Marine Drive is Mumbai’s seaside promenade, an eight-lane highway built in the 1920s on reclaimed land. The whole 3km stretch – still often referred to by locals as the Queen’s Necklace after the row of lights that illuminates its spectacular curve at night – is a favourite place to stroll; the boardwalk next to the sea has uninterrupted views virtually the whole way along.
I’ve come here to enjoy a stroll being sure to arrive just before sunset so I can join the throngs of local couples and gaggles of friends who plop themselves by the oceans edge each evening to enjoy the city’s most stellar view. After soaking up the crimson splashed hue which hung over the horizon I skipped into the lobby of The Oberoi Mumbai, one of the city’s most opulent extravagances.
I spent my first hour lounging at the hotel’s Eau Bar which offers postcard perfect views of Marine Drive as it swoops across Back Bay. My bartender introduces himself as Neeraj and I press him to know its meaning. He chirps, “my parents named me lotus flower,” as he prepared his favourite drink aptly titled Bombay 75, a muddling of Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon, simple syrup and champagne. An older gent hops up at the bar beside me and introduces himself as the head of The Soft Rock Revolution, the jazz band which has been performing at Eau Bar for the last 43 years. Moments later I’m whisked away, tip toeing up the hotel’s central sweeping staircase for a fine feast.
The Oberoi Mumbai’s signature restaurant, Ziya means “splendour and light” in sanskrit and offers a playful menu designed by 2 Michelin Star Chef Vineet Bhatia. I wander through the dining room, waving at the cooks who tend the tandoori ovens via glass lined kitchen before plopping into my seat by a booth which overlooks a jaw dropping Mumbai at twilight. Chef Bhatia was born and raised in Mumbai, receiving his Michelin stars in London UK via his acclaimed Rasoi kitchen which made him the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star in the guides 100 year history.
Dinning at Ziya is perhaps the most extravagant edible experience one can enjoy in Mumbai. My table setting is adorned with golden cutlery, staff are top notch attentive and the dishes here offer a rare experience for culinary tourists: a thoughtful spin on Indian classics using elevated French technique. After spending two weeks eating my way around India my visit to Ziya is also the first encounter with an India menu that thoughtfully pairs each dish with stellar wines. The menu immediately has me taking note, “Chef Vineet Bhatia’s food is made to be enjoyed alongside the fruits of bacchus.”
It seems I’m almost being forced into a bacchanal as moments after I peel open my menu a bottle of Brut Mumm champagne is slowly pouring into the flute beside me. A collection of crisp papadam are placed on a silver tray alongside a chutney trilogy (mint, beet, ginger chili), offering an unexpected yet awesome pairing with bubbly.
Over the course of the next two hours I feasted through a parade of plates, each perfectly paired with a glass of vino from France, Germany, Italy and beyond. Dilli Chaat arrived as almond crusted tikki, chickpea masala, sweetened yoghurt, tamarind chutney sorbet, dahi bhalla and bhalla ice cream. An aesthetically stunning albeit unusual reinterpretation and deconstruction of the city’s favourite street food. The kitchen’s signature dish, the Black Gold Chicken features an ornate gold leaf adorned chicken breast which has slowly marinated in squid ink, served atop saffron almond chutney, chickpea pulao, punjabi kadhi and decorated with a lone fennel straw.
As a serious sampling fan I was most excited to pick my way through a selection of naan (saffron sesame, woodsy mushroom, pistachio) while dipping through three ramekin bowls which stared up at me begging for a dipping. Jardaloo Kofte’s potato apricot dumplings swam in onion-cashew gravy, Tadka Dahi offered a thick yogurt tempered with spices and Nariyal-Mirch Jhinga a sweet taste of Goa via coastal prawns infused with kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass.
The hour was now 10pm and after sipping through endless glasses of wine I was more than happy to gaily welcome a massive trophy of chocolate inspired sweets, Ziya’s Choco Block. The cocoa inspired sweets are best shared at the table but if on the solo like myself are easily devoured after taking a few deep breaths and a sip of [e] craft rum. I picked up a petite silver spoon, whispering my way through marbled chocolate samosa, caramelized nutty delice, jaggery-pecan kheer and chocolate paan cola before waddling down the stairs in search of home sweet home.
almond crusted tikki, chickpea masala, sweetened yoghurt, tamarind chutney sorbet, dahi bhalla, bhalla ice cream
beetroot galauti (beetroot raita) mushroom galauti (makhni shrikhand) spinach galauti (chenna chutney)
tawa paneer sandwich, onion fritter, bombay pav bhaji masala
flaky ‘potli’ bag of pickled vegetables, rajma rice, punjab kadhi sauce
Black Gold Chicken
gold chicken breast in squid ink marinade, saffron almond chutney, chickpea pulao, punjabi kadhi, fennel straw
potato-apricot dumplings in onion-cashew gravy
yoghurt tempered with spices
coastal style prawns infused with kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and coconut
Peshawari, Saffron Sesame, Wild Mushroom Naan
Ziya Choco Block
warm marbled chocolate samosa, caramelized nutty chocolate delice, jaggery-pecan chocolate kheer, chocolate espresso lolly, chocolate pista chenna papdi, chocolate paan cola