Mumbai Food: Revamped iconic Santacruz five-star lounge offers offbeat fare
Getting a makeover after a decade, an iconic Santacruz five-star lounge offers cocktails in navari saree-draped glasses and fare inspired by London's Chinatown
A large wall of brass coins, inspired by Chinese trading routes of the '40s, greets us at the entrance of China House Lounge. Launched in a suburban five-star 10 years ago, the space, located a level below its restaurant avatar, has undergone a revamp for the first time, joining the list of five-star properties injected with botox shot in recent times to stand up to standalone pubs. We walk in to find that much has changed except the familiar brick lattice-work walls. They hold secrets of memorable parties - from designer duo Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla's 25th year bash for the label to Vikram Chatwal's fashion week galas. The spacious dance floor where everyone from the Ambanis to Khans have grooved into the wee hours of the morning also remains.
Breaded green peas, chilli and cheddar fritters
The LED lights have been spruced up to match the beats of EDM tracks and the refurbished private dining sections, with Chinese mural art, hold chests with liquor bottles and paraphernalia for guests to enjoy themselves without the 'waiter, more ice please' rigour.
Navari. Pics/Falguni Agrawal
A navari high
The space, which will now operate every evening, offers various cocktails inspired by the prohibition era along with signature concoctions. Navari (Rs 1,400), a gin-guava cocktail, is served in a glass draped with the Maharashtrian nine-yard saree. Though gimmicky to the eye, it scores in potency, with fruity flavours masking the alcohol. We enjoy the tangy-spicy notes in the rum- and pineapple-based karate master (Rs 1,400), spiked with chillies and vinegar. It is served in a gunny bag as an ode to a certain karate master, who would hide a rum bottle in such a bag during prohibition.
Wok-fried chicken rice in black pepper
We pair the drinks with Peking duck bao (Rs 380), where light-as-air beige-hued baos (courtesy a dash of duck sauce mixed with the dough) are stuffed with crisp and peppery meat. We also enjoy breaded green peas (Rs 300), where Asian-style dumplings, with a thin skin that gives way to al dente pea mash, hide under a crisp, cheesy tuile.
Peking duck bao
From London's Chinatown
The food menu has been curated by executive chef Jef Foster, who comes armed with 25 years of experience, having helmed five-star kitchens in California and London. So, the oriental fare shares space with global eats, including a silky smooth chicken liver parfait (Rs 475) that we smear over crisp toast and relish with onion jam.
Another highlight is wok-fried chicken rice in black pepper (Rs 500), where egg-laced grains of rice soak in peppery-spicy flavours of the gravy redolent with Chinese herbs and succulent chicken strips. The dish appears in a section called London's China Town specialties. "We serve the dish in a ceramic container that resembles the to-go wok boxes at the Chinese joints in that area." We exit, delighted to have made a short trip around the world on this culinary Orient Express.
Chef Jef Foster
OPENS ON: December 2 (daily), 5 pm to 2 am
AT: Grand Hyatt, off Western Express highway, Santacruz East.
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A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli