One for the veggie tippler

Updated: Dec 04, 2019, 09:20 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi | Mumbai

Started by a trio of friends who're just entering the F&B space, this lounge-cum-diner may grow to become a happening spot for herbivores, that is, if they can survive

Pomelo avocado garlic crema salad. Pics/ Ashish Raje
Pomelo avocado garlic crema salad. Pics/ Ashish Raje

Situated a level below chef Boo Kim's passion project, Dirty Buns' second outlet (which opened this month) in Breach Candy, Auber-Gin is a new all-veg lounge with a focus on — as the name suggests — eggplant and gin. The brainchild of two lawyers Amit Desai and Nitesh Dooa, and the latter's doctor brother Yogesh, this is a space that is trying to cater to the demographic it's surrounded by: well-to-do working professionals seeking a good time without having to compromise on their satvik lifestyles.

But the story goes back 16 years to a time when Amit and Nitesh were in JC Law College, Dadar. Brought together by the roll call, it was then that this friendship was forged. "Since both our surnames began with 'D' we would be sitting beside each other during exams. That's how Nitesh and I met," Amit elaborates, tracing the genesis of this venture.

Mushroom cappuccino Mushroom cappuccino 

Opening its doors to patrons today, Auber-Gin has bagged a spot at one of Mumbai's prime locations. It is obvious that this project has deep coffers, which finds confirmation in its decor. And it might be safe to say that Sumessh Menon who has helmed it, has a distinct style. Unfortunately, it's also slightly predictable. Using a blue-and-grey palette, Menon has attempted to give the space a quirky, bespoke vibe, incorporating textured walls, coloured tiles, upholstery in varied prints, and wooden table tops with Marilyn Monroe's face emblazoned on them. If you're not paying attention, it works. But if you are, it seems like too many things have been shoe-horned in one space — there is madness, without a method.

Mock hot dogMock hot dog

In terms of food, there are a few hits and misses. Ironically though, it's the aubergine dishes from the special segment that don't work. The aubergine pizza (Rs 355) for example, is only passable. But the eggplant, which has been covered in a tempura-like coating gives the dish a stodgy, gooey mouthfeel. Similarly, the aubergine sliders (Rs 325) are too dry.

Smoked marmaladeSmoked marmalade

On the other hand, dishes that you wouldn't expect too much from, manage to bowl you over. Like, the mock hot dog (Rs 375), which makes clever use of elevating the natural smokiness inherent in faux meats with a touch of tandoori mayo. The truffle mushroom cappuccino (Rs 275) is possibly one of their best offerings. Made with three different kinds of mushroom (fresh button, dried shiitake and oyster), this earthy and creamy soup has an inviting aroma and hits all the right spots. The pomelo avocado and garlic cream salad (Rs 375), too, is a winner, where the richness from the avo and the cream are offset by a pleasant piquancy from the fruit. Oh, and the panko broccoli (Rs 345) is a must try for it manages to successfully upgrade a plain vegetable to a delectable treat. It pairs well with smoky marmalade (Rs 475), a spin on the old-fashioned.

Espresso martiniEspresso martini

The drinks section, helmed by veteran mixologist Shatbhi Basu is a little more consistent than the food, so if the modern old-fashioned is a perfect offering for someone who likes whisky but also fruit, then the frozen lime and mint (Rs 575) — a take on G&T — is satiating and refreshing. There's also an espresso martini, a really full-bodied, bittersweet and enjoyable dessert cocktail, and monkey gland (Rs 474), a martini-like, gin-based concoction with hints of pomegranate.

The thought, vision and effort are evident in this project, notwithstanding the shortcomings. The owners, who're naturally nervous are making an honest attempt, and that comes through in their openness to honest criticism. What then remains to be seen, is if this a restaurant that will flourish or fizzle out. There's solid competition from a celeb den no more than a floor above. A little fine-tuning, and Auber-Gin might just have a chance. There is need for clarity in direction, which Yogesh echoes when he says, "We wanted it to be a lounge, but it's looking a bit like a fine-dine. We need to decide who we want to cater to."

cafe

Yes, you do. And it's probably best to focus on Amit's vision, who says, "I want this to be a place for vegetarians who enjoy drinking." Slightly lofty, considering that's a niche TG, but possible, if executed well.

At Auber-Gin, Hubtown Skybay, Bhulabhai Desai Marg, Breach Candy.
Opens Today, 6.30 pm to 1.30 am
Call 7710044666

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