Taking Mumbai's Bandra Worli Sea Link to Paris... Slink & Bardot Restaurant.

Creme brûlée at Slink & Bardot. Anniversary dessert 
  • It was our anniversary last Sunday
  • We treated ourselves to some spa time that day
  • Then stopped at Salt Water Cafe for lunch and I had a burger there
  • Dinner was at Slink & Bardot, the new French restaurant in town, and the second half of this post is about how we found the place to be 

Spa Sixteenth - Kaya Kalp at the ITC Maratha

It was our 16th wedding anniversary last Sunday. Knowing of our penchant for staycations, some of our friends wanted to know about which city hotel had we checked into for the anniversary.

The answer was 'none' actually. Well, we have just shifted houses and decided that staying in the new place for a day without the company of carpenters, electricians and plumbers might not be a bad idea. Incidentally, do you know of anyone who has done interior work done at home and whose work has happened as per schedule? I am yet to come across any such person. 

Coming back to the anniversary, now you know why we decided to stay home and not do a staycation. Plus it made sense to save the money for fixing something in the house instead and new things do keep popping up. For whatever it is worth, the anniversary morning did start with a plumber and a senior contractor giving us company while they fixed some stuff. Best laid plans of men and mice as they say.

We did pamper ourselves a bit though the day though. We decided to go in for some spa therapy and booked ourselves into the Kaya Kalp at the ITC Maratha Hotel for a luxurious and de-stressing and much needed aromatherapy massage. The fact that K and I both love massages and spas made this an easy decision to make and well, the day did call for some five star luxury love. 

The couples room at the Kaya Kalp at the ITC. Unlike in some other
5 star spas, this is fairly self contained room and you don't need to go to
the general area later to shower and change thankfully

Love me tender(loin) #Sorry - Salt Water Cafe

We stopped at the Salt Water Cafe at Bandra for a late lunch on the way back home. We did first go to a new restaurant located opposite it though but the loud music there and empty tables scared me off and I felt that we should go for the tried and tested and I was right.

After a hot and hearty, soar throat appropriate mushroom soup, came the tenderloin burger that I had ordered. 'Tenderloin, in Mumbai menus, is a euphemism for beef. By 'beef' I mean water buffalo as beef is banned here.

I have two problems with most of the tenderloin burgers that I have had in Mumbai. One is that the patty can sometimes be too much for one person to finish. Indigo Deli's is an example of this. The other, bigger problem, is that the patty is almost always served overcooked and dry. Even when I ask for it to be done medium rare. This happened most recently at Kettle & Keg where the chef had taken the order and yet the patty in the burger that I got was more than well done. 

At Salt Water though, the maitre d promised that it will not be so and that the patty won't be dried out. Well, it was still served more medium than rare but at least the patty was juicier than most others that I have had in town. The patty at SWC was not humungous either and one could finish it by oneself. It had a mild garam masala flavour to it. 'House spices', I was told when I asked. The other good thing about the burger was that the while there was blue cheese in the burger, it enhanced the flavour and didn't overwhelm it. Blue cheese has a very very strong flavour of course. It takes a good chef to get the balance right, as they had at SWC that afternoon. I've had burgers rendered near inedible at places such as Kettle & Keg in Khar and the Social at Palladium by the unrestrained use of blue cheese. 

When it comes to the patty, I guess the use of buffalo meat, which is leaner than beef, constrains our chefs. Getting a good burger here is like expecting Boris Becker to win the French open. Talking of France, I have had mind-blowing burgers at Montmartre in Paris and at Nase Maso, a butcher's shop, at Prague....and yes, the patties were done medium rare there. Funnily enough, one place that did a decent tenderloin burger in Mumbai was Grandmama's cafe at Dadar. There, the waiter hadn't even asked me how I wanted the patty done. I told him so proactively and the chef took ages to make it, but landed a winner when he sent it to us.

Buffalo bill

The first time that I had come across the term 'water buffalo' was at Cafe Lila in Goa in 2008. They had mentioned 'water buffalo ham' bagel in the menu and I ordered it thinking that it would be something exotic. Back then I didn't know that what was served as 'beef' in Mumbai was water buffalo meat. All this became clearer when the beef ban issue erupted a couple of years back. That's when one realised why the 'beef' steaks in Mumbai, or burgers for that matter, are never upto international standards. This is because water buffalo meat is leaner than beef (cow meat) and lacks marbling (fat). Secondly, most of the water buffalo meat that one gets in India is of aged buffalo and therefore not too tender. Which is why I prefer pork to beef in general in India, provided the pork is from a good farm.

