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Savour the bonhomie

Friday, December 28, 2018

For true Christmas and New Year camaraderie enjoy a festive meal at a community table in the heart of Bandra

If you are looking for some good, old-fashioned bonhomie this Christmas and New Year season, head over to The Bandra Project by Pizza Express, in the building that houses HSBC bank on Dr. Ambedkar Road at Pali Hill. On offer at their cheerful community tables (though if you want your own smaller table, you can have that as well) is a special Christmas Menu that is available till January 6. If we are lucky, they will continue on the permanent menu as well.

The festive set menu is curated by Chef Vicky Ratnani, who is Culinary Director at Gourmet Investment Pvt. Ltd. and the happy guy one sees on television cooking up fresh and fabulous delicacies. When this writer tried out the menu last week, Chef Ratnani personally made sure that all the guests were comfortable, and you could see he was also hard at work in the kitchen, and not merely supervising the team.

Bandra, heart of the Christmas festivities in Mumbai, is the ideal place to savour Sten Lex (Italian style roast chicken, Rs 995) and Whitewash (classic baked mac and cheese with truffle oil, Rs 825). Both belong to the Sharing Plates and offer a sense of familiar comfort. We are getting ahead of ourselves, however—these are not the dishes with which you begin a convivial evening.

Start off with the cold plates and the punch; it is the latter that will really make your evening. You have a choice of three huge bowls, all priced at Rs 2475 plus taxes, and each is designed to make six people very pleased indeed. Varun Sudhakar, head mixologist of The Project Series, says it is impossible to make the punch in smaller quantities because some of the ingredients for the entire mix are only required in very small amounts, so if you were to make it by the glass, you would need only two or three grams, which would be difficult.

The combinations are interesting; there’s Tropical Punch, with whiskey and homemade pineapple saccharum mixed with tropical fruits and tea. We discover a slice of banana in it, complete with peel, and Varun tells us that this suggests a hint of vanilla. “Try it in milkshake,” he says. By then, we are high enough to believe him! The other drinks on offer are the Harvest Punch, a vodka, sparkling wine and vermouth mixed with cinnamon; and the Water Powl Punch, which was our favourite—a refreshing concoction of apple, elderflower and gin.

Combine these delights with Cold Plates such as Vanishing Beirut (Rs 375)—sumac, chickpeas, baby eggplant, roasted pumpkin, zucchini, dates, crisp okra, in a mint-cumin dressing served with mini falafel and pita croutons. Or try Colour Chaat (Rs 375), which is a hearty blend of twice cooked purple sweet potato, kidney beans, baby corns, olives, grilled pineapple, blue cheese and onions in a chaat masala vinaigrette. If you prefer something even more exotic, opt for Disruption (Rs 425), which has a variety of warm garlic mushrooms, avocado espuma, roast tomatoes and baby mozzarella. The honey-mustard dressing adds a sweet and tangy kick.

There are several Small Plates, Flatbreads, Pasta and Risotto choices. Run your eye over the Small Plates section and you will find Green Graffiti (Rs 475), with wasabi, edamame and green pea hummus with sourdough toastinis; Truffle Spray (Rs 475), aged parmesan truffle fries with black pepper-passata mayonnaise; Brushstroke (Rs 795), which is always a favourite because it is butter-brushed garlic prawns with olive tapenade and crisp baguette.The Artwork (Rs 795) was superb—melt-in-the-mouth Lamb T-bone chops with grilled zucchini, roasted bell peppers and mint-chilli butter. Another great choice was Out of Koreatown (Rs 475), grilled chicken bites with ginger lemon glaze, shaved carrots and baby bak choy.

There are three flatbreads to choose from, the Wild Style (Rs 325) with wild mushrooms and emilgrana (which we learn is a kind of hard cheese from Italy); A Mural to Chicken (Rs 325), which is clay-roasted with green chilli and coriander pesto and Splotches of Red (Rs 375), which is a pepperoni flatbread. If you still have room, opt for the pastas and risottos, which other people at the table tried and raved about.

Definitely leave room for dessert; the Banksy (Rs 425), which is a slice of gooey and delicious banoffee; the Masterpiece (Rs 395), a traditional Christmas cake and Bitter Truth (Rs 375), which is a bitter chocolate tart that was our absolute favourite and would have been even nicer with some vanilla ice-cream. It’s unlikely you will be able to finish any of these by yourself, so it is just as well you are at a community table, because, after all, sharing is what Christmas and New Year are all about!

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