Restaurant Review: Farmer and Sons, Fort

FarmerandSonsMainA failed first restaurant can permanently discourage some from getting back into the ruthless food industry. But Nico Goghavala was undeterred. After winding up life in Galle, Sri Lanka, where he owned and managed a flourishing restaurant, Goghavala moved to Mumbai and attempted to replicate his food fortunes in the city of his birth. In 2013, Nico Bombay, his bar and bistro, took up a spot in Fort. With a menu focused on seasonal local produce and comfort fare, it appeared to fit right in with its popular peers Kala Ghoda Cafe and The Pantry. However, it shuttered somewhat prematurely last year, presumably because of its steep pricing for puny portions of less than memorable food.

Goghavala made a comeback with Farmer and Sons, which replaced Nico Bombay in January this year. The all-day restaurant is not so much a new start, but a rebranded venue. Nico Bombay’s rustic chic decor, channeled by way of distressed wood furnishings, vintage mirrors and barrel-shaped chandeliers, has been left untampered. The approach to cooking here is also similar. The dishes are produce-centric, hence the name Farmer and Sons.

During his time back at the drawing board, Goghavala fleshed out an appetising menu where the food is decidedly more casual and better priced than that of its predecessor. Presented as a beautifully illustrated booklet featuring a mustachioed farmer posing with different foods, it spotlights ingredients and is mercifully free of overwrought descriptions. There’s an obvious bias towards carbs evidenced in the large selection of pizzas, sandwiches, pita pockets and pastas. But the gluten-unfriendly need not be concerned. The menu leads with a thrilling list of salads portioned as meals. The butternut squash, puy lentils and Gorgonzola salad (Rs425) was a nutritious and attractively assembled heap of these ingredients as well as roasted pumpkin, micro amaranth leaves and baby spinach. Goghavala has a keen eye for picking and combining vegetables. The pan-roasted asparagus garnished with a poached egg (Rs250) listed under small plates had perfectly tender stalks of asparagus cooked in miso butter.

We could have popped half a dozen of the Acres of Goodness (Rs300), an aptly-named snack of veggie-filled mini pita pockets baked in a wood-fired oven. There was no sauce flavouring the crisp medley of zucchini, chickpeas, red peppers and spiced quinoa that was tasty just as it was. The chicken doner pita pocket (Rs325) loaded with succulent pieces of chicken, pickled beets and marinated peppers doused in a creamy blend of tzatziki and aioli was satisfyingly juicy. Their grilled sandwich selection showcases their excellent house-made sourdough characterised by a crisp crust and distinctly tangy flavour. However, the duck was somewhat eclipsed in the Finger Lickin’ duck sandwich (Rs500), which came slathered with mustard sauce and piled with Gruyere, orange segments and caramelised onions that competed with the flavour of the bird rather than highlighting it.

About 40 per cent of the menu is dedicated to pizzas. They offer two styles in eight inches, Neapolitan pizzas and the classic thin crust Romano. The Brisket Biscuit (Rs600) classified under the latter was a seriously good albeit calorific white (tomato-free) pie blanketed with a meaty blend of pecorino, mozzarella and juicy strands of beef partnered with poached beetroot. Their house-made ice cream sandwiches (Rs250) sounded better on paper. The vanilla and cayenne pepper and dark chocolate and sea salt ice cream cookies were unforgivably rich and cloying and the biscuit holding the scoops together was soggy and dense. The coconut and berries ice cream cookie, which tasted like a refrigerated coconut macaroon, was the most edible of the three.

Produce is undoubtedly king at Farmer and Sons, but we wish that Goghavala had been forthcoming with the provenance of the ingredients. We only know that he sources artisanal cheese from South India, information we gleaned from the restaurant’s public relations manager. Goghavala should take a cue from his neighbour The Pantry, which has bolstered its claim of sourcing local produce by advertising the names of its suppliers from across the country in its menu.

Get: Butternut squash, puy lentils and Gorgonzola salad (Rs425); Acres of Goodness (Rs300); chicken doner pita pocket (Rs325); Brisket Biscuit (Rs600).
Skip: Finger Lickin’ duck sandwich (Rs500); ice cream sandwiches (Rs250).

It is our policy to wait at least a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.

Prices exclude taxes. This review was conducted anonymously.

Farmer and Sons, 105 Apollo Street, Bombay Samachar Marg, Fort. Tel: 022 2262 4466. Open daily, from 11am to 1.30am. Get directions here.

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