Flight of fancy Columns

And the parties are back

The columnist with her friends   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

2021 is definitely off to a bang. This last weekend felt like a real one after so long, I almost forgot about Covid-19. On Saturday evening, I went to a five-person dinner party at art aficionado Udit Bhambri’s home. Of course, we adhered to our social bubble. Nowadays, going to someone’s home seems like winning a ‘get out of jail’ card. Udit has a fabulous collection and his enthusiasm for Indian art is infectious. His passion began as a young child; as an eight-year-old, he was urging his parents to buy paintings! Those who remember a pre-smart phone era will recall how popular autograph books used to be. Udit showed us his, signed not by movie stars and athletes, but by artists. He flipped through pages signed by MF Husain, Jehangir Sabavala and Ganesh Pyne, amongst others. The evening reminded me of all that we missed out last year, the wonderful feeling of dining with friends, learning something new along the way.

On Sunday, I did something even more risqué — I ate out at a restaurant! Tori recently opened in Bandra, and it is making waves. Chef Thomas Pongsak Catley, who helmed Amaz in Lima, Peru (one of South America’s best restaurants), and who has worked at Nobu London Park Lane, Maze Grill by Gordon Ramsay, and Ottolenghi in London, is in charge. Proprietor Abhayraj Singh Kohli, better known as ‘AB’, the man behind joints like The Roll Company and Grandmama’s Café, said he conceptualised everything over lockdown, including hiring the chef and assistant chefs over Zoom. A fan of Latin American-inspired Japanese food for almost two decades, he said he has been “waiting to open one in Mumbai for the last 16 years”. It was the lockdown that made it happen. Because of the depressed economy, rents in prime locales were down, providing the right opportunity. “Getting a chef of this calibre could not have happened otherwise,” he said.

(Clockwise from top): The Tori restaurant in Bandra, and chef Thomas Pongsak Catley’s vegan tuna roll and pulled jackfruit tacos

(Clockwise from top): The Tori restaurant in Bandra, and chef Thomas Pongsak Catley’s vegan tuna roll and pulled jackfruit tacos   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Prior to opening, Catley spent a lot of time researching vegetarian and vegan dishes, and the brunch menu reflected it. The pulled jackfruit tacos were divine and so was the ‘sushi’: vegan tuna, avocado, and salted melon fat, which was essentially watermelon that had been drained over hours and ‘reduced’ to look like the fish. The cocktails were yummy, too. I tried Scent of Kochi, a mix of vodka, yuzu, lime and bitters. The one hiccup was around service. New restaurants tend to have such teething problems, but the fact that places of this calibre are opening is exciting.

To top off the week was — gasp! — a proper ladies lunch, replete with floral décor and big hair blow drys. It had been almost a year since I had been to one of these and I had forgotten how much fun they could be. My girlfriend Priya Nathani had insisted on throwing me a belated birthday bash. Again, it was a social bubble, albeit a slightly bigger one than the weekend dinner party. The celebratory lunch involved 10 people, including me, and everyone had braved the gathering after being reassured that it was “just us”. Over lamb and mushroom tacos, flatbread, truffle parmesan fries, pink grapefruit avocado salad, baked baby burrata, rawas and cauliflower rice, served alongside white wine and Prosecco, we discussed skincare, wellness, and, of course, the pandemic. Some people wore masks, others were more carefree but most importantly, we laughed a lot. Priya had a little shopping area set up with charm bracelets and necklaces from a newly-formed local brand, for people to browse through. Retail therapy never hurt anyone. It was a perfect afternoon, one that hopefully sets the tone for the year to come.

This fortnightly column tracks the indulgent pursuits of the one-percenters.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:08:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/and-the-parties-are-back/article33579049.ece

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