It was the last night of my Indian adventure and my 4th night in Mumbai when I skipped through the street in search of my final feast. The sun was setting, casting a warm hue over the city’s most photographed panorama: the triumphant Gateway to India and luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Shades cast themselves across the facade as horse drawn carriages covered in flashy silver and crazed neon lights shot across the quiet calm of Colaba.
As I skipped along the sidewalk I reflected on each meal I’d indulged over the past fortnight. Memories filled with crispy kebab, plump paneer and spicy masala. I spent most of my evenings wining and dining at top restaurants where perfectly executed dishes paid homage to time tested recipes. I was adamant about switching things up on my final eve, keen to see where the hip kids hangout in India’s most populous and affluent city.
Colaba Social is located just behind the Taj and when I arrive can’t help but notice the room is filled fashion-forward 20-30 somethings. The space is inherently low key and cool, featuring exposed brick walls, industrial lighting, massive mirrors, plush upholstery, vintage chairs, a leather wrapped swing and central bar where spirit bottles dangle from the rafters.
The restaurant concept is hugely popular with locations popping up in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore in just under 12 months. I tell the Chef I feel as though I’m at a hipster bar in Portland or Chicago and he flashes me a quick smile. We sit at the back of the dining room and while I flip through his massive menu we chat about the evolution of India’s restaurant culture. He all but confirms the fact that the majority of Indians eat at home or off the street but the countries growing middle class are enthusiastic about traveling, exploring new experiences and eating something other than masala every night of the week.
Colaba Social focuses on the social, providing a perfect place for their young demo to enjoy art and photography exhibits, stand-up comedy acts and live DJ sets. It’s also a perfect spot for visitors to cozy up with friendly locals while watching the current cricket craze. India’s youth are all too happy to inform foreigners on the ins and outs of their national sport. One could certainly have a doozy of an evening sipping through the bartenders creative cocktail list which features whimsical offerings such as Deconstructed Moscow Mule, Red Bull spiked Electric Long Island Ice Tea and spicy ginger infused Mangorita.
It’s shortly after 6pm when I fumble through the menu, being sure to tell the Chef I have to be up at 3am to get to the airport for my 27 hour flight home, “so please don’t drink me under the table.” There are a few classic Indian dishes, many of which are reinterpreted and showcased on the plate in exciting new ways. But it’s those Jalapeño Cheese Nads (chopped jalapeño and cheese nuggets, battered, deep fried and served with sriracha dipping sauce) that have my eyes bulging.
I’m impressed when I scan the dessert menu to find a Banoffee Cronut, an unexpected surprise which I of course must order. The Chef prepares his own cronut from scratch every morning then layers the dessert with banana, peanut butter, toffee and whipped cream between each flaky slice before topping with a bright red cherry. I eat one excessively sweet scoop and blurt out, “this is proof that eating in India does not have to be limited to masala and chutney.” As I skipped home I reflected on the fact that my two favourite dishes that evening were clearly comfort foods from home, and perhaps this was the perfect moment to bid the land of Maharaja’s farewell. Until next time…
A Game of Sling
gin, cherry brandy, pineapple, lemon, soda
tequila, mango, mint, ginger
Deconstructed Moscow Mule
vodka, gingerale, bitters
Electric Long Island Iced Tea
vodka, gin, tequila, rum, triple sec, blue curacao, red bull
Chakhna “Bitings” Tiffin
muruku with schezwan, channa jor garam
Jalapeno Cheese Nads
jalapenos mixed with cheese deep fried, sriracha chunda for dipping
Pulled Tandoori Chicken Makhani Bao
tandoori chicken tossed in makhani gravy served with green apple chutney + salad
Goan Prawn Curry
coconut curry with steamed rice and shrimp crackers
Chili Chicken Black Pepper China Box
chicken with crush black pepper sauce, bird eye chilli, hakka noodles
The Banoffee Cronut
cronut slices layered with banana, peanut butter, toffee and whipped cream
Chocolate Blood Bath
chocolate cake, chocolate brownie, chocolate truffle, gooey chocolate fudge, chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, white and dark chocolate sauce, RIP cream with cherry on top