The tenderloin burger at Salt water Cafe.
 K had a scrambled egg for her anniversary lunch
Montmartre memories rekindled - Slink&Bardot

Neither of these buffalo fallacies, surprisingly enough, came in the way of our enjoying our meal that night as you will see a bit later in this post. 

We thought of trying out the reasonably new French restaurant in Mumbai, Slink & Bardot, for our anniversary. Two of my friends, Soumik Sen and Arijit Burman, had earlier profusely praised Slink & Bardot on Facebook and I had that in mind while choosing the restaurant. These are guys I eat with and whose I met thanks to my blog and whose judgements I trust. 

The restaurant is located in a small place called the Thadani House at the Worli end of the Bandra Worli Sea Link, down a narrow lane leading into the fishing village and is opposite the Indian Coast Guard complex. It has replaced some Cafe Nemo that was in the same premises earlier. Don't let the words 'fishing village' fill your head with any romantic notions. The Worli village makes its presence felt primarily through the stench of dried fish that assails your senses when you get off your car or cab outside the restaurant in the very narrow lane which is quite difficult for a car to navigate (they have valet parking of course). 

Once you step into the restaurant however, it is as if you are transported to a quaint Paris bistro. The restaurant is open only at night and reaching it from Bandra took very little time at that late hour. The place is divided into 3 or 4 sections and, if I remember right, housed a Sindhi refugee camp once upon a time (I had gone to a tasting at Nemo and had learnt it there). The lighting is dim inside. Not food photography friendly. As we found out later, this didn't matter as the food that night was nonpareil. The dominant colour theme was pastel olive green which exuded a warm and cosy feel. 

The section next to us

The bar

We sat at the end opposite to them

The service at Slink & Bardot was quite up the mark. The waitstaff as well as the managers were good at answering any questions that we put to them on the food. One of the waitstaff framed a lovely pic of the two of us too and that's a necessary skill today!

Our wedding dinner sixteen years back rwas at Gallops by the way
Which does old school French food. Slink & Bardot is a more
contemporary avatar

A French gentleman came up to us once we settled down at our table. Turned out that he was the chef and and co-owner, Alexei Gielbaum (I googled the name later as this was an anonymous visit) who is originally from Paris and who got excited to hear that we were at Paris ourselves last year and that we had eaten our way through a lovely holiday in his city. We placed our orders after he consulted us on our food preferences. As we tend to do, we skipped the alcohol and focused our spends on the food. At the end of the meal, we felt that it was complete ' paisa vassal' as each of the dishes were spot on. 

Steak tartare at Slink&bardot
What we ate

Let me get to the to meat of things, specifically the water buffalo. We had a steak tartare, which is raw pounded beef, and which one rarely gets in Mumbai. A responsible chef will never serve this with meat they are not sure of and you do not not get tartare grade beef, or any beef for that matter, in Mumbai. Chef Alexei strongly recommended his tartare to us and we we ordered it inspired by his sense of passion and pride. The tartareit did turn out to be wonderful indeed except that it was made with water buffalo meat and not beef. The texture of the tartare could match any of the tartares what we have had at Paris or Cannes or at French restaurants in Prague or at Spain I feel. Yes, there was a distinctive taste to the meat which signalled water buffalo, but that apart, this gave loads of happiness and K is a big tartare fan. There was a slight tanginess to the tartare which is the norm and usually comes from Worcestershire sauce. The tartare at Slink & Bardot was served with a 'mustard ice-cream'. A dip which helped cut the meatiness.

Water buffalo steak done medium rare at Slink & Bardot

Emboldened by the tartare, I ordered the steak despite it being water buffalo, and which usually spells disappointment in steaks. Chef Alexei smiled when I said that I want it done "medium rare'. He said that water buffalo meat is lean and shouldn't be overdone and medium rare is what he would recommend too. What came out of the kitchen was perfect. The steak cut like a dream and most cleanly too when I put knife to it. The meat was nice and pink inside. The surface of the steak had the slight crustiness to it that a good entrecôte (steak) in France would have. The difference from a steak in France was that while the meat here was tender and juicy inside, it lacked the mild wobbliness that the fat in beef can give. The taste of the Slink & Bardot steak, as with the tartare earlier, was slightly intense thanks to it being a water buffalo and not beef steak 

Once one accepted the fact that one was in Mumbai and not Montmartre, the suburb in Paris where our hotel was, one could happily enjoy the steak and the tartare. It's all about living in this moment as they say.

