Spanish Street Food Festival at Long and Short – The Gastrobar

Beunos Dias. A visit to Spain remains on my bucket list, purely because I want to sit back on the beaches of Ibiza, glass of sangria in hand and a plate of tapas in another. Having never been to the country my knowledge of Spanish cuisine is limited to a couple of dishes I’ve tried and enjoyed in restaurants across the country. I recently dined at Long and Short which is the gastrobar situated inside Intercontinental Hotel, Nariman Point, and was looking forward to trying out their Spanish Street Food Festival menu they had on offer and expanding my Spanish cuisine knowledge base. 

Situated on the first floor of the hotel, Long and Short is like the younger, more sober sister of ‘The Dome’, everyone’s favorite roof-top party place in the city. The restaurant cum bar tries to entice both the diner and the drinker with an exhaustive food and innovative, well-priced drink menu. This was evident in the crowd that night, which ranged from drunken adolescents on a night out, to sober families out for birthday dinners. The decor is made up of huge sofas that you’ll never get out of, dim lampshades to assorted  souvenirs and knick-knacks on the walls. I loved the outside balcony seating which would make for the most romantic setting on a winter date night. 

Vintage Dabbas, Kettles, and Memories
Cycle Rickshaws with a View of the Bar

I would like to thank the Spaniards for one of their greatest contributions to mankind- The Sangria. One would think, wine is perfect. There’s nothing that can make it better. And then they added fruit. Voila! It’s no surprise that the festival menu had sangria as one of the cocktail options. I decided to go the unconventional route and try spirits I’ve never had. The first one of the night was the ‘Queimada’, made with grappa, lime, orange and topped with Spanish coffee was an enjoyable coffee based cocktail with a perfect booze-to-coffee ratio. The ‘Bull by the Horn’, made with tequila, rum, cranberry, lime and Red Bull fell pale in comparison because of a synthetic, cough-syrup tasting cranberry juice. 

Bull by the Horn

The Aqua de Valencia (Water of Valencia) had gin, orange, sparkling wine, vodka and was strong on the alcohol and taste. I love sparkling wine cocktails and this one was fizzy and fun! We also sampled a Beer Michelada  – beer, tobasco, Worcestershire, lime – a spicy, Mexican preparation. This isn’t for the faint hearted, and it’s a spicy twist to a regular lager, something that can be easily tried at home. Overall, the cocktail spread priced at Rs.650/- plus taxes each, was an innovative twist to regular cocktails. I’m glad I skipped the conventional sangrias and tried something new off the menu. Salud!

Aqua de Valencia

We paired all this booze with the one word Spanish food is most commonly associated with – Tapas! Tapas literally means ‘to cover’ in Spanish, and comprises snacks or appetizers typically had over drinks. The list of tapas are endless in Spanish cuisine, but some of the favorites were on the menu. The entire menu was created by Executive Chef of Long and Short Gastrobar – Chef Kayzad Sadri. First up we had the ‘Gambas al Ajilio’ which translates into prawns with garlic oil. Succulent prawns were flavored in simple garlic oil with chili and made for a lovely bar snack. 

Gambas al Ajilio

Spanish cuisine is known for its cured meats and one such popular dish is the spicy, pork sausage – The Chorizo. This meat is now being featured on most menus, in rice, on pizzas, in pasta. But it owes its origin to Spanish cuisine. The ‘Chorizo al vino’ has thick, chewy pieces of the meat sitting atop a baguette. The meat was a bit overcooked, but I loved the spicy wine sauce it was enveloped in. The ‘Albonigas con Tomate’ were soft lamb dumplings in a tomato sauce akin to meatballs and Bolognese.

