Year after year, we’d pass by a rather inconspicuous restaurant-entrance in the madness of Lakme Fashion Week, at its host hotel. Or perhaps the madness was what made it seem inconspicuous. Then the fashion extravaganza moved elsewhere but luckily we made it back to try out the Italian restaurant, Celini at Grand Hyatt. While we’ve already made clear our thoughts on its placement, at the risk of sounding impulsive, this quaint restaurant, unobtrusive entry et al might just be the reason why you must stop by this airport neighboring hotel upon every Mumbai trip.
Celini, pronounced ch uh – l EE – n ee (from Celina?), with booths and blonde wood, looks utterly unassuming, perhaps so as not to distract from or perhaps complement its home-style Italian cooking. Its vast wine display and a smattering of tables and chairs just ahead of the doorway do little to reveal the warmly lit and marvelously comfy booths that lay within. Or better still, legendary French firm, Molteni designed, wood-fired oven and rotisserie boasting show kitchen. Which is just as well, who doesn’t want to be surprised by pizza at the end of the Mediterranean rainbow after all? Among other things.
Food & Drink
We had heard somewhere that Chef Alessandro Persico’s Italian cooking invades all the senses. His own however seemed to be under much duress we realized as we were told he is on leave due to illness. But that the second-in-command Chef would cater to our every farinaceous fancy! Warm welcome, check. This does not go to say that the good-natured Chef Alessandro didn’t stop by anyway while we were mid-meal. Said meal started with the High Priestess of platters.
Customized to consist the best of vegetarian and non-vegetarian antipasto, which were many, putting this together, much like making one’s way through it could not have been an easy feat.
From a palatable preview of the Insalata Caprese to a plunge into the sweet depths of perfectly done scallops, the astutely laid out antipasti platter also boasted parmesan rocks, crunchy, fried basil for embellishment and smooth, arugula cream blankets, besides reintroducing us to the light yet robust parma ham wrapped cantaloupe, an Italian-supper classic.
By the time we were through with the last of it, a rather pregnant, caviar and chives cream laden, marinated smoked salmon, we got the sense of having been through a lavish banquet. So it’s a great thing then that the next course was an all-time favorite.
The pizza, a half and half, with pepperoni on one side and pesto-tomatoes on the other shook things up just when we needed them shaken.
Wide awake now, lulled out of our comma, our taste buds abounding with innumerous flavors, we were asked if we’d like a sampler for the next course. Unsure whether or not to return to the “banquet” state of mind, we nodded our heads anyway and were presented with a trio of Homemade swiss chard ravioli, duck tortellini and lamb risotto. While the three had a nice progression going, the direct result of any kind of progression is that one, in this case the lamb risotto turned out the star of the trio. By the time dessert rolled around, we found ourselves frantically reaching for water and/ or our respective fruity mocktails to make room. We still fondly think of the crispy cheese cannoli with wild berry compote and Tiramisu.
If the adage, “life is short, eat dessert first” holds any truth, we’d say you instantly place an order for Celini’s Croccante al formaggio or crispy cheese cannoli with wild berry compote and silken custard, and the Tiramisu.
While the latter is traditionally prepared, the former is a kind of convention breaking likeness of and in our opinion, a tastier alternative to cheesecake.
With a crisp outer shell and a warm almost loving, gooey center, this one’s for toothsome keeps. As are their pizzas, albeit in the savory category. For carnivores, in, around and travelling to Mumbai, do not miss out on their massive pie prepared with spicy pepperoni. Our awe and delight was encouraged with information that everything from the crusty base to the marinara sauce to the meats have not been changed/ improvised on once, and have remained that way since the opening.
Going to Italy each time you have a pizza hankering isn’t exactly easy-to-do. Luckily, Mumbaikars have their savior in Celini. With antipasti as it would be if it were straight out of Mama’s kitchen on the one hand and an innovative spin on the classic cheesecake by way of the Croccante al formaggio, this is one Italian eatery full of welcome contradictions.
The critic was served a tasting menu
Grand Hyatt Mumbai,
Western Express Hwy,
Tel No – +91 22 6676 1234