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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)