Chorizo al Vino
Albonigas con Tomate

The ‘Spanish Cheese and Tomato Pie’ looked nothing like a pie, and more like a thin crust pizza. It was a thin crust topped with tomatoes and cheese, and was pretty lackluster. While doing a background check on Spanish food before writing this I came upon an interesting article that spoke about the Top 10 Spanish foods. And surprisingly, croquettes were on there. I had no idea this dish I so frequently gobbled up as a child, has a Spanish origin. They were then brought to India by the Spanish and Portugese invaders, and given an Anglo Indian twist. We tried the ‘Corn and Cheese Croquettes’ here. I loved the fact that the corn was made into a paste and added into the covering of the croquettes. You could taste the corn without actually biting into it.

Spanish Cheese and Tomato Pie
Corn and Cheese Croquettes

My favorite dish of the night was an unlikely suspect – Pan con Tomate – basically herbed tomato paste and garlic on crusty bread. Think of a tomato based garlic bread. Such a simple, heart dish this was! While listing tapas, ‘Patatas Bravas’ makes the fore front. This popular dish of baby potatoes in a sauce of paprika, tomato and cheese ended the round up of tapas for the night. The recurrent theme in everything we ate was tomato and cheese with a carbohydrate of your choice.

Pan con Tomate
Patatas Bravas

With barely enough stomach space left for the mains, we decided to take a break and opt for a salad. The ‘Ensalada Mixta’ was a basic mixed greens salad with cherry tomatoes and olives in a wine vinaigrette. Pretty average fare. The ‘Pollito de corral’ were two pieces of succulent roast chicken breast, in a pan jus. This came accompanied with the most fragrant pine-nut rice. The rice was so delicious, and we gobbled it up just as it was. This was a stellar dish, my only grouse was that it needed a bit more of the jus since the chicken tended to get a tad bit dry.

Rounding up this extensive meal were some delicious desserts. The ‘Pina Brava’ was a smooth coconut and pineapple mousse accompanied with a spicy berry sauce. This is an ideal dessert for those who like to keep it light and want to go the non-chocolate route. Tropical flavours which reminded me of a dessert version of the Pina Colada. The ‘Souffle de Chocolate’ made with dark chocolate had a nice, gooey center and went well paired with the vanilla ice cream and biscuit crumble.

Pina Brava
Souffle de Chocolate

The Spanish Food Festival definitely had a lot of hits and very few misses. There were a couple of dishes I ate on the menu that I’d definitely go back for. I was surprised by the absence of Paella, Gazpacho, and Churros which are my Spanish food favorites, but I guess they wanted to go the unconventional route. Long and Short – The Gastrobar, has immense potential to leave a mark as a retrobar in the city with moderately expensive food and drinks, lovely ambiance and good service to match. Adiós!

Long and Short – The Gastrobar, Intercontinental, Marine Drive, Churchgate, Mumbai.

(The author was invited to review and experience the Spanish Street Food Festival which was on from the 17th-26th of October)

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From Melbourne to MasterChef to Mumbai – Sarah Todd

Masterchef  Australia has played a major role in opening up the common man’s eyes to gourmet food and fine-dining. Now into its sixth season, it has given so many home cooks a chance to become professional chefs, and we have all seen many such individuals metamorphose into professionals. One such contestant I keenly remember and watched out for in the sixth season was model turned chef, Sarah Todd.

Apart from being the prettiest and most soft spoken contestant, I looked out for her because of her Indian connect. This is because Sarah’s long time partner is of Indian Punjabi origin. Sarah was on a recent visit to India; touring Delhi, Goa and Mumbai, exploring the food scene in each city. I was recently invited along with other bloggers to not only meet her but also get to try out some of her signature appetizers paired with cocktails at the happening China House Lounge, Grand Hyatt, Mumbai.

Sarah demonstrated three appetizers, and chatted with us throughout the cooking session. It is her first trip to the country, but she has been oriented to Indian food by her partner’s family. She also spoke about her visit to Delhi and how she had meals at the iconic Kareem’s and the posh Indian Accent, both on the same day, both very different, but equally good. Sarah was shocked at the popularity of MasterChef in India, and how she’s been asked to click selfies by fans of the show everywhere she goes, even at the airport.

