A greatly awaited Indian restaurant & bar finally opened its doors at the Palladium Hotel. Goes by the name The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar. Fancy, we would say, as the hotel is known for when it comes to christening its restaurants. With the bar named after Rudyard Kipling, an English author who spent a lifetime of writing in India, and the cuisine that emulates the bygone royal era, it is a complete ‘sahib’ style visual and culinary delight to spend an evening here.
A proper gentleman.
A man of taste. An art aficionado.”
One has to walk through the lounge-like verandah seating adorned with a few basic candelabras to proceed towards the reception desk at the restaurant. While the verandah seating is more of an informal space to sample a few interesting Kipling signature cocktails, the entry point to the inner dining area & bar is what caught our attention instantly. The name of this regal restaurant is neatly put up in the apt company of a magnifying glass & a few splotches of ink on a metal board, with a vintage telephone at the desk only enhancing the drama greatly.
Further inside, you see a centrally placed long bar table, that shines on as Kiplings corner with classical literati relics such as a quill, a manuscript on a scroll, a watch, an old gramophone, few of the authors’ most famous works, coasters that you have to see for yourself, a smoking pipe and the like. I am told that this corner is reserved for Kipling Sahib, who I may run into if it was my lucky day! To weave an interesting story, the ‘sahib’s’ boy further adds that Kipling Sahib just walked out, and is expected back soon. Thinking out loud, well, maybe we just might be in for ‘A Midnight In Paris’ kind of an experience!
The bar and the dining area are separated just like the great poet and writer would’ve designed his space too. As our glance travels around we see an array of water colour and pencil & charcoal paintings of forts, hill-villages, old cities and towns on all walls from the 18th and the 19th centuries standing out amongst the earthy tone of the space. These classic paintings have been bought especially for the restaurant and bar from a tasteful curator.
Marching on, we cant help but notice the detailing that creates the colonial ambience and passage into the golden days where art, poetry and every leisurely pastime overflew with creativity, elegance and grandeur. Be it the etching on the glasses emulating the carvings from Lahore fort where Rudyard Kipling spent a lot of time, or the magnifique Ossler chandeliers, or the coat of arms on the upholstery, this element of inspiration also brims over into the interesting mildly spiced combinations of the choicest spirits in the form of cocktails and the royalty of rich cuisines crafted by Chef Paul Kinny and mixologist Kevin.
I glance over to the opening chapter of the menu book, and see this written under the coat of arms –
“The Coat of Arms is a crest or emblem
That represents a unique identity.
The central design elements of the fork,
spoon & knife symbolise a refined taste for fine dining.
The symbols of the tiger & panther depict
royalty & power, respectively, two prominent features
that inspired us to capture the essence of the
British Raj era.”
Coming to our royal journey of indulgence here, we paid our tribute to Sir Rudyard Kipling by raising a toast to Mowgli and Kipling Sahib. Mowgli, derived from ‘The Jungle Book’ is a somewhat wild concoction of whiskey, spiced tea, apple, orange and sweet spices, whereas Kipling Sahib is a mix of gin, orange, lemon, coriander and ginger. Our pick of number ones here! While we were enthusiastically sipping on our concoctions, the chef sent out a mildly sweet bite-sized lentil dumpling on a bed of yoghurt, topped with spicy and sweet chutneys as our amuse-bouche on a betel leaf shaped platter. Quite nice to kickstart the dinner with!
The cuisine here is inspired by flavours from North-West Frontier Province (Mughlai) and Lucknow (Awadhi) mainly. We are told the first half of the menu, mainly the appetisers reflect NWFP influences whereas the main course tends towards Lucknowi cuisine. We would say that we had our fair share of vegetarian and non-vegetarian appetisers. We tried ‘Nadroo Ke Shammi’, braised lotus stem patties & ‘Broccoli Dak Bangla’, broccoli in Philadelphia cream cheese & ‘Pudina Paneer Tikka’, clay oven-cooked cottage cheese marinated with fresh mint and ‘Dhungari Kumbh’, coal smoked forest mushrooms with a hint of cilantro and ginger in the vegetarian appetiser spread, and ‘Lahori Chaampein’, lamb chops marinated with fennel for 12 hours & ‘Gongura Jhinga’, tiger prawns in a spicy red sorrel marinade and ‘Afghani Tikka’, the good old chicken tikka marinated in yoghurt and spiced with therapeutic yellow chili in the non-vegetarian appetiser spread. All of them were so flawlessly authentic in their classical flavours, that it made us wonder if the chef found the secret book of original recipes from that past golden era. Our favourites were the Nadroo ke Shammi in the vegetarian range and the Lahori Chaampein in the non-vegetarian range. Broccoli Dak Bangla and Gongura Jhinga can’t be ignored either. A total gourmand’s delight these appetizers are!
