The walk from JW Marriotts lobby to Arola Restaurant and Bar is a lonely one. One might even have to open doors at random to look for hotel personnel and ask for directions. But once you enter the caramel-hued lounge with blue lighting,youve arrived at an exciting space dedicated to gin and food enthusiasts. The two-Michelin star chef,Sergi Arolas Mumbai branch has a large bar area with a floor-to-ceiling wall display of different bottles as its backdrop. Arola also has a secluded dining area for large groups,a lounge section and a wooden enclosure at the end of the bar that is most suited for intimate dinners.
If celebrations or dates arent on the agenda,the main dining area offers the perfect setting. With bright lights and a warm vibe,it has been decorated in layers of brown in all its chocolaty glory. It has dark chocolate tables,milk chocolate upholstery,shiny champagne-colour frames on the menus and large,floral pillows on the couches. Its interesting to note that despite its Spanish roots,theres nothing in the décor that stands out as quintessentially Spanish.
The waiter arrives with two menus lounge and food. The former has a list of couture gins served at prices that range from Rs 550 a peg for three-time winner of worlds best gin,Tanqueray No. TEN,England,to Rs 1,100 for the double gold-winning Junipero,USA. The menu also features recommended gin and bitters combinations Canadian brand,Iceberg goes well with Schwepps and Liquorice.
The lounge menu also has a list of Picas (read: bites) with options such as clams in green sauce,croquettes with blue cheese and Foie Gras. A portion of the Patatas Bravas comes highly recommended because,despite being deep fried,they dont have a hint of oil on their crisp skins,while the soft and almost mash-like insides turn creamy with the aioli and tomato sauce. The Gambas (prawns) served in a clay pot exude scents of herbs and garlic,and are cooked just right .
The food menu isnt extensive. There are only two sides dedicated to each of the three sections From Garden to Table,From the Sea,and From the Land. The remaining 16 pages are dedicated to wines and champagnes from around the world. This is yet another aspect that makes Arola less of a dinner place and more of a lounge for small bites,drinks and conversation.
In the garden section,the Vine Ripe Tomatoes,served with tuna and alentejo olives,and the porchini mushrooms are tempting options. But if youre in a mood to experiment,the Eggplant,charred over an open flame and served with reduced balsamic and pine nuts,is soft,has subtle flavours and is crunchy.
To fully enjoy the Arola experience,it would help if one has a penchant for gin,and a pocket large enough to sample some of the finer brands. A meal for two with liquor costs Rs 5,000.