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Arty Affair

Friday, June 20, 2014

A space that already dons several hats, Artisan at Sofitel is back in a brand new avatar. Rhea Dhanbhoora finds out whether it’s snooty or delightfully luxurious Si Jolie

If our knowledge of French extended beyond stock phrases, my dining companion and I would have had a little more to say about the pretty, French-inspired décor that was interspersed through the recently revamped Artisan. With French windows letting you bask in the sun (the air-conditioned interiors will keep the sweat away, don’t worry) and high-backed armchairs allowing you to enjoy a lazy sunset, everything about the Épicerie, Pâtisserie, Chocolaterie, Boulangerie and Charcuterie (including the French community table), spells chic. What’s more impressive than the French theme (that any other restaurant could pull off with ease), are the grills, woven through and around the restaurant, lending it a decidedly Indian vibe. You could argue about which is the dominant culture in the décor (Is it French? Is it Indian? Is it Indo-French? You decide!), the intricate paintings adorning the walls and distinctive cutlery at each table make one thing clear — this is not a restaurant for those who are uncomfortable with luxury. If it wasn’t for the music in the background, we would have been obliged to speak in hushed tones through the night to preserve Artisan’s allure. The outdoor seating is perfect for cooler evenings, where you can dine under the stars.

To their own tune
Speaking of music, an important aspect of the revamped Artisan is the live music. From jazz and blues to sounds catering to different moods (according to a theme), from 7pm onwards, the music at Artisan enhances the experience. The lighting and ambiance add to the overall tone, so it’s safe to say that we were looking forward to seeing what else was on offer.

Chai time
Well, not literally. One of the best drinks on the menu is the Chai Tapri. At `800 a glass, it had to be worth its weight in gold and lo and behold — it was! Even if you hate vodka, the citrus twang infused with masala chai and garnished with fresh mint will leave you licking your lips. If fruit infusions rock your boat, pick Grass. Also priced at `800, the mixture of vodka, curry leaves, fresh pears and lychee juice is a startling combination. The classic Mai Tai (`800) doesn’t disappoint either, but I’d rather pick from the first two. We were also served a special pineapple and orange concoction made by the bartender. Asking for recommendations and specials at Artisan will work wonders for you.

Let’s get it started
If you think paying `350 for a bowl of peanuts is a bit much, you haven’t tried Artisan’s Deconstructed Peanut Masala. The artisan style appetiser is mixture of a delicious potato patty, peanuts and spices. Our favourites from their small tapas menu included the succulent Nalli Nihari Pizza (`500), which needed a more generous helping of meat. The Albondigas (`450) too are a must-try. For the uninitiated, these are beef dumplings dunked in tomato gravy. We were delighted with this dish because the tomato gravy was tangy, did not resemble ketchup in terms of taste or consistency and seeped into the tender beef dumplings perfectly. The Pan Fried Scallops (`650) however, were the star of the meal. They’re not affordably priced and you’ll have to fight with your dining companion to get the last bite — but the good thing is that they are worth the fight. While I avoided most of the chilli jam, the green pea purée was delicious and the micro greens added a delightful crunch to the smooth scallops. We were licking our lips right until dessert arrived.

À la macaron
Speaking of dessert — it was only apt to finish our meal with a tasty Artisan macaron. A flavour apiece, we were satiated. Although the macarons were not the best we’ve ever had, they added the only other bit of French flavour to the meal after the décor, which was much appreciated.

The bottom line is that although Artisan is not a one-of-a-kind restaurant, the food is tasty and the ambiance certainity adds to the experience. We’re going to go back to see what a luncheon by the French windows is like.

Where Artisan, Sofitel Hotel, C/57, Block G, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (E)
Meal for two `1,500 (without alcohol)
Alcohol served Yes (pint of beer approximately `370 onwards)
Contact www.sofitel.com

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