Say Valentine’s Day and what comes to mind are long-stemmed roses, soft lighting, cuddly teddy bears, aphrodisiac laced dishes…and so on. Well, forget all that. This Valentine’s Day treat your partner to a restaurant that focuses on what’s really important: great food and wine, hearty service and a romantic ambience. Tables set apart from each other and a great view also helps. A great romantic restaurant should make you feel special… like you’re the only person in the room.
Here’s a list of restaurants that have created an atmosphere that will make you want to linger. Now all you have to do is…look for a partner!
For those bored of the normal sit down dinners, get a martini, hop on to a swing, and get yourself shaken and stirred at Juhu’s newly opened bar-Copa. The al fresco section of this place has wooden swings suspended by thick, white ropes – an ideal setting for a romantic meal.
Don’t miss the tiny pizza on a stick. The bite sized pizza pops are both cute and a yummy way to start the evening. The square shaped regular pizzas with liberal doses of cheese are great too. Other options include Old Monk and Coke Glaze Chilli Chicken, Tequila Prawns with Mango Jalapeno Glaze, Soft Shell Tacos and Beer Batter Fish – innovative ways to intoxicate your mate! The food at Copa is appealing in its straightforwardness. The chef clearly doesn’t hide behind too many props on the plate. He knows that prawns, lightly seasoned and roasted to a glossy turn, doesn’t need much more than greens sautéed with olive oil and shallots to make you feel glad to be there. The result is a tickled palate and a clean plate sent back to the kitchen.
The drinks are molecular-inspired. Woo her with magnificent Margarita foams or the delicate Cotton Candy Cocktail (the drink is poured over candy floss in a glass) and watch the drink explode in her awe-inspired mouth!
This is a restaurant that sweats the small stuff; even humble nariyal paani here is a treat so please don’t leave without trying it. At Copa you are tended to by some of the sweetest and smartest staff anywhere. It almost feels like you are eating in their home!
By the way Copa means a glass in Spanish.
Where: Anna Building,13th Road, Opposite Juhu Gymkhana, Next to Natural Ice-cream, Juhu, Mumbai – 400049. Tel: +91 9920055059, +91 9820667766
Meal for two: Rs 2000 with drinks
Nico, Kala Ghoda
Those who love vintage can head to Nico Bombay, a stylish new bistro at Kala Ghoda. Art deco chandeliers, large arched windows, antique lamps, wooden floors, decadent crockery – Nico juxtaposes the cheeriness of a friendly neighbourhood joint with the polish of a fine dine. With only 11 tables it’s both intimate and luxurious.
Grab a seat on one of the suede chairs and tune into the jazz music. When hunger strikes call for the flat breads from the wood-fired oven and the Mediterranean inspired Mezzes. The oregano flat bread comes decked up with rucola, clams and buffalo mozzarella. The asparagus and pea risotto carries generous bites of asparagus and parmesan foam. Almost every great performance includes a showstopper, a moment when the star delivers something exquisite. Order the pan-seared rock fish and you’ll probably agree that it’s the high point of the evening. The humble fish gets great company from the accompanying clams, Swiss chard and the thinly sliced lima beans. The dish transports you straight to the Mediterranean. The oven roasted ravioli is another star dish here. I dare you not to swoon when you spoon into the warm and gooey chocolate fondant that comes with strawberry granite. It’s the perfect way to end a fabulous night.
The 1920’s style bar brings back the good old bourbon in a new avatar. Like the Sinclair’s duck –infused with duck fat and served with a sliver of orange and sugar in the glass. The regular margarita is flecked with grilled lime.
Nico delivers a polished performance, coaxed from soft jazz, flickering table lamps, attentive servers and a kitchen that sends out quiet pleasures. Nothing is terribly complicated; much is rewarding.
Where: Nico Bombay 105, Mubarak Manzil, Bombay Stock Exchange, Bombay Samachar Marg & Apollo Street, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022-22624466.
Meal for two: Approx Rs 3,000 with drinks.
Skky, Ramada Hotel, Powai
Snag a table amidst water bodies with floating candles and watch the sun dip slowly behind the city’s architectural landmarks. It’s going to be one memorable dinner. Sitting atop Ramada Hotel in Powai, Mumbai, Skky oozes effortless chic with white sofas, wood flooring and numerous water bodies. Lounge music adds to the ambience as also dim lighting.
