ADD A LITTLE SALT TO LIFE
WORDS: VARDHAN KONDVIKAR
PHOTOGRAPHS: SAMEER MANGTANI
GREAT FROM: Mumbai, Pune
GREAT FOR: Pampering yourself, a foodie weekend
You wouldn’t think that the belly of a fish is something you’d write a romantic ode to. But (if you like sashimi), the otoro – tuna belly – at Yuuka, the ‘modern Japanese’ restaurant at The St Regis Mumbai, might make you rethink that. You might fetch pen and paper. And you might order seconds. Which would be a mistake, because there is plenty else to rhapsodise on.
You convince yourself you’re doing this staycation because you and the overworked spouse need a break, but you will, in truth, be doing it because you can eat freighter-sized portions, drink enough cocktails to float said freighter, and still have a bed nearby. Ask for a reinforced one, if needed.
If you live in Mumbai, you know that this establishment has been through a few name changes, but as The St Regis, it’s the most luxurious it’s ever been, and it comes with a great staycation package, making all that luxury very accessible. Among other things, it also gets you breakfast at Seven Kitchens, the multi-cuisine all-day dining (breakfast dim sum!), and a spa treatment (for one). At the Iridium Spa, if you’re so inclined, you can round off your treatment with an ‘angel card reading’ by the very enthusiastic Husnavaz – check in any skepticism at the door, please.
Then, of course, you get a plump bed in a plush room and great service, but, everything mainly revolves around expanding your girth. That goes from the high tea at The Drawing Room in the lobby – try the pricey but pretty special Caroline Astor afternoon tea, tasting of dark chocolate and oats, and watch the Champagne-sabering ceremony, where a bottle of Moët is slickly beheaded, the contents ending up in the glasses of everyone in the lobby. Pampering extends to the meals at By The Mekong, the larger Asian restaurant, which serves its multi-coloured dim sum and fantastic steamed Chilean sea bass in a superior Sichuan black bean sauce in an unusual atmosphere – instead of the usual plink-plonk Chinese-flute music, it plays cheerful, ear-worm-ey Chinese pop, which is a lot more fun. Possibly the best-known restaurant here is The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar – try the Lehsooni Laccha Naan with the Sahib Room Nalli Nihari, and cool off your palate with a paan ice cream. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Bombay Mary cocktail.
But the real star is Yuuka. Whether you’re vegetarian or not, try the excellent avocado tartare, which comes with a crust of ice, delicately pierced at the table. Then the Salmon on Fire, a mini barbecue with coffee beans instead of coals, the Taro tartare, which looks even more dramatic (to tell you would ruin the drama), dishes of the rare variety where the taste actually matches the spectacle. The black cod, with its sliding, slippery taste. Then the sashimi platter, where your tastebuds unionise and go on strike if you order anything below this level again. Fresh, real wasabi, grated at your table. Sea bass with truffle emulsion. Each of which leave your tongue coated with a delicate saltiness you don’t want to lose with dessert. So you order a truffle-and-sea-salt ice cream, which just, well, just works. An exceptional meal. Made all the more exceptional by the fact that once you’re done, all you need to do is navigate the complicated elevator system and get to that cool, cloud-soft bed. And another day to do it all over again.