Mumbai Food: A slice of Spain in Bandra

By Dhara Vora Sabhnani | Mumbai

Updated: Aug 31, 2018, 13:40 IST

How true are the flavours at the hottest new Spanish cafe in the hip suburb? A city-based Spaniard plays judge

Croquetas. Pics/Dhara Vora Sabhnani

Even though places open by the dozen in Bandra, once in a while, there will be that one eatery that manages to tick all the boxes — ambience, food and individuality. At first glance, El Mercado (EM) seems to fit the bill.

Casa Lucio huevos rotos

Even though it's located on the quiet Perry Cross Road, it's buzzing on a weeknight. We love the yellow-lit interiