Restaurant Review: Toast & Tonic, Bandra Kurla Complex
Toast & Tonic succeeds in making you believe that you’re not dining in a glass and metal edifice in the heart of Bandra Kurla Complex. The press release describes it as a New York East Village-style restaurant and bar. We admit we’re not particularly familiar with this East Village breed, but we can tell you that Toast & Tonic channels barnyard chic with its rustic cork and wood-panelled walls offset by elegant marble-topped tables. There’s a warm amber glow to the 60-seat room made cosier with indoor plants and sculptures of farm animals.
Starting at the bar is inevitable here especially during the opening month when the city’s gourmands are vying for tables at this hot ticket launch. The ten-day old Toast & Tonic is co-owned by restaurateur Chetan Rampal and chef Manu Chandra who have given us bars and eateries such as Monkey Bar and The Fatty Bao.
Gin drinkers will approve of the bar’s bias towards the spirit, suggested by the tonic in the name. Such is its commitment to gin that Toast & Tonic makes its own tonic water in, as Chandra described it, “the beverage lab”, housed in the flagship restaurant in Bangalore. Flavoured tonics are a separate category on the menu with seven items that are a combination of floral, fruity, spicy and herb-infused that you can pair with six differently-priced brands of gin, from Beefeater (Rs550) to Hendrick’s (Rs1,700).
The vigorous G&Ts are the perfect antidote to our endless summer. The Gin-tleman’s Tonic is a bouquet in a balloon glass. The fragrant tipple mixes jasmine tea, elderflower and grapefruit tonic water with a rose petal and cucumber-flavoured ice cube. It’s as pretty as it is potent. Equally heady is The Herbalist, a combination of gin with basil and orange tonic water served in a glass containing coriander-orange ice. Initially more citrusy than herby, the cocktail lives up to its name as the ice melts.
Gin-based drinks are your safest bet here, we realised after taking a chance with two types of sangria. The grilled citrus sangria (Rs450) had bits of grilled grapefruit that lent it a tart edge. The red wine cocktail wasn’t annoyingly sweet as sangria often is – instead it had a lightly spicy finish – yet it wasn’t memorable. The white wine sangria (Rs350) was a potion of wine, elderflower, pear, basil, jasmine tea and orange that brought back memories of this cloying soft drink.
The menu is illustrated with fantasy fiction-like drawings of clothed human-animal hybrids; it’s artwork worth taking home to frame. The dishes are diverse and Chandra has consciously disregarded categorisation and genres. But in casting such a wide net for inspiration, cohesiveness has been sacrificed. Eclectic though it is, the menu is hard to pin down and often seems directionless. To Chandra’s credit, he triumphs in drawing attention to indigenous produce uncommonly found in restaurants.
The kitchen has sourced ingredients such as gondhoraj lime, Bandel cheese and Gobindobhog rice from West Bengal, buff from Andhra Pradesh and Naga chillis. The real feat, however, is how they have utilised local bounty to cater a global menu. Like many contemporary restaurants, Toast & Tonic offers small plates, burgers, flatbreads, pastas and so on, but none of it feels repetitive or an echo of other globally-inspired menus. The soft eggs and Andouille sausage on sourdough (Rs400) is a first-rate example of this. Four house-baked sourdough toasts smeared with sarson ka saag support soft wobbly eggs blanketed in salty, smoked Bandel cheese and a terrific gin mustard hollandaise that enhances the umami appeal of the dish. The pork sausages are cured and smoked in-house, and are among the most tender and flavourful ones we’ve had.
The carne asada tostada (Rs390), an appetiser of agave-marinated diced buff from Chittoor dressed with coriander, fresh jalapeno and avocado rates as high as the toast. The juicy meat and the fresh garnishes are balanced on crisp puri-like tostada that tastes practically like beef sev puri. The bajra and ricotta gnudi (Rs350) is more compelling on paper. The gnocchi-like dumpling stuffed with ricotta is bland like unseasoned paneer, but somewhat salvaged by creamed amaranth and spinach spiked with gondhoraj lime, the aromatic Bengal export in short supply in the city.
There’s a calibrated amount of spice in the Naga chilli wings (Rs360) so that you reach for seconds and thirds of the fried appetiser without burning your digestive tract. The maximum impact of the chilli is felt as a tingling on the lips for a few seconds. Instead of serving a creamy, cheesy dip to temper the blow of the chilli, Toast & Tonic offers a portion of sweet, tart and chilli-less som tam salad. A clogged sinus can benefit from the spaghetti cacio e pepe (Rs460), which is inundated with black pepper. Even though the parmesan to pepper ratio is skewed, the dish, comprising al dente zucchini noodles, spaghetti and cherry tomatoes, is a stand-out. Chandra is clearly partial to gondhoraj; the zest of the lime is sprinkled over the pasta.
The udon with house-cured chorizo and clams (Rs545) is a Toast & Tonic bestseller and justifiably so. Although slivers of ham and clams are scattered across the liberally oiled tangle, the intensely smoked dish is as robust and satisfying as a hunk of meat. Comfort is a bowl of their mushroom and asparagus risotto (Rs460) filled to the brim with fragrant Gobindobhog rice, sweet potato leaves, crunchy diced asparagus stalk and a meaty heap of shimeji, shiitake and button mushrooms. We haven’t ever gotten to the bottom of a serving of cheese and cream-laden risotto, but devoured every grain of this light khichdi perfumed with mustard oil.
It’s a timely nod to the city’s obsession with the fruit, but the Mango (Rs350), made up of Alphonso mousse, yoghurt cream and black sesame sponge, is a pretty looking but insipid meal ender. The savoury sponge is interesting but there’s not enough of it on the plate dominated by a slab of the pedestrian shrikand-like mousse. Jaggery, the humble and healthy household sweetener, is given a hip showcase in the form of Expression of Jaggery (Rs350) in which jaggery caramel, banana bread and coffee cardamom ice cream are artfully scattered on a plate. The mild coffee ice cream is the only weak link in this unexpected confection, the highlight of which is the smooth, creamy and not-too-sweet jaggery flan.
Get: Soft eggs and Andouille sausage on sourdough (Rs400); carne asada tostada (Rs390); udon with house-cured chorizo and clams (Rs545); mushroom and asparagus risotto (Rs460); Expression of Jaggery (Rs350).
Skip: Bajra and ricotta gnudi (Rs350), Mango (Rs350).
It is our policy to wait at least a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.
Prices exclude taxes; there is a service charge of ten per cent.
Toast & Tonic, Ground Floor, Jet Airways Godrej Building, G Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East). Tel: 022 2653 4722. Open daily, from noon to 3.30pm and from 7pm to 11.30pm. Get directions here.