A Mogul’s indulgence at Bombay Brasserie

The Bombay Brasserie restaurant at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town offers fine, traditional Indians cuisine

Upon entering the Taj Hotel on the corner of Wale and Adderley Street in Cape Town I feel different. There an international standard of service that can be likened to the best in the world – and a subtle touch of incense (perhaps lemongrass) that adds that extra bit of zest to the atmosphere. My friend Marisa and I are carefully guided to the Bombay Brasserie restaurant and greeted by the wide smile of our hostess dressed in a gorgeously luxurious salwar kameez (traditional Indian dress).

We step down into the soft lit room. It’s all parquet floors and blue glass chandeliers shimmering from above in the wood panelled room. We sink into the peacock embroidered armchairs and admire the rich wallpaper and the matted silver tablecloths. Soon restaurant manager Francois van der Merwe is there to run us through the menu. I didn’t expect him to be able to transport me right back to opulent India just through his words. With his intimate and expressive knowledge of traditional Indian food, he explains how some of the dishes are prepared and what is best on the menu and why. That’s it; I’ll go with whatever he recommends, veg' or non-veg' alike.

Our waiter Phinias brings a tiered silver tray with different kinds and colours of poppadums and crudités to our table, served with the Bombay Brasserie’s signature chutneys (and this is spicy Indian chutney, not Mrs Balls!). The spices are not overpowering though; it simply creates that subtle warmth that gets our appetite going.

My starter of Roasted Yellow Corn Soup with Turmeric Popcorn (Bhuni Makai Ka Shorba)arrives ceremoniously. The waiter puts a soup bowl with turmeric flavoured popcorn in front of me and proceeds to pour the roasted corn soup from a teapot into the bowl. The turmeric popcorn is meant to infuse the soup and it all feels very grand. The flavours are balanced and delightful; the texture of the soup is absolutely smooth. I also manage to sneak a prawn from my Marisa’s Char Grilled Prawn starter(Bhatti Ka Jheenga). It’s meaty and fiery and fresh.

Francois pairs our starters with a tasting glass ofKlein Constantia Riesling 08, just to convince us that wine actually is a lovely accompaniment to finely spiced cuisine. Executive Sous Chef Harpreet Kaur prefers to use subtle spices in her dishes which does allow for wine pairing. She came to Cape Town from the Masala Kraft Restaurant in the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai and has travelled the whole of India to research regional Indian recipes and flavours. This might explain why the Bombay Brasserie is fairly full on this Monday night – and showing a good amount on Indian patrons dressed to the nines yet eating with their hands true to the tradition of their roots.

An authentic Indian journey of flavourful cuisine

A second starter of Char Grilled Cottage Cheese spiked with ‘Guntur’ Chillies (Lal Mirch Ka Panir Tikka), Salmon Flavoured with Bishop’s Weed (Tandoori Norwegian Salmon) andCreamy Chicken Kebabs (Chicken Tikka ‘Doodhia’) make it to our table. We share the bite sized pieces. A Vin d’Orrance Cuveé Anais Chardonnay 08 complements the salmon like a Bollywood dream, whilethe Eagles Nest Viognier 08 is a good match for the Tikka spice. Each bite lifts my senses and takes my taste buds on a balances journey of flavours.

Time for mains and the food continues to be as abundant as our conversation. Again our tasting menu includes a couple of small dishes. This mimics the real Indian experience of trying a little bit of everything out of communal dishes. Today’s selection includes Curried Prawn Masala (Jheenga Kadipatta), Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks in Delicate Saffron Curry (Dum Ki Nalli), Black Lentils and Kidney BeansSimmered Overnight (Dal Makhani) and Sautéed Spinach with Golden Fried Garlic (Lasooni Palak)served with steamed Basmati rice and plain naan bread. I feel like a spoilt mogul from another era. I feel like I could be sitting anywhere in the world.

Francois surprises us by bringing a Dunstone Merlot to accompany the lamb shanks. Red wine with Indian food, this is a first for me. However, the lamb shank is only very delicately spiced, so it ends up doing well. He also brings a taste of Simonsig Gewürztraminer 09 for good measure. The attentive service from both our waiter Phinas as well as the manager continues throughout the evening. By far the best service I have had in Cape Town and on par with the best I’ve experience during my five star travels.

The restaurant offers a view into the kitchen where everything seems to be as serene as inside the restaurant. This level of dining comes with the added benefit of Zen at Bombay Brasserie. By the time the dessert arrives I feel like I am rapidly growing a Buddha belly – but it’s a single Condensed Milk Dumpling (Gulab Jamun) with Cardamom Ice Cream (Malai Kulfi). There’s no saying no to one of my favourite memories from India. Decadent, rich and absolutely divine.  

Our meal concludes with a cup of Spiced Tea (Masala Chai), while our peaceful smiles reveal two utterly satiated diners in the soft light of this enchanting space. Bombay Brasserie is for epicureans, connoisseurs and lover of all things fine and beautiful. The commitment to excellence and top international standards is something that I have come to appreciate and it is a delight to be able to find it right here in Cape Town.

By Lize de Kock

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