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Biryani Takes a 360 Degree Turn

I’ve eaten a lot of Biryani. And I can safely say that no two Biryanis that you’ll eat from different homes or different restaurants will be the same. Each Biryani comes with its own set of ingredients and spices, that have been mastered over a course of time, after careful trial and error in the kitchen. In fact, my granny does a Parsi Biryani too, even though so many people say there’s nothing like a Parsi Biryani, my granny and I will beg to differ. I really like the India Map below which depicts the Biryani trail, and is the perfect example of how this dish got hybridized everywhere it traveled.

(Image Courtesy: Sterling Holidays)

And then there came Biryani360- unlike any other Biryani I’d eaten before. I was introduced to Biryani360 and the concept by the PetPujaris group, as a part of their month-end ‘Kadka’. (More about the group on their Facebook page here.) We were all huddled up at Biryani360’s CEO, owner and passionate Biryani lover Shayan Italia’s home on one sunny Sunday afternoon to hear about his labour of love. I wasn’t aware of Biryani360 at that time, and I refrained from reading up any online reviews, so I went there with a blank slate and an hungry stomach. 

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Malwani Magic and Konkani Swaad

Maharashtra is blessed with the Konkan belt- a sea strip that provides us with just the most picturesque locations and a large variety of sea food. Malwani food is the cuisine that emerges from this Konkan belt in Maharashtra and Goa, which is predominantly non-vegetarian and fish-centric, with a liberal use of coconut, kokum, tamarind, and spices. Malwani food is not for the faint-hearted, it can be quite spicy!

I was recently invited to Pondicherry Cafe, Sofitel, BKC to sample their on-going Malwani food festival. Pondicherry Cafe is the hotel’s 24-hour buffet restaurant, and I love that they jazz up their regular buffets by having occasional food festivals. I previously attended their Vietnamese food fest (read about it here), among other food festivals that I’ve seen happening there frequently. I spent a wonderful evening dining there, and enjoying the Konkan fare on offer. Here are my top 5 reasons to dine at the Malwan food festival:

1. Ghar Ka Khana: 

The first thing that struck me, when I walked around the buffet spread was now simple and homely the food looked. It was exactly like something you’d eat at a Maharashtrian friend or neighbour’s home. There was Phodniche Varan-Bhaat which is a traditional Maharashtrian dal-rice combination, a staple food at most homes. Then came Bajri Chi Bhakri- a small roti made with Bajra and topped with desi ghee. At one point my plate was filled with rice, dal, bhakri, achar, mutton, and it resembled something that would’ve been eaten in a rural home in a village in Maharashtra. There was Besan ke laddoo for dessert, though I would’ve liked to have something a bit more complex. Nevertheless, homely food made with the heart!

Bhakri Counter
Konkan on my Plate
2. Ghar Ke Cooks: 

The most exciting part of my entire experience was getting to meet housewives Mrs. Prathishta Armarkar and Mrs. Praja Patil – the Malwani cuisine specialists. They’re both home chefs, and ocassionally cater Malwan cuisine from their homes. The entire week long festivities have menus designed by them and food cooked by them along with the restaurant’s chef Vividh Patil. That explains why the entire feel and taste of the food was so homely- because, housewives and mothers were the chefs here! I applaud Sofitel for giving them an opportunity to showcase their talent and give them the experience of working in a high end kitchen.

(Left to Right) Mrs Patil, Chef Vividh Patil, Mrs Armarkar
3. Malwan Mood: 

The entire restaurant had a Konkan feel to it, with the staff dressed in traditional saris and kurtas to the serving containers for the buffet. I loved the earthen pots the food was served in. I also loved the traditional ‘bannis’ in which the pickles were served. There was a large variety of pickles on offer, most of which were home-made. I enjoyed the tart, and spicy chicken pickle the most.

