Bar Review: Theory, Lower Parel

Theory.Three-month-old Lower Parel bar and restaurant Theory’s most attractive feature is its bar, a curvaceous charcoal-coloured centrepiece with extensions that provide customers with seating to avoid bumping elbows with their neighbours and space to place their glasses and plates. The rest of Theory, in shades of black and dark wood, appears a bit plain in comparison. The bar is expectedly the hub of the action at the Kamala Mills Compound establishment, which has been giving competition to Koko next door as the weekend hangout of south Mumbai revellers.

It’s the vibe that’s leading bar flies here, for Theory, despite the generic electronica soundtrack, has drawn comparisons to Manhattan nightspots. The menu, while ambitious, doesn’t quite meet all its promises, starting with the house cocktails which come at a price that warrants perfection. The Hickory Bong (Rs850) is meant to be a twist on the Bloody Mary. It’s made with whisky instead of vodka and tomato ‘water’ as opposed to juice and engulfed in hickory smoke. There was so much smoke in our bong-shaped receptacle that sipping from it felt like smoking a cigarette; the hickory decimated the contribution all the other ingredients, including the Sriracha, the waiter told us, that had been added.

The pick of mixologist Ema Pereira’s preparations is the finely balanced Asian mojito (Rs850), a gin cocktail in which the taste of coconut and flavour of star anise make for a distinct drink that evokes memories of beachside summer vacations. The next best on our list is the Roadside Mule (Rs850), a variation of the Moscow Mule, in which vodka is replaced by gin. It’s an Indianised version of the classic with tamarind sauce, curry leaves and cumin. In the almost sambar-like mix, the imli provides a tang that will be appreciated by those who like pucker-inducing potions.

The food menu is similarly inconsistent. There are three times as many experimental small plates as regular mains, of which there are just eight. Commendably, there’s an equal representation of vegetarian items but the experiments don’t always work. The zucchini carpaccio (Rs400), a cold starter of thin strips of zucchini wrapped tightly around roasted peanuts and feta, was satisfyingly light and crunchy. The black bean and pumpkin seed loaf (Rs720), which had the consistency of something between a tikki and a galouti kebab, was dry. There was barely any trace of truffle and too little edamame in the truffled edamame and mushroom puffs (Rs515), which were partially redeemed by the lightness of the pastry and meaty texture of the button and shimeji mushroom.

The Nori crisps (Rs575), rectangles of seaweed topped with rosettes of smoked salmon and goat cheese, were exactly the sum of their parts and reminded us how sometimes chefs show ingenuity in combining the right flavours. The star dish among the small plates was the BBQ pork ribs (Rs750), which were lightly charred, had just the right amount of fat, fell off the bone and were accompanied by a citrusy corn salsa that Theory should consider serving with other items as well.

All these appetisers left us with room for just a single main but we chose well as the umami-rich and creamy porcini risotto (Rs675) was a hit around our table. The chocolate pots de crème (Rs600), which was light and not too sweet, also met with universal approval. We were among the few people who had come for a whole meal. A scan around the room showed us large groups ordering rounds of beer and wine and celebrating birthdays. There was more of a buzz at the bar as was the case at Koko where we dropped in for a peek to compare notes. Kamala Mills Compound has become something of a neighbourhood of its own and has already seen establishments open and shut as soon as they do in Bandra and Andheri. Like Koko, Theory looks like it will be around for at least some time to come.

Prices exclude taxes and a 10 per cent service charge.

This review was conducted anonymously. It is our policy to wait a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.

Theory, Unit 1, Ground Floor, C Wing, Trade World, Kamala Mills Compound, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 6666 6506. Open daily, from 7pm to 1am. Get directions here

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