Having run out of restaurants that weren't already booked for lunch on the glorious Christmas morning, we settled for only one that offered us a table for ten in fifteen minutes flat - Konkan Cafe at Taj President Cuffe Parade.
Needless to say, the Italian serving Trattoria and the Thai Pavilion at Taj President were our preferred choice to ring in my aunty-uncles wedding anniversary. However, a quick meal was on the agenda and reluctantly we walked into the dimly lit Konkan Cafe.
The decor is earthy, full of wood and bordering on boring. The antique fan is a nice touch and the boring bar can be done away with! However, the saving grace is the fascinating collection of antiques lining the wall and the shiny beaten copper-cum-silver dinner set and cutlery. Though a very well done replica of a Konkani verandah/ home, the place could do with a dash of colour.
The table was well laid and the basket of papads, fried stuffed-chilli and the choice of chutneys was welcoming. So was the staff in their beige uniforms and pretty good marathi!
I was surprised to find such a crisp menu, 4 pages and that was it. The dishes on offer were a fine blend of traditional Maharashtrian usal and some signature vegetables, sea food in Konkani, Goan and Malvani style and accompaniments ranging from Malabar paratha, rice, dosas to fluffy appams.
Sol-kadi (a combination of kokan and coconut milk) is traditionally had after meals. It helps to digest and tone down the spices in the food. But we decided to begin our meal with Sol-kadi and papads. While the sol-kadi was delicately flavoured and creamy, the papad added a nice crunch.
We then had a course of starters – Bhajleli paneer, thechyachi zinga (prawns), Tawyache bombil (Bombay duck) and Meen Pullichatu. Except for the bombil, the other three preparations were stellar. The crunchy prawns, the perfectly roasted and flavoured paneer were fanastic, though next time around I would ask for mild spice in the prawn as it takes away from the inherent juiciness of the prawn. Everyone’s favourite was undoubtedly the meen fish, flavoured with onions and tangy tomatoes and steamed in a banana leaf wrapping.
For the main course we ordered fish curry in tamarind sauce, Malabar crab curry, Haldi Pomphret and a combination of appam, Malabar paratha and ambemohar rice to accompany them. The fish curry was runny, yet packed a punch of flavour which amazed us. The crab curry was thicker and slightly sweet with some dry fruits thrown in which perfectly complimented the taste of crab meat. The pomphret can be skipped, the appams aren’t as good as I ate in Kerala was 1/7th the price, but the Malabar parathas are a must try, so is the rice which has such a wonderful smell.
After the meal, the staff brought in a cute square cake to ring in the good wishes for the happy couple. The cake was a small, but just enough to tickle our sweet tooth as we were all stuffed and had a silly, content grin on our faces.
The meal was certainly heavy on the pocket (INR 1200 per person after a 15% discount!), and strictly an indulgence to be remembered until the next meal there which should be quite an experience as the chefs at Konkan Café variate the menu with the changing season.
As an afterthought, despite the drab décor and the not to appealing cuisine (except for the die-hard sea-food fans!), the USP of Konkan Café is the well preserved recipes, a daring-crisp mix on the menu, freshly ground spices and the warmth of the staff; a true signature of Tata hospitality!
Price: 1200-1400 per person (without drinks!)