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Friday, March 30, 2018

Food Review: Neel

It isn’t modern. It isn’t out of the box. But it is new, and it is downright delicious! Aakriti Patni drops by the newly opened Neel to dine like the royals did

Bringing back the simple, the authentic and the traditional food of our land to our plates and palates is Indian kitchen and bar, Neel. Taking its diners on a culinary journey across the broad landscapes of North India, Neel represents ethnicity at its best, as it celebrates the true flavours of North Indian, Punjabi and Mughlai cuisine.

Having established a foothold in various spots across the city, Neel ventures independently into the modern world, with a simple school of thought — ethnicity and deliciousness — as it opens its first standalone restaurant in the oldest business district of South Mumbai.

So, on a hungry Tuesday evening, my dining companion and I landed up on its doorstep with empty stomachs and a craving for traditional North Indian food.

Neel, which symbolises the deep blue colour of the sea, is an eclectic blend of traditional and contemporary artisanal elements that complement the restaurant’s philosophy. Subtle hues of grey and gold blend seamlessly with deep blue, while the block printing patterns and geometric bison board panels lend an ethnic feel. Seated comfortably by the window, we gazed out at the slow crawl of people that dominated the mall.

A restaurant that honours authentic flavours from the streets of the north, we knew we would be presented with an endless supply of kebabs and tandoori appetisers. And, thankfully we were proven right. While we began with a refreshing glass of thick Sweet Lassi (Rs 325), which would make any Punjabi proud, we were also served the Peshawari Paneer Tikka (Rs 385), Asparagus Ki Gilawati (Rs 495) and Nadru Ki Shami (Rs 385).

Effervescent of the traditional Punjabi dish, and marinated in a delicious mix of spices, the tandoor-cooked cottage cheese melted in our mouths. A contemporary and vegetarian twist on the authentic Awadhi galouti kebab, the Asparagus Ki Gilawati was soft and spicy with hints of the earthy vegetable. The Nadru Ki Shami, too, was a winner, the coarse and crisp lotus stem balanced by the chewiness of the Bengal gram.

Stuffed though we were (and so early in the night!), we bravely sampled the Matar Malai Ki Tikki (Rs 315) and Alleppey Aloo (Rs 285). While neither can be faulted, unlike the previous appetisers they were not winners that night.

We may have been bursting at the seams, but that didn’t stop us from indulging in delectable mains. However, we were left disappointed with the Khatta Meetha Baingtan (Rs 345) because it was far too oily. However, we did savour the spices that were added into the dish. And, while the simple Paneer Methi Makhani (Rs 425) was delicious, it left us wanting. However, it was the Uttari Lahsooni Saag (Rs 315) and Kabul Ki Dal (Rs 245) that won our hearts! We paired our sabzis and dal with the crispy Nawabi Ulte Tawe Ke Parathe (Rs 70), Mughlai Khameeri Roti (Rs 70), which had the perfect sour zing to it, and Steamed Rice (Rs 185).

Unfortunately, the Angoori Rabdi (Rs 165) and Kesari Rasmalai (Rs 165) were disappointments, and left us regretting our choice! With restaurants staying away from authentic and ethnic dishes due to modern cooking, it warmed our hearts to note that Neel is a delightful exception to this rule!

Where: Level 1, CR2 Mall, Nariman Point
Meal for two: Rs 2,100
Alcohol served: Yes (a pint of beer from Rs 195 onwards)
Contact: 66664013

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