*Disclosure: We were invited by The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar to attend their soft launch, but as always our opinions remain completely our own.*
You’d expect a restaurant themed after the British Raj to be a snooty affair. Bejeweled uniforms, ridiculous mustaches and a touch of imperial snobbery would seem to fit the bill. While we wish this were the case (for pure entertainment), the reality is a much more elegant, relaxed affair. The Sahib Room – which is the dining room inside the Kipling Bar at Palladium Hotel – includes hints of a bygone era, but is mainly defined by its plush seating and spacious tables, manned by expertly trained staff.
There are definite benefits to being co-located with a bar, chief among them a cocktail menu that features expertly crafted and well-balanced (read: not cloyingly sweet) concoctions named after Rudyard Kipling‘s creations. Our favorite was the Mowgli, an easy-sipping mixture of whiskey and spiced tea that reminded us of a well made Old Fashioned.
The Sahib Room’s menu shines brightest in the appetizers department. As described by our sever, almost all appetizers make use of either the tandoor (clay oven), sigri (coal flame) or tawa (griddle), and are inspired by “grittier” frontier style cooking. Not to be missed are the Sarson Mahi Tikka – perfectly seasoned, flaky fillets of grilled fish – and the outstanding house specialty Lahori Chaampein – wonderfully tender and smoky lamb chops, cooked to a medium rare consistency. We also tried – and loved – all three soups on offer: the Gosht Yakhni was meaty yet light, the Phalon Ka Shorba soup citrusy and refreshing, while the velvety Satwar Piste Ka Shorba was perfectly accentuated by toasted pistachios and fresh prawns.
Our main courses, unfortunately, weren’t quite as memorable. We can’t really fault the cooking – the Sahib Room Nalli Nihari, Ghar Ka Murgh, Jhinga Anari and the Khade Masala Ka Murgh – all came out as advertised. Fine curries, but none of them displayed the creativity or surprise of our cocktails and appetizers. When you’re shelling out to fine-dine, this could feel like a letdown. (Picture note: since we requested tasting portions, the presentation was not what you might normally get with full portions).
There were some bright notes among the main courses. The Murgh Awadi Korma stood out for its delicate marriage of fennel, cardamom and saffron that set it apart from the more predictable curries. Meanwhile, the Kacche Gosht Ki Biryani – cooked under a sealed dome of dough – was everything a good biryani should be: flavorful, tender pieces of mutton slow-cooked in fragrant, fluffy basmati rice with whole spices, devoid of heavy oils or masalas. On the vegetarian side, the sweet and spicy Kalonjiwale Baigan, the savory Khaas Kofte, and the tangy Amchuri Bhindi all scooped up easily with our selection of rotis and parathas, adding a welcome range of flavors and textures to our meal.
The desert menu consists of a mix of four Indian dishes and a surprising fifth (ummm, Chocolate Mille Feuille, m’lady?). Again – a capably executed offering of Rasgulla, Gulab Jamun, and Angoori Rabdi – but the only one that will stay on your mind is the robustly flavored Kolkata Meetha Paan Ice Cream.
Between the cocktails, appetizers and the standout biryani, you definitely have the trappings of a great meal at The Sahib Room. We were also very impressed with our server’s knowledge of the menu, who at one point conjured up a bowl of mace and explained its origins (the dried sheath of a nutmeg seed) after seeing our puzzled faces. Prices are as you would expect at a five star hotel, so plan your visit accordingly. Over time, we hope the restaurant will inject some variety and excitement into the main courses, and maybe an exaggerated mustache or two on the wait staff (ok, that might be just me). Until then, it’s whiskey, soup and lamb chops all the way.
The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar
Level 9M, Palladium Hotel
462 Senapati Bapat Marg
Lower Parel, Mumbai
Tel: 022 61628422