Oberoi’s Eau Bar, one of SoBo’s favourite watering holes, entices Mumbai’s elite with its outdoor charms, especially in the short cool spell we call winter. The red velvet and grand piano interiors of the main bar are gorgeous and all that jazz. The modern interpretation of the Tree of Life dominates the plush retro space, its tendrils conceptually interweaving through the theme of what they’re serving there too.
The Flavour Journey part of the beautifully illustrated menu (we saw the digital version) is separated into sections that use either use fruits, roots, flowers or seeds as primary ingredients. And then come the classic cocktails down the ages, with tiny tales about their conception, encouraging you to ‘sip their story’. A fitting tribute to the chandeliered Art Deco décor that also harks back to a similar vintage.
But my date and I were keen to enjoy our Sunday sundowners al fresco, so we headed to the outdoor deck, which gives real credence to the bar’s credo of being ‘inspired by the Ocean, the Stars and the Magic of Mumbai’. It felt like a red-letter day, when we stepped out from the hotel’s upper lobby (the one with my favourite red piano) and onto this stylish open-air deck with the cosy couches piled with comfy red cushions! The setting sun over Marine Drive matched our mood, sending scarlet streaks across the indigo sky. It was a liberating experience to remove our masks in this public yet relatively safe environment and just breathe in the heady air of pure freedom.
Of the many tempting libations on the menu, which has been specially curated by Andrew Pearson, one of UK’s leading mixologists, the ones that sang to me most melodiously were the ones that referenced the bar’s fantastic location at the Southernmost tip of the city’s famed Queen’s Necklace. Like the Malabar Mule, a meld of Gold Rum, ginger beer cordial, rhubarb & ginger liqueur. Or the Marine Drive, which blends The Eau Bar’s signature turmeric gin with saline solutions and orange bitters. And then there are those like Sage Advice, which draw on our memories of Mumbai, taking inspiration from the earthy petrichor aroma of my favourite season – the monsoon.
The drinks are well made and on point with the international bar scene, using innovative tinctures and infusions. The elegant small plates served here are reliably good, if a tad less imaginative. We had the rather addictive home-made root chips and the burrata and mushroom brioche but would certainly like to try more options the next time we’re there. By then, I hope that their much-loved live band is back as well.
To complete date night on a high note, we went upstairs to the exquisitely designed Ziya, their modern Indian fine-dining restaurant, which also has a stunning sweep of the Queen’s Necklace from its floor-to-ceiling picture windows.
Now I’ve had their stellar tasting menu designed by globally acclaimed Chef Vineet Bhatia (of multiple Michelin stars, Twist of Taste and The Final Table fame) on quite a few occasions. This has recently morphed into the seven-course degustation menu called the ‘Ziya Journey’. But as we wanted to keep it light that evening, we decided to explore his new ‘Sharing Plates’ Earth, Land & Sea menu, said to be a throwback to food the way our grandparents enjoyed it. In true Vineet style, the food respected the timeless flavours and culinary traditions of our forebears but also embraced contemporary plating and surprising juxtapositions. Like the very North Indian dahi ke kebab, those soft little pillows of perfection that are said to have originated in the royal kitchens of Emperor Akbar, were stuffed with figs and served with a tamatar ka kut, a zingy tomato chutney from Hyderabad.
Or the delicious prawns, black from the activated charcoal, which reclined regally on a bed of pindi hummus. An aromatic lamb biryani and the flavour-packed paan kulfi and rabdi dessert that followed were satisfyingly good too.
The free-wheeling feel of the menu took away the formality that is usually associated with a typical fine dining experience, allowing us to relax with our bubbly, sit back and savour the food tales the restaurant’s accomplished team regaled us with along with each dish. The name Ziya means both ‘splendour’ and ‘light’ and that night truly sparkled with a delicious lightness of being.
Where: The Oberoi, Mumbai, Nariman Point, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400021
Phone: 022 6632 6220
Note: The critic was invited by the brand but all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.