The museum of flavours
With colonial-era-inspired decor and creative dishes from India's north, a new diner in Juhu is a worthy addition to your Sunday lunch list
After all, isn't the purpose of the novel, or of a museum, for that matter, to relate our memories with such sincerity as to transform individual happiness into a happiness all can share?" wrote Orhan Pamuk in his novel, The Museum of Innocence, which follows the life of a wounded man caught up in a tragic love story set in a politically shaken Istanbul.
The book culminates in the protagonist finally building a museum around the memories he shared with his lover. In fact, Pamuk, an eccentric writer, actually put together a museum modelled around the one he wrote about in the book. If you know even a little about this story, it's hard not to think about it while at a newly opened Juhu diner, The Butler and The Bayleaf, a place with character, and set up with sincerity.
The name itself alludes to the restaurant's essence — a colonially inspired space (the butler) serving Indian fare (the bay leaf). The decor — comprising lots of plants, including some inside the washroom, dark blue walls and antique furniture, and curios like old books, gramophones and typewriters — is tasteful and enigmatic. Helmed by the same guys behind Versova's lauded eatery, The Tanjore Tiffin Room, this one takes a 360-degree turn, in that it's serving food from India's northern belt, while retaining their overarching principle of dishing out traditional fare in cooler, modern formats.
Mini Cholay bathuray
It follows, then, that the authentic Punjabi chole bhature becomes mini "cholay bathuray" (Rs 310) to mimic a tapas or a small plate. The chole, best described as chatpata, are served on top of small, round and soft bhatures. This is quite intriguing, for it is hardly a dish one would imagine snacking on along with booze. But it works, and even more so with the Fitzgerald (Rs 450), a fizzy, bittersweet sour, interestingly prepared with gin instead of whisky. The chapli kabab slider (Rs 450) is a fun creation, in that it re-imagines an ancient Mughlai kabab. Here, it is put together as a small burger with soft mutton tikkis, spicy mayo and pickled cucumbers that are added imaginatively.
The proprietors' idea to serve samplers to guests, in a bid to encourage them to try less obvious dishes, is worthy of mention, too. And of the two that are served, the salad samplers particularly catch the fancy. They come in three variants — chilli guava and arugula, reminiscent of the pakka amrud you have savoured as a child; tangy pomelo; and another one made with moong daal, mimicking the flavours of pani puri.
Kundan kaliyan chicken and naan
From the mains, which offer a selection of dishes like nalli nihari and hari mirch ka stew, the picks include kundan kaliyan chicken (Rs 575) and naan (Rs 110 per piece). "They'll take some time as we have a party going on," an attentive waitress with knowledge of the menu, cautions. It's really no bother, because the service is otherwise fast, as was established with the starters. The chicken gravy is like a muted butter chicken, devoid of the richness and plentiful instead in the flavours. It doesn't take too much time to mop the tasty offering with the supple naans.
Croissant pudding with spiced rum
For desserts, the waitress recommends a hit called death by halwai. But for those without a sweet tooth, the croissant pudding with spiced rum (Rs 425) is perhaps a cleverer choice. This sweet treat is a rather indulgent mishmash of spongy croissants and luscious angoori rabdi (kind of like rasmalai). It's the perfect ending to a meal that is riveting, both conceptually and flavour-wise.
It's learnt later that the creator behind these delicacies is chef Rajan Mehra, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's brother. It is little known to most of us that their family has in fact been in the hospitality industry for years. Chef Mehra's creativity flows as naturally through the menu as the owners' vision encompasses the space. It may not have the same poetic oeuvre with which Pamuk built his gallery, but it is, to some extent, a museum of flavours all the same.
At The Butler and The Bayleaf, Kings International Hotel, 1st Floor, 5 Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.
Time 12.30 pm to 3.30 pm; 7.30 pm to 1.30 am
4/4 EXCEPTIONAL, 3/4 EXCELLENT, 2/4 VERY GOOD, 1/4 GOOD, 0.5/4 AVERAGE
The Butler and The Bayleaf didn’t know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals
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