A Gluten-Free Navroz Special
It was bestie Rashna Bharucha’s favourite riddle in junior school. “What’s the longest and funniest surname in the whole world?” She’d wait for the perfunctory shake of the head. “Sodawaterbottleopenerwala!!! It’s true!!! Ask your parents!!!”
Here I am, eons later, eating at the restaurant that’s christened after the funniest surname in the whole wide world. Funny isn’t enough, I soon discover. Owner A.D. Singh takes his decor as seriously as he does his food.
Gluten-free soul sister Uma and I saunter in. It’s a feast for the eyes; the palate follows. The deep teal walls are as vibrant and busy as the place itself. Every square inch tells a story. Our heads swivel from left to right. “Irani Café meets English country pub,” we decide. Irani Café quirkiness living in noisy harmony with apro Queen Elizabeth’s drinking hub.
(And of course, she’s all over the place, reigning haughtily from blackboards).
More idiosyncratic busy-ness: the classic no-combing-no-outside-food Irani café board sprinkled with a few ‘no office work inside, no childish tantrums’.
And so so much more. But we mustn’t get waylaid. We’re here to accomplish a mission: drink the all-you-can sangria. I take a sip with trepidation. I have never written a restaurant review before. I hunt for adjectives: tart, potent, not-too-fruity, not- too-sweet, not-sweet-at-all. Emboldened by my efforts, I mine for ingredients: red wine, plain soda, no Sprite, apples. And the cherry on the cake – cherries!
And then arrives the much awaited Hostess Nerissa’s Navroz New Year Special Set Bhonu. Turns out that’s the only thing that’s a mouthful. For now. Nerissa knows nothing of our food restrictions, or of the column that I write. Damn. She isn’t feeding my ego either.
She is kind and apologetic. We can’t order the set bhonu. Maida, rawa and breadcrumbs lurk surreptitiously around. We knew that of course. We’re the detectives.
On a shiny platter it comes - The Navroz New Year Extra Special Treatment. The crème de la crème of the feast: Mutton Dhansak, Berry Pulao, Patra ni Machchi, Lagan nu Custard.
A lover and aficionado of mutton must know this: it is the quality of the meat that outweighs the curry. It is what makes or breaks the dish. And make it, it does, melting all the way from our startled mouths to our eager stomachs and then back again, to the cockles of the heart.
Need I say more? Oh yes. The spices in the Dhansak are a Goldilocks’ porridge. Not too overwhelming, not too modest. Just right.
We clumsily unwrap the machchi from its leaves. I grab a fork from the bucket-shaped hipster spoon stand. The fish is fresh and the chutney isn’t sweet. Hurray? Hmm. I miss my mithi chutney. No, I don’t. Sugar’s a bi**ch.
My jaw has dropped. It’s the Berry Pulao. As if it weren’t enough that my beloved Britannia is not the only place in the world that serves it; do the berries here have to be softer and more succulent? Must the pulao be so luscious and flavoursome? How dare they? Show offs.
I eat a spoonful of Lagan nu Custard. Phew. No surprises there. It’s still the same-ol’-same-ol’ chicken-soup-for-the-soul of Parsi desserts.
I gulp down my Dukes Raspberry and do something I’ve never done before. Leave without paying the bill.
Pritha Murdeshwar was a guest of SodaBottleOpenerWala to review their “Navroz Dronu” menu. Available from August 10-24 at Mumbai SodaBottleOpenerWala outlets, the Dronu includes a sumptuous Bhonu and unlimited cocktails and Sangria for Rs. 1,200 ++.