Restaurant Review: Taj Mahal Tea House, Bandra

TajMahalTeaHouseMAINWe spent a languid afternoon at the Taj Mahal Tea House last week. The recently-opened tea salon in Bandra is a restaurant refashioned from a bungalow, which is our favourite kind of dining venue. Sprawled over 3,500 square feet, it’s likely to be the cause of much real estate envy in the space-strapped suburb.

The immense charm of the place is a result of the vintage detailing. Patterned tiles in striking blues are contrasted against ochre coloured de-stressed walls. There are a number of arched recesses and Bombay fornicators in each tastefully curated room. A pleasant jugalbandi between the tinkling china and instrumental Hindustani classical music fills the bungalow. The latter is a nod to Brooke Bond Taj Mahal’s (the brand behind the tea house) former and current ambassadors, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and sitar player Niladri Kumar. All that’s missing from the sublime setting is a lush tea estate outside.

The set-up is quite perfect for a leisurely cuppa. Brews from Taj Mahal dominate the selection of teas, which features just a handful of imported varieties such as matcha. The menu caters to every type of tea drinker: it offers milk teas, infusions, green and white teas, tea smoothies and tea lemonades. We’re convinced that Hussain, the popular face of the brand from the 1990s until last year, was not merely acting when he rapturously exclaimed “Wah Taj!” after a sip in the TV commercials, because their teas are indeed enjoyable.

The Oriental Jasmine Pearls (Rs200, serves two) was wonderfully aromatic and soothing. The Darjeeling Green (Rs150) was almost as strong as a black tea, but was brewed a tad longer than we would have liked and verged on bitter. The chilled Badam Kesar Green Tea Smoothie (Rs220) was essentially a well-balanced thandai and a lot tastier than their flamboyant desserts. The Bold Spices tea (Rs130) though pricey for a single serving was a life-affirming, robustly flavoured beverage with pronounced notes of whole spices that elicited a “Wah!”.

The tea is really all you should have here. French chef Gregory Bazire’s menu is a colossal disappointment. Many of the nibbles, mains and desserts are infused with teas such as green, oolong, Darjeeling and cardamom chai but the combinations fall flat. Tea with arborio rice is an unholy union going by the Darjeeling tea risotto (Rs500), a flavourless mush with an odd garnish of sliced figs, prunes and shaved parmesan. The oolong tea poached kingfish with braised jicama and asparagus (Rs650) scored on presentation. The pink fillets were prettily veiled in green foam but the tea and the fish were almost as incompatible as tea and arborio. The fish smacked of the sea and thus overpowered the subtle foam.

The sandwiches listed in their all-day section were equally weak. The elaborately described cardamom and star anise infused chicken breast sandwich with crunchy celery, julienned chilli, micro greens and coconut vinegar mayonnaise (Rs320) was severely dry. The bread was the pedestrian supermarket variety, the boiled chicken tasted of neither spice, and the mayonnaise, the most promising element, was reduced to a stingy three-dot garnish on the plate. The high point of the meal was ironically a spin on chaat with Arabic falafel (Rs200). Perfectly crunchy falafel were tossed with boiled potatoes, tomatoes and coriander and dressed with sweet and tangy tamarind foam.

The Taj Mahal Tea House should seriously consider outsourcing desserts to one of the city’s many talented home bakers because their own confections were terribly contrived. Compelling though it sounds, the Chocolate Extravaganza (Rs300) with caramelised pistachio (which they forgot to serve), chocolate ganache (we think they used Hershey’s) and Magnum ice cream was an expensive gimmick. Hot chocolate sauce is poured over a chocolate orb, which melts to reveal a small Magnum vanilla square, and creates an insipid mess of melted chocolate on the plate. The chai panna cotta with vanilla cream and salty sable crumble (Rs220), while on point in terms of the flavour of spiced masala chai, was too dense and meagerly portioned.

Get: Arabic falafel chaat (Rs200), Oriental Jasmine Pearls Tea (Rs200) and Badam Kesar Green Tea Smoothie (Rs220).

Skip: Oolong tea poached king fish with braised jicama and asparagus (Rs650) and Darjeeling tea risotto (Rs500).

Prices exclude taxes. This review was conducted anonymously.

It is our policy to wait at least a week after an establishment opens before reviewing it.

Open daily, from 7.30am to 11.30pm. Taj Mahal Tea House, John Baptista Road, near Bungalow 9, opposite Federal Bank, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2642 0330. Get directions here.

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