Despite misgivings about a restaurant that mounts generic pots, pans, ladles on the wall and pumps 90s Bollywood tunes from the speakers, all the while professing to be ‘fully South Indian,’ things during our visit to South High do not go south.
In fact, they begin to look up as soon as we meet floor manager Gregory Wilfred, who proves our soft spot for men with two first names is very well placed: he guides us through our meal like a beacon in murky waters, and offers immediate comfort with the information that South High, newly opened in Kamala Mills, is part of the Mahesh Lunch Home stable. Plus there is the well-stocked bar, another reassuring feature. We sit down to eat at banana leaf plates decorated with plump marigolds, and order one tender coconut water and one KF Ultra to stay true to course.
Things begin to look up as soon as we meet floor manager Gregory Wilfred, who proves our soft spot for men with two first names is very well placed.
Our vegetarian thali is an amalgamation of cuisines from the uniform landmass that is believed to be ‘South India.’ But don’t be alarmed; persistence (and low expectations) will be rewarded. Tomato rasam is superlative, rounded and beautiful; ginger chutney tingles in all the right places. Portions of channa gassi and thoran set the scene, calm before the storm: idli, sambar, two kinds of vada (dal and banana), Kerala parotta, pooris, dosa, and bhindi gojju. All set to dive in, we are thrown completely off-course by the addition of paneer-shimla mirch. Our only recourse is to bury it under papadam and press onward. Dessert is safely southern, and nails it on all counts; a toothsome coconut barfi, subtle mango sewa and delicate semiya payasam, embodying all the things we love about South India – gentle, sweet, and sophisticatedly underplayed.
On a la carte, a neer dosa leaves us wanting; it is sufficiently thin, but dry and limp. Our appam however, does not disappoint. Like a toppled-over lady in a can-can skirt, it holds its shape until the very end, crisp and lacy on the edges and soft on the inside — perfect for mopping up Chicken Kadipatta. We are sceptical about an entire dish that revolves around the small but heady curry leaf, but it hits perfect notes on sour, spicy and salty with a frisson of freshness from the curry leaves.
Bhatkali prawn biryani, with its long-grain rice, is a disappointment. Although the rice is perfectly cooked and the prawns sizeable, the flavours are completely off-mark. Bhatkali biryani is known to be both spicy and slightly sweet from onions, but this particular rendition only hits the sweet notes.
Eleneer payasam, light and cold, with slivers of almond and long strands of tender coconut, evokes images of swaying palms and tropical beaches. So sensational, it makes this Malayali writer forgive all the trespasses that came before.
Getting there: Ground Floor, Trade Tower, B-Wing, Kamala Mills,Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower, Parel. A meal for two costs Rs. 1,600.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
Anisha Rachel Oommen is a freelance food writer and editor of The Goya Journal, a digital publication focused on culinary storytelling.
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