Should we be pairing our bhapa machh with baquerkhani? The Bengali fish preparation and the Kashmiri poppy-crusted bread turn out to be an odd pairing, but they are both pleasures found along the Grand Trunk Road (one of the oldest trade routes which wound through Afghanistan, Lahore, Kashmir, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal), a premise that directs the kitchen at Taftoon, BKC’s newest restaurant and bar.
A word of advice: if you’re ordering yourself, restrict most of your meal to one Grand Trunk Road region or use the manager’s recommendations for a feast that wanders but maintains a cohesive narrative. The waiters, like us, are clearly overwhelmed by the 14 page menu. And taking cue from the genre jumping kitchen is the music: The Chainsmokers covers to sangeet-ready beats in a single afternoon sitting.
I’m Up All Night To Get Lauki
We begin Sunday brunch as we should – at the bar where a smoking cocktail called the Silk Route lets its delicate apricot notes wash over us. The Ode to Kipling is desperately sweet, with a pomegranate and cranberry one-two making it more mocktail than cocktail. It gets better though, after the feedback-seeking manager, sends back a stronger, less saccharine version. Keeping us company are gorgeous beetroot and Bengal gram kebabs that dissolve on the tongue almost instantly, and hot chicken-wrapped prawns, which work as effective finger food.
Now let us get to a table by the window, below geometric lamps and to that bhapa machh which rejected its Kashmiri suitor. On its own, the bhekti marinated in yogurt and mustard, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed, is a sharp sinus cleaner, and would probably go better with some of the other Bengali dishes on the menu, like the mocchar cutlets or the chingri jhol. The Taftoon winners for us though, are the lauki koftas, cooked in a complex sour gravy, and the lal naan, flavoured with chilli oil and tempered with sesame seeds and garlic.
Our Lucknowi ghost nihari features two generous mutton shanks that are let down by what tastes like a sweet, one-note gravy.
Sea Of Poppies
From one low to another high: dessert. Next, a wonderfully textured poppy-crusted, crunchy badam shortbread, topped with a house-made mango ice-cream that we wish we could Scootsy home by the kilo. On the side, a Kashmiri Shufta - compote of dry fruits and apricot in honey that is neither sweet, nor textured and adds nothing to the dish.
Despite a few speed bumps along the way, we’re certain to return to this trading route where the cocktails are made with care, and are full of promise, and meals can turn into feasts with the right kind of ordering.
Getting there: Naman Centre, G-Block, opposite Dena Bank, Bandra Kurla Complex, call 26530255, a meal for two costs approximately Rs 4,000 with one drink each.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
This review was conducted by Aatish Nath, a freelance food and travel writer.
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