It’s a beautiful waterfront stretch, but on this moonless night the surf and the sea are only discernible by the rumble and hiss of the tide. Lamps or fairy lights on trees would make for a pretty feature outside the restaurant, but for now guests must make their way through the shadows.
It’s easy to imagine that this dark path leads to an underground restaurant, one of those exciting European spots that exist on the fringe of legitimacy. The gold-and-ruby glow of flickering lamps inside and the dark, broken-stone flooring, seem to keeping with this mine-like ambiance, but Testuma’s ghost lingers here.
A few old partitions still stand as does the long bar though its island-extension has been retracted. Tables in the lounge area at the entrance have been shuffled around, pointlessly — they haven’t made room for more diners and the previous layout was infinitely more charming. Eight tables have been positioned in the central area, their proximity quashing any scope for quiet, romantic chats. Still, the place did not disappoint with the food, thankfully.
Crisp yet not oily to the touch, the Fried Calamari (Rs 450) was absolutely perfect, though pairing it with Thousand Island sauce demonstrated a lack of imagination. We also enjoyed both the Beef Tartar (Rs 450) paired with a sweet, berry-laced mousse and the French Onion Soup (Rs 325), which could be a satiating meal on its own.
Morbidly dubbed Arise My Love, a mint liqueur cocktail was less impressive. Seasoned with Sumac (a tangy, Middle-Eastern spice prepared from red blooms; the menu skips explaining it), the Grilled Prawns with Saffron Risotto (Rs 800) was agreeable, though the risotto could have used less salt. The only dish we didn’t enjoy was the Wild Mushroom Polenta (Rs 500) — shallow-fried Polenta (think, yellow Upma) medu wadas stacked over a mushroom sauce that tasted like thickened Cup-a-Soup.
Also disappointing was the unavailability of the Chocolate Mud Cake, the sole chocolate dessert on a small list, but the Tiramisu with Longhorn Sauce (Rs 325) looked interesting.
When asked what “Longhorn” was, the server replied, “Sauce,” — accurate, if not informative. Typically, a barbeque sauce/dip, here the Longhorn sauce was a delicious rum-chocolate concoction, a showstopper, but to drizzle this elixir beside the Tiramisu (an excellent version) was unfair, since it’s described as an accompaniment, not a garnish. Our request for more sauce, was enough to turn the dish into a slice of heaven.
The proprietor, Samir Chhabria, was around when we dropped by, for feedback. He didn’t know why people believed that The Pier would serve French food, and that it wasn’t on the plan. When we pointed out a Thai dish, Chhabria told us that it is a Continental preparation of scallops served with a sauce infused with Thai herbs. Good affordable food — that’s the tune Chhabria wants to sing, but since we ran up a tab of Rs 4,147 (two diners, inclusive of taxes, and bottle water that cost R110), we think he may be a little off-key.
AmbiAnce: can do more
At 41/42, Minoo Desai Marg, behind Radio Club, Colaba; Call 60660036; Time 7.30pm to 1 am
The Pier didn’t know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals