husband at the best restaurant in town so we chose Neel for dinner last night.
Formerly known as Tote-on-the-Turf, Neel serves exclusive Nawabi khana in a place once known for its fine
European dining. Alas ! Indian palates normally equate European
cuisine with Pasta smothered in cheese and that ubiquitous Baked Dish, but the clientele of Tote who are largely the
rich and famous vegetarians (who are the
actual spenders in this city) familiar with more exotic vegetarian fare and found the menu of Tote restrictive and boring. Hence
Rahul Akerkar had no option but to change Tote to Neel (which incidentally
means Indigo; the flagship restaurant of the deGustibus Hospitality Company which has several other catering
ventures under this umbrella) and serve naans
instead of breads. With the closure of Gourdon in the early 60’s
Continental dining in Mumbai was restricted to Gaylords, Jazz by the bay
and the various Mumbai clubs . Rahul Akerkar, a celebrity restaurateur, can be credited with introducing a new style
of dining in Mumbai which was still stuck in the stodge of 50’s style
restaurants with his first venture “Just Desserts” . This unique
concept of having a dessert after dinner in a place that doubled up as a Jazz
Club in the deserted Office area of downtown Mumbai was wildly popular and
established Akerkar’s presence on the Gourmet Scene. It wasn’t long before he graduated
from desserts to main courses and established “Under The Over” introducing Mumbai to Bistro style dining at
Kemp’s Corner. But despite the central
location, Kemp’s Corner is non starter for a commercial venture given its lack of parking space
and exorbitant rents. Luckily Akerkar found an old Bungalow on a side
street off Colaba Causeway which he metamorphosed into a Fine dining space with
the feel of a Mediterranean home-style eatery.
bar, imaginative cocktails, fusion cooking and authentic ingredients, Indigo captured the
imagination of the Mumbaikars of the late 1990s who thronged to this new
watering hole. With 40% tax at the Five stars, finally we had a standalone
restaurant that was not Irani, not Chinese, Muglai or Punjabi and which offered world class cuisine. Parties at
the Indigo continued on to their Sunday brunches, a concept easily lapped up by the young people .
its unique iron branch arches on the verandah, structures which are beautiful and creepy at the
same time. Perhaps it should have been called Shwet rather than Neel
considering the only blue around was the charger plates on each table………….
Hubby Dear went to pick up our guest and host for the evening from the Taj.
With a fiasco of a meal at Indigo on Thursday night, I was a bit sceptical
about choosing Neel for dinner but since we didn’t want to do Chinese, Japanese
or Italian, the only option was Neel in our Salwar Kameez.
We arrived at the venue well in time and were stunned to see Tote transformed into a fairy tale dinner venue with the trees draped with golden lights and the outside covered with cream and gold canopies. Obviously some one was having a party. We were taken to a table on the verandah which thankfully was air conditioned and we caught up with gossip before our host/guest arrived.
With our talkative host steering the conversation, we had a wonderful evening round a great meal of Galouti Kababs which literally melted in the mouth, Vegetarian seekhs, Neel ki tadke wali pomfret, chicken curry , the most fantastic daal makhani south of the Vindhyas, a khade masale ka paneer and an assortment of rotis, both regular and rumali with a fermented bread Bakhumas on the suggestion of the waiter/steward attending to us.
For those looking for a different kind of Indian food experience Neel is a welcome change from the Chelo kababs of Copper Chimney and the tandoori food of Khyber. The food was spiced just right, servings perfect and all in all a great experience. Rounding off this meal was a plate of hot jalebis served with rabri on the side, shared by the three of us and a bowl of phirni . A chilled beer served in a chilled glass, a soda, a glass of red wine and two mocktails accompanied us through this lovely, relaxed evening. We were happy, our host/guest was happy and we went home content and ready to be back for more.
Neel – Formerly Tote on the Turf
Contrary to expectations, the dishes are reasonably priced for the quality and ambiance and this dinner for 5 set us back by Rs.6000/-