With a Michelin starred chef at its helm and an unbeatable location at Juhu’s JW Marriott Mumbai, Arola bar and restaurant has a reputation for serving traditional Spanish food in an ultramodern avatar. Chef Sergi Arola’s menu is approachable even to those new to the fare making this a good place to visit if you’re seeking your first taste of Spanish cuisine. The restaurant’s vibe is vibrant and urbane without being too formal.
We were present for Arola Musica, the restaurant’s weekly fusion music event with DJ Spacejams and Naviin Gandharv (an Indian classical instrumentalist) performing live.
Arola has the feel of a lounge or a cocktail bar with its dimly lit dark wood interior with occasional red accents. We were seated in a non-smoking area where tables were surrounded by comfortable leather chairs while booths sported plush cushions with flame red embroidery. The décor highlight of the restaurant is the extravagantly designed crescent bar. With its backdrop of bottles, glittering gold in the subtle lighting, it looks almost like something out of an old Hollywood movie.
The evening was made better by the musicians who were at their very best. Both Spacejams and Mr. Gandharv delivered high energy performances; if you enjoy exploring fusion music and new artists, this is the place to be.Drinks:
Arola prides itself on its extensive gin collection, and its signature cocktails are mostly made with Tanqueray. We ordered the Sangria de Sergi (the house favorite supposedly made using a secret recipe) and the Bella Rossa Cobler (crafted with Tanqueray No. Ten, house made fresh fruit syrup and topped with chopped fruit) both of which were impressive. The Sangria was unlike any we had tried before, rich with the tartness of grape. The Bella Rossa won out for me, with its decidedly sweet, almost floral citrus flavor undercut with the barest of bitterness from the alcohol. While our picks were pretty safe, the adventurous might want to try something like the Lavolta (which caught my eye on the menu for featuring tea among its ingredients). At the very end of our meal we were served a gin and tonic made with British Fifty Pounds gin. Tonic water is not at all my favorite cocktail ingredient, but connoisseurs of this classic drink combination will appreciate the old school flavors. Food:
We started with a little plate of toasts served with a tomato paste, raw cloves of garlic, salt and olive oil. The idea was to rub the garlic onto the toast and top it with the other ingredients, a clever and enjoyable variation of bruschetta which does wonders to whet the appetite.
The first official appetizer was the Patatas Bravas (deep fried cylinders of potato filled with tomato sauce and topped with aioli) which was a tasty and sophisticated spin on the humble spud. This was served alongside the Bamba de Patata Y Pollo (A chicken and potato sphere with spicy tomato sauce) which was well presented but not too memorable. Then came the Croquetas, a set of Spanish Ham Croquettes and a set of Mahon cheese croquettes, these we scarfed down without mercy. Both were perfectly golden brown and crisp on the outside while melting and creamy inside. The white asparagus (Espárragos Blancos- White asparagus cooked at low temperature in mineral water with a light mayonnaise topped with dried olive powder) was crisp and crunchy but would have been more enjoyable with a spicy dip. Next, we tried the Pollo de Corral (Chicken wings confit for 12 hours, deboned and lacquered with spices and fresh red chilli) was fiery and will appeal to those with an appetite for spicy food. Our first taste of Arola’s seafood were the Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Prawns with fresh red chilli and fresh parsley) which were tender and succulent, sure to be a hit with seafood lovers.
Coca – a Spanish style pizza was next on the menu. We tried the Coca de Jamón Ibérico featuring Iberian ham and artichoke hearts. This was a standout dish with its light and crisp base and delicate ham slices, after this I’d definitely be interested in trying out the other Cocas on the menu. The next course was Arroz de Bogabante (Rice with prawns and lobster), a creamy rice dish featuring chunks of meaty lobster and prawn. The risotto-like rice was flavorful enough, but again it was the well-cooked seafood that made this dish.
We ended the meal on a light note with Huevos y Canela (Carmelized Crème Catalana layered with mandarin sorbet). The custard was not too sweet and paired well with the chilled citrus flavor of the sorbet. A good pick for those whose dessert preference is “not too sweet”.
The Garlic Prawns and the Iberian Ham coca were the undisputed MVPs of this meal. The prawns were perfectly cooked and ever-so-subtly flavored, an uptown version of the butter garlic prawns that Mumbaikars crave year round. The coca was simultaneously familiar and new, with its exotic (at least by Indian standards) toppings and brittle, almost flaky crust. It combined the fun of eating a pizza with exciting ingredients. Lovers of meats and cold cuts might also want to try the Charcuterie platter.
Its energetic mood and plethora of finger foods and tapas, make Arola the very best kind of Friday night destination. You’ll find that the staff is helpful and attentive, and if you’re lucky, Chef Sergi himself might swing by your table to say hi. When at Arola, sample the gin, experience the music and take your tastebuds to Spain with Chef Sergi Arola’s enticing menu. I can’t promise that everyone will love the food, ultimately European food has a polarizing effect on the Indian palette; some enjoy the muted flavors while other claim they’re bland. The genius of Arola’s menu though is in the fact that while resisting the urge to “Indianize” Spanish food, he has kept the main ingredients relatively simple and familiar. Come here for drinks and appetizers after work or for a girls/boys night out on the weekend.
What we ordered:
Sangria de Sergi – Rs. 800
Bella Rossa Cobbler – Rs. 800
Patatas Bravas- Rs. 525
Bamba de Patata Y Pollo – Rs. 625
Espárragas Blancos – Rs. 750
Croquetas (Cheese) – Rs. 525
Croquetas (Ham) – Rs. 890
Pollo de Corral – Rs. 595
Gambas al Ajillo – Rs. 725
Coca de Jamón Ibérico – Rs. 1425
Arroz de Bogabante – Rs. 1175
Huevos y Canela – Rs. 525
Arola Restaurant And Bar – JW Marriott,
Juhu Tara Road,
Tel: +91 22 66933344
Images Courtesy: Erica D’Souza
Note: The writer was hosted at Arola but all opinions expressed are her own.