirit and I started with a Negroni (£6) and olives stuffed with parmesan, anchovies and thyme (£4). I literally left the city behind me and wanted nothing else but to be in this place for many hours. You’ll see why so many reviews liken it to a diner in NYC’s Lower East side. Its tiny, cosy, welcoming, yet lets you be all at the same time.

  

Almost every diner at the restaurant ordered the truffled egg toast (£5.50). It is a plate full of decadence and home-cooking all in one mouthful. As is the mac and cheese (£8) that arrives in its own sizzling skillet. Last night we also tried the pulled pork slider (£4.50) – succulent; panzanella (£5.50) – fresh and delicious; softshell crab (£9.50) – dry and avoidable; calamari in squid ink (£8) – delish; and duck ham and pecorino salad (£6) – not so delish. I also highly recommend the eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt (£4) – gorgeous aubergine soldiers with an inspired yoghurt dip.

I don’t usually order dessert, let alone two! The brown sugar cheesecake with grappa prunes (£6) may just well be the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. They also have a cheeky peanut butter and jelly sandwich dessert (£6.50). Look!

  

At Spuntino I feel time stand still. I feel the same way when I think about THE ONE – the one I have been madly in something with for 5 months, 10 days, 2 hours and a few minutes. Now this is a completely one-sided romance, mostly blossoming in my overactive imagination; but I’m not ready to give up just yet. I don’t want to look back and learn from past mistakes, nor move on with life.

Sometimes its not about looking back, or moving forward. Sometimes its just about staying right where you are.

-p

Spuntino on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American, Bar, Bar food, Cocktails, Design, Dessert, Diner, Italian, London, Restaurant, Whisky