For mains, we tried the chef specials namely ‘Narangi Phool’, ‘Purvanchal Ka Saag’, ‘Murg Awadhi Korma’and ‘Sasranga Meat’. Frankly speaking, we weren’t as impressed by the main course as we were with the appetisers. But then again, maybe it’s the traditional Indian fare that every dine-in guest would expect, and traditional is what you get. The zealous mandarin orange flavour to the cauliflower curry was perhaps the welcome twist of innovation in its recipe making it a little less rich in consistency as compared to the other preparations. We were divided on this one; one of us didn’t like the combination (whereas I loved it to bits). The ‘tawa’ cooked puree of fresh greens in classic gravy had the perfect balance of flavour, texture and freshness to it. Quite easily the expected universal choice for the main course. Meat lovers will not regret calling for Sasranga Meat, which is Kashmiri hand-pulled lamb flavoured with garlic, cardamom and mace. The rich and elaborate preparation of Murg Awadhi Korma with chicken tenders braised in thick gravy with fennel seeds and cardamom, and lightly scented with saffron, giving away a hint of rose as well, is something you will develop a stronger love for with each new bite. We went a little overboard in our selection of two types of dal preparations, ‘Dal Dhaaba’ and ‘Sahib Ki Khaas Dal Makhani’ upon being told by the chef that all the guests who have visited the restaurant so far just simply adore the dals on menu. Dal Makhani, their signature preparation with black lentils cooked overnight in a copper urn is a clear winner here! Dal Dhaaba was more like our domesticated version of home-cooked street style preparation of dal. This was served with an assorted platter of staples, out of which, our unanimous pick would be the Warqi Malai Paratha.
We teamed up the main course with cocktails Kim’s Game and Carrie. While Kim’s Game, a brew of whiskey, passion fruit, orange and basil, as the name suggests, is named after one of the author’s writing ‘Kim’, ‘Carrie’, is a majestic mix of rum, banana, pineapple, cinnamon and cloves, takes after Kipling Memsahib.
With this, we moved towards the Kipling Corner for the last, and the most important course of the meal – the dessert (secretly hoping to meet him and say our goodbyes). We were served ‘The Pioneer’ and ‘Paan Martini’ in shot glasses, alongside the spread of ‘Angoori Rabdi’, ‘Rajbhog’, ‘Chocolate Mille Feuille’ and ‘Kolkata Meetha Paan Ice Cream’. We think we sampled the entire spread of desserts, and not a single sweet treat failed to impress. In small towns and cities, the custom of offering ‘paan’ or betel leaf at the end of a rich curried meal is an age old tradition. More so in the Lucknow province. Hence, it made complete sense to include the paan flavoured icecream and martini to wrap up the meal. If you’re a connoisseur of Indian sweets, you will be charmed and delighted with the Angoori Rabdi. And if you’re not, there’s always the Chocolate Mille Feuille to curb those post dinner sweet cravings.
Verdict : It’s a symbiotic mix of Mughlai and Awadhi cuisines in the style of cooking and use of spices and other ingredients, perfected in a colonial ambience and charm that again fuses the British and Princely Indian attributes impeccably. The ambience and the smartly crafted menu names take the whole dining experience a notch above. Ideal for a perfect Indian meal with the familia.
Our only disappointment would probably be the lack of Kipling’s library corner in the restaurant. Maybe if there was a book I could pick up and read in a quaint corner, I would take back even better memories from the regal experience.
Liked by none – Pioneer Cocktail
Liked by one – Narangi Phool, Lahori Chaampein, Sasranga Meat, Warqi Malai Paratha & Dal Dhaba
Liked by one and all – Mowgli, Kipling Sahib, Nadroo Ke Shammi, Paan Martini & Paan Ice-cream
Of Bombay, Kipling was to write:
“Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.”
The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar is here to stay, not fizzle out and be forgotten when the next new restaurant pops up in the vicinity. It will keep you coming back for that special colonial meal and more!
Meal for two
Did the chef and his brilliantly talented team conspire to make us taste the entire menu? Well, I, for one, did like to believe that! Thankfully, most of the portions served to us were tasting size servings.
An average meal for two consisting of around four cocktails, vegetarian and non-vegetarian appetizer, vegetarian and non- vegetarian main course, selection of dal and assorted platter of breads and around two dessert selections would cost approximately INR 7500 plus taxes as applicable.
The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar,
Level 9M, Palladium Hotel,
462 Senapati Bapat Marg,
Lower Parel, Mumbai
Tel No – +91 (22) 6162 8422