Food: These two Mumbai eateries failed to impress

Located at opposite corners of the city, two restaurants -- one with quirky options, another pocket-friendly, fail to meet our expectations

Enticed by the pretty blue doors, we stepped into the well-lit newly opened Rustico at Fort. It exuded a warm and chic vibe, with a separate bar section sans alcohol, private dining rooms and brick walls adorned with white bicycles and chandeliers. Even with two levels of seating, it was packed on a Sunday night. A good sign, we thought. Five minutes into waiting, we were ushered to a table by the courteous staff.

Ginger Pear Martini
Ginger Pear Martini

The vegetarian multi-cuisine restaurant offers North Indian, Chinese and Continental options. Excited to spot Pav Bhaji Fondue on the menu, we ordered for it. “It’s not available today, ma’am,” the waiter told us.

Disappointed, we picked Roomali Cheese Papad. That, too, was unavailable. Taking refuge in a section titled Naanzas (or naan pizzas), we asked for Fiamma. It promised toppings of spicy sauce, cheese and a vague ‘deviled garnish’. “Sorry ma’am, that’s unavailable too,” said the waiter as if on autopilot. Upset, we returned to the menu, looking for options.

Caramel Custard with Smoking Cold Popcorn
Caramel Custard with Smoking Cold Popcorn

We settled for Crackling Corn (Rs 285) and Cottage Cheese Galettes (Rs 445). Arriving on rustic, carved wooden platters, both the dishes failed our taste test. Piled on a bed of crispy spinach, the corn was chewy, spicy and lacked water chestnut, as promised on the menu. The Cottage Cheese Galettes, served with pesto couscous and paprika sauce, were below average. The unappetising cottage cheese patties (we suspect they were fried in dalda) didn’t go well with a mound of green coloured couscous and a bland white sauce, passed off as paprika. For desserts, we called Caramel Custard With Smoking Cold Popcorn (Rs 355). Assembled on a plate, the freshly made popcorn was a great munchie and the wobbly custard was perfect. However, we’d have preferred caramel popcorn instead of the regular variety, especially for the price we paid.

Sweet, spicy and refreshing, the Ginger Pear Martini (Rs 245) lifted our spirits. Unfortunately, it was a mocktail. If only they’d have spiked it, because we needed a drink by then to forget the evening.

Time: 7 pm to 1 am (all-day from January 1)
At: 48 Bank Street, Khatau Building, opposite Old Custom House, Fort.
Call: 22647200

Mr Popo doesn’t care
The name gave us an unsettling feeling. Pushing it aside, we walked into Café Popo, located on the ground floor of an Andheri hotel. Featuring a wall decked with beautifully painted plates, the 20-odd-seater offers North Indian fare in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. When we asked a waiter for their signature dishes, we received a vague response, “You can try anything.”

A wall adorned with painted plates at Café Popo
A wall adorned with painted plates at Café Popo

Left to our own devices, we started with Khichiya Papad (Rs 52), a rare find in a fancy menu, and Cheese Chaska Kebab (Rs 221). Though loaded with a burst of flavours (coriander chutney, chopped onion, tomatoes and sev), the papad was too hard to bite into. Meanwhile, the kebabs felt a bit undercooked and less cheese. We washed it down with a tall glass of Cool Blue (Rs 260), a rum-based cocktail featuring lime litchi and blue curacao, it saved the day.

Cheese Chaska Kebab
Cheese Chaska Kebab

From the mains, we picked Chicken Lahori (Rs 227) and Butter Tandoori Rotis (Rs 18 each). Our food arrived after an annoyingly long wait of close to an hour. Strongly spiced, the chicken sabzi was average and the tandoori rotis were cumbersome to tear into once they went cold.

Though pocket-friendly, Cafe Popo lacks the ‘wow’ factor and will probably work for those in the hotel and looking for a quick meal or tipple.

Time: 11 am to 1.30 am
At: Hotel Karl Residency, 36 Lallubhai Road, Andheri (W).
Call: 42362121
Rustico and Café Popo didn’t know we were there. the guide reviews anonymously and pays for its meals

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