Anupama Chandra gorges on some Rajasthani delicacies in the heart of Mumbai, straight from the palaces
I had lunch at the Talai Bagh Palace last week. No, I did not board a flight, nor did I catch a train. Yes, right in the heart of our city, I, along with some friends, savoured delectable fare straight from the royal kitchens of the princely Bika family at their brand-new outpost on the third floor of the Trade View building at Oasis Complex at the yet-to-be-launched Talaiva.
A regal experience
Right from the start, the experience is regal. You are first beckoned by the massive door that is evocative of the dwars or massive wooden doors of the forts of yore. Imprinted on it is a modern gold icon of the sun and adorning it is an origami inspired golden falcon. Soon you are ushered into a corridor with a Ganesh murti and a fountain, and you step into a well-appointed, spacious dining space, with a private party area attached.
The interiors are done up in matt gold, silver and jewel tones, borrowing heavily from the palaces of Mewar. The lighting is thoughtful and the lovely chandeliers invited me and my friends to come back and see them light up the place one evening. The place is easily converted into a dance floor in the post-dinner hours. The seats are comfortable with cushions that they generously throw in.
Chef Mahinder comes trained from the palace kitchen of TalaiBagh and is the right guide to help you order. So is the well-trained serving staff. We asked them to help and were delighted with the drinks order. The signature cocktails are classics with Indian twists. The Royal Kesar Kasturi Old Fashioned, built on a base of bourbon infused with saffron with musk being added dramatically at the table, made me ponder wistfully upon the delights of the wintry evenings of the royalty of Mewar.
The Wildflower, a gin-based drink with the colour and flavor stolen from the lovely hibiscus, was another hit. In the mocktail menu the delightful Garnet Mist beckoned, a Black Currant slushie cordoned off with black salt that was truly memorable. We realised that Shatbhi Basu had lent a regal Indian touch to the entire drinks section, with admirable results.
Talaiva has two menus, so be sure to make up your mind about which food fare to sample. The Palatial Menu is their specialty, a sneak peek into their royal kitchen, and then there is an extensive Continental menu. The idea of the resto-lounge is primarily to serve traditional Indian food from the Royals of Mewar in as authentic a fashion as possible, a first in Mumbai. Rajputs being a largely game meat-savouring people, the palatial menu has all the usual favourities like Laal Maas, Safed Maas, Jungli maas and more.
Turning the pages of the menu, I realise that the palatial section is very select; they assure us that it is a work in progress and will have additions soon. Our attendant helped us decide once again and sent some delights our way. The Achari Choosa and Murg Bikaneri Tikkas are done well, but lost the round to the vegetarian Beet Galouti, served with dollops of yoghurt. Tender patties made of minced beetroot with delicate spices that hold themselves together you don’t know how since they melt in the mouth.
Soon we are served Gatta Curry and Jungli Maas accompanied by Bajre ki roti and Laccha Parathas. I am used to small, soft dumplings of the gram flour served in yoghurt curry at my friends’ homes, but the gatta here is on the bigger side and chewy, and yet rich and flavoursome. The basis of Talaiva’s Jungli maas is grass-fed goat, not a meat we are used to. While the meat was chewier than what is served elsewhere, it packed its own flavor in the spicy gravy.
While relishing these dishes, I allow myself to be coaxed into sampling the Wild Mushroom Risotto with Grated Parmesan, with zero expectations, and was embarrassed to find it to be very good. Not enough to make me let go of my parathas and rotis, since my palette is very Indian-loving, but on some other visit if I can restrain myself from making for the palatial menu again, I will do justice to their continental fare.
Even with stomachs packed tight, we perk up at the mention of dessert. They start us on the Gajar ka halwa, a dish that I am very opinionated about, as I like mine just so. Talaiva’s dish might make the cut some day, but I need winter red carrots in the halwa to make me happy. On the other hand, the Chocolate Mousse Cake made me sing in my mouth, something that only very good chocolate can do. Wow! It was rich and decadent, just like the place aims to be.
It’s been a while since I liked a place enough to want to go back. Talaiva is one such addition on my tiny list. I want to be back with a good 3-4 hours at hand to try at leisure the Paan & Pineapple Martini, Devilled Margarita, Keema Baati, Bharatpuri aloo and others. But the signature dish for me will remain the Beet Galouti, if they make it just right every time.