Skky serves up Pan Asian and Indian. The dim sums make a stellar impression. Shaped like half-moons, the packets are so thin you can see the chopped greens inside; each bite is also meaty with juicy ground chicken. Accompanied by a mix of sweet soy, sweet chilli, coriander, and burnt chilli dip, they make delectable starters. The dragon rolls break fresh ground, too. Dragon-shaped roll of tempura prawn fritters, yellow finned tuna and grilled eel, glazed with terriyaki, tobiko and Japanese mayonnaise is served with wasabi, pickled ginger and Kikkoman. Each mouthful is a salty, smoky joy. The other fare worth trying includes the Vegetable California Rolls. Asparagus, cucumbers and avocado is a staple in Japanese rolls, but nowhere has it been as appealing as here, where the sticky rice is joined by chilled cucumber and toasted sesame. Even the Tepanyaki Rice, flecked with chicken and veggies, stands out.
The wine list spans both Indian and international labels. The Passion Fruit Magarita and Watermelon & Basil Gramble are worthy indulgences. Make sure you end the meal with the hand-churned Green Tea ice creams The Chocolate Zaike Shahi (chocolate stuffed sweet dumplings topped with condensed milk) also makes for great endings.
Where: Ramada Hotel, Saki Vihar Road, Powai, Mumbai, Mumbai: 400 087. Tel: 022 6777 6000
Meal for two: Rs 3000 (with a drink each)
When a dish as ordinary-sounding as Coal fired eggplant compels you to ask for two tablespoons of leftovers to be packed for home, you know you’re on to something special. Perfectly char grilled, the eggplant picks up a deep charcoal flavour while the mirin and Japanese pepper excite the taste buds. Welcome to Mamagoto. The dishes take you to China, Thailand and Japan (and a few to Indonesia, Burma and Malaysia). A salad of rocket leaves, mango, onions, red chilli and soya infused balsamic dressing is just what you need on a cool February night. The banana leaf wrapped Sole fish, fragrant with red chillies and garlic paste, perfectly marries the green vegetables and sticky rice. Those who dislike decisions should head for the meals in a bowl options. Here your choice of meat or vegetables comes with noodles or sticky rice.
Liquid pleasures include a variety of fruit cocktails such as the Kiwi and mint Collins and the Bangkok G&T. The Chocolate mud cake with vanilla ice cream will have even those of you who don’t care for chocolate licking their spoons. The waiters, playful but never silly, describe the dishes as if they had created them themselves.
The décor is predictably Asian with tigers, pandas, dragons, and cherry blossoms popping out of the walls. There’s a cosy corner modelled like a jail house. It’s quite cute and cut off from the rest of the place. That’s where you should be!
Where: Mamagoto, 133, Ground Floor, Gazebo House, Hill Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai.
Meal for two: 2000 (inclusive of drinks)
Bungalow 9, Bandra
If you are tired of loud, spare urban dining rooms, Bungalow 9 is your refuge, your balm. Even though it’s right in the heart of Bandra, the place feels far, far away. Soft music and flickering table lamps foster a romantic air, while the high ceiling, tall mango and jackfruit laden trees add to the room’s intimacy. Located in one of cosiest lanes of Bandra, Bungalow 9 is captivating with its old world charm and serene ambience. It’s a comfort not to have to shout through dinner.
Ever since its launch in Dec 2010, Bungalow 9 has won hearts and stomachs with great versions of comfort food. The Korean Gochujang Chilli Soup pushes all the right hot buttons. However the sting of the chilli doesn’t mask the flavour of the vegetables. If you prefer less heat opt for the Spanish Tomato and bread soup with jalapeno cream. The Stuffed Chicken Wings in Spicy BBQ sauce makes your tongue to do somersaults and your fork to move to the accompanying cool salad. The Grilled Portobello Mushroom with Goat’s Cheese Crostini is another satisfying treat. Artisan brick wood-fire pizzas are a must at Bungalow 9.
The bar serves up a good selection of interesting cocktails, wines and spirits. Opt for the all time favourite – How High or the lip smacking Wild Bison Sling.
The handmade ice creams at Bungalow 9 make you want to maintain a moment’s silence, especially the Jack Daniel’s Whisky Cream. Bungalow 9 gets the Crème brulee pat on. The center is cool and silken, while the top is thin, crisp and properly torched. The staff moves through the room with the easy grace of dancers to a backdrop of classical music.
Bungalow 9 isn’t inexpensive. And so are all good things in life!
Where: 9, St. John Baptist Road, Bandra near Leelavati Hospital, Mumbai 400050. Tel: 9004904123 / 8097809999 / 02261179999
Meal for two: Rs 3000 (inclusive of drinks)
By Nivedita Jayaram Pawar
This story first appeared in BTW Magazine, January 2014 issue