Since the number of fine-dining restaurants, which celebrate Indian cuisine, is not impressive, the opening of The Sahib Room and Kipling Bar in Lower Parel can only be taken as a good sign.
Set inside the year-old Palladium Hotel, the 3,000 sq ft restaurant is neatly divided into the Sahib Room, which is a 54-seater dining area, and the well-stocked Kipling Bar that comes with a massive community table. At one corner of this table, a seat is reserved for Rudyard Kipling as a sweet gesture.
The demand for such a space is evident from the footfall it receives. On a Monday night, it was fast filling up with expats, businessmen and office-goers from the neighbourhood. One of the admirable aspects of its seating arrangement — which is fragmented and columned — is that it gives one a sense of privacy and exclusivity. Adding a special touch to this experience is the stamp of regalia on every aspect of the restaurant — right from the polished cutlery, brocade walls, and crystal chandeliers to the impeccable service. Its walls are adorned with original paintings from the pre-Independence era while velvet and satin dominate its upholstery.
In spite of it being a busy night for the restaurant, our cocktails — Paan Martini (Rs 600) and the Phantom Rickshaw (Rs 600) — arrived within minutes. Though, by now, we have grown tired of restaurants screaming their “Indianness” by infusing paan (betel leaf) in almost everything, the martini won us over for its mild flavours, while the latter, a rum- and coconut-based drink with curry leaves was thick and creamy. Inspired by Kipling’s famous works, the bar menu also features cocktails such as Mowgli (Rs 800), which has whisky, spiced tea mixed with apple and orange juice, and Kim’s Game (Rs 600), which mixes whisky and passion fruit.
For appetisers, Broccoli Dak Bangla (Rs 650) and Vilayati Adraki Jhinga (Rs 1,350) worked well with the drinks. The prawns came on a mini-barbecue at the table, which lend it the smooth smoky flavour, while the broccoli was baked with Philadelphia cream cheese and mustard marinade — a must-try for vegetarians. For lamb meat lovers, the Gilawati Kebab (Rs 800), a staple delicacy from Lucknow is another must. Lightly crisp on the outside and delicate from within, it was a sure winner.
With such a promising start to our meal, it was expected that the rest would be laced with stories from Kipling’s life and peppered with folklore. For the main course, the Sasranga meat (Rs 750) and Sahib Ki Khaas Dal Makhani (Rs 650) were served. Kipling was fondly known as Sahib, and the dal reminded us of the comfort of a home-cooked meal with its velvety texture and perfectly cooked pulses. The Sasranga, a Kashmiri hand-pulled lamb delicacy, was juicy and worked well with Warqi Malai Paratha (Rs 125) and Zaffrani Taftan (Rs 125) — both traditional Naan-like breads with spices. For those looking for a more authentic experience, the Kachche Gosht ki Biryani is a must-have. The meat in this aromatic preparation is soaked in milk before it is slow cooked for hours. For desserts, try the Angoori Rabdi (Rs 375) and Kolkata Meetha Paan Ice Cream (Rs 375). Both were mildly sweet yet rich in texture and flavours.
If one has to round up the gastronomic experience at the Sahib Room, it would be safe to say that all of it evoked a sense of home and reminded us of the meticulous ways of cooking during the days of the khansamas.
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