Both dishes displayed great cheffing skills. Chef Alexei told us that he had scoured the country for a year apparently before he found a water buffalo meat supplier whose stock satisfied him and for that, we were very thankful. I think the chefs at both the very traditional a la Pomponnette and the more modern La Veche at Montmartre in Paris, where I had lovely steaks last year, would approve of steak that chef Alexei and his Indian team of chefs had landed in Mumbai, especially given the ingredient constraints that they had to work with.

Chicken liver parfait

Since we were not at Montmartre, there was no foie gras either at Slink & Bardot.  K and I make a beeline for the tartare and the foie when we go to Europe as these are two dishes that we love and do not get here. Alexei offered us an chicken liver parfait instead. A lighter and fluffier version of a chicken pate and which gave us great pleasure.

Brie en croute

It was not just about meat that night. Very impressive in the vegetarian section was the 'brie en croute', a most delightful brie stuffed freshly baked filo pastry, with a few nuts in it to add texture. The sophistication in cooking in the dish was very modern French. There was a touch of lavender honey to embellish the flavour and this brought back memories of the baked camembert that we had at the Lux Bar in Montmartre last summer. The waitress had given us some honey on the side with it.

Scallops with whiskey cream

The 'dish of the day' for both of us that night at Slink & Bardot was the seared scallops in whiskey cream and bacon. They use Kerala scallops here when they are in season I was told by the chef, but due to the rains and inconsistent supply, they are using imported scallops right now. The scallops were cooked to perfection. Not raw, not over done or chewy. The scallops had just the bit of playfulness in texture that one looks for. The intensity of the whiskey cream brought back memories of the eggs poached in morrel and cream that we had eaten at La Veche on our last at Paris. The thing is that Parisians are as passionate about their dairy as they are about their breads chef Alexei's scallops in whiskey cream was a great example of this.

36 hour Belgian pork belly

Now here's the thing about the food at Slink&Bardot. Everything is served as small plates. Think Spanish tapas/ pinxtos and you will get what I mean. Both of us shared the dishes that we ordered but this could have been a problem if the group was larger unless you order duplicates of the same dish. This also meant that we could try out more dishes and which, in this case, was great as each and every dish was so good.

We finished our meal with 36 hour Belgian pork belly which was incredibly tender. You could have metaphorically used a feather instead of a knife to cut through it. There was an emmenthal croquette on the side to give a bit of a flavour burst to the meatiness of the dish. Pork lovers should this give it a shot. What wowed me apart from the texture the pork was the very smooth and very creamy sweet potato mash. Intensity of flavours is what French cuisine is all about to me from whatever little that I gathered during our short holiday. Many European restaurants in Mumbai, including at five star hotels, are a bit dodgy when it comes to delivering flavour. No such problem at the Slink&Bardot.

We sent back every plate wiped clean

Anniversary dessert, creme brûlée 

As for dessert, we gave the dark chocolate tart a miss though we are both dark chocolate fans, and went for the tonka bean creme brûlée instead. I felt that the dish here was all about admirable restraint. The texture not too creamy and though it had salted caramel in it, it was not too sweet. Salted caramel, as we had learnt last summer, is the flavour in vogue among French pastry chefs right now. It made for a pretty sophisticated end to the meal.

We called an Uber and left home feeling very satisfied. This was truly a meal befitting of an anniversary. 

A trip down the Sea Link to Paris? What more could one ask for?

PS. A couple of days later a friend and her partner went to Slink & Bardot following my recommendation and this is what she whatsapped me after the meal: "Just finished dinner at Slink&Bardot. Bless you. What a feast of flavours we had. Thank you."

Note: The meal came to Rs 3,400 for 6 small plates, a dessert and 2 soft drinks with GST and service charge. As I mentioned earlier, the restaurant is open only at night.

Could also be of interest:

1. Post where I mention the baked the camembert at Lux Bar
2. Post where I speak of the steaks at Pomponnete and La Veche at 
3. Our first encounter with the phrase water buffalo at Cafe Lila and this was in 2008

Picture gallery

Romantic series

With the SaltWater Cafe burger

With the steak at Sink & Bardot

With company 
With the very talented chef Alexei
Earlier in the day at Kaya Kalpa when these smiling ladies
came up for a pic. We hadn't had a podium reception in our actual
wedding. This pic made up for it!

And now for some great news. I went out on a limb and bought the new MacBook Pro. Irote this post on it and am already loving it. Here's a pic of it, looking snug on my desk. I do miss the old MacBook in a way. My first book, The Travelling Belly, was written on it. I hope to write more stories on the new one now.