What a Pickle!
4. Meat Lover’s Haven: 

Malwani food is known for its fish and meat based dishes. The food fest had some spicy and well made Mutton Sukka that fell right off the bone. The Modakachi Kadi- Indian silver sardines simmered in a coconut gravy- was a traditional fish curry with a strong, spicy taste. The Chicken Sagoti which demonstrated the Goan-Malwan influence was a well seasoned, thick gravy that went well with bhakris. I then ate some delicious Surmai Fry that came hot off the pan onto my table. The only damp squib was the Jinga Biryani- bland and lacklustre.

Modaka Chi Kadi
Chicken Sagoti
Surmai Fry
5. The Veg Attempt: 

I was extremely curious to see what the vegetarian food on offer would be, if there was any vegetarian food to offer. My friend accompanying me was a vegetarian, and she really did enjoy all that she ate. Right from the Varan- Bhaat to the vegetable dishes such as Gobhi Vatana and Vala Chi Bhaji which all had coconut and typical Malwan masala in them. She did not care for the Lal Math (Red Spinach) and Tondli Chana Sabzi (Tendli and Chana Dal), and neither would I if I was given tendli to eat in a buffet.

Vala Chi Bhaji
Tondli Chana Chi Bhaji
Lal Math
Gobi Vatana

The only vegetarian dish of the night that I tried and enjoyed, was the Neer Fansache Kaap or jackfruit fritters. (Can you blame me with all the meat options out there?) I usually steer clear of jackfruit because of its pungent smell, and haven’t really eaten much of the fruit. This dish I enjoyed- thin slices of the fruit, coated, seasoned, deep fried, and topped with spices. An absolute winner of a dish!

Neer Fansache Kaap
Budget Bites: 

The buffet is priced at Rs. 2100 + tax and also includes some Oriental and Mughlai spread along with the Malwan food. I found it a bit on the pricier side since the food is extremely homely and simple, and there may be many other places in the city where you’d get a meal such for a lesser price. Especially true if you’re a vegetarian. It’s a good idea for those who want to enjoy such food in a five-star ambiance and also want other fall-back options in the buffet. I noticed a couple of expats there that night, adventurously trying the Malwan food out, and I felt proud. Jai Maharashtra! Jai Hind!

Sofitel Hotel,
C 57, Bandra Kurla Complex,
Bandra East, Mumbai.

Malwani Food Festival is on from the 11th to the 20th of October.

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Barbeque Nation ‘Grills the World’

I remember saving up my pocket money in school to dine at the newly opened Barbeque Nation in Bandra, just minutes away from my home. The concept of a live grill on your table and an all-you-can-eat buffet enthralled me back then. Subsequently, many family dinners and birthdays were celebrated at the same venue. Sadly, the Bandra outlet of one of the city’s most successful buffet options recently shut shop. I hadn’t visited the restaurant in years, due to an influx of many other restaurants around that area, and I was sad that I couldn’t eat my last meal there before they closed. Around the very same time Harsh aka MumbaiFoodLover invited me to go try the Barbeque Nation outlet in Atria Mall, Worli with him one night, and I jumped!

The occasion was the arrival of UK’s Curry King- Pat Chapman to the city and the introduction of 14 new barbeque marinades for the grills. The marinades incorporate distinct flavours around the world, and are supposed to take you on a world tour through your plate. I googled Pat Chapman while doing research for this article and I was pleasantly surprised. He is a chef of English origin who is known world over as the ‘Curry King’ because of his profound knowledge and expertise in Indian food. 

Atria Mall bore a deserted look that night, but Barbeque Nation tucked away in a little corner of the mall was buzzing. The entire restaurant was done up in flags of different countries giving it a festive feel.  I was thrilled to see them open up the grill on my table, and it brought back a flood of memories.  We started off with Worcestershire Mushrooms, flavoured with the traditional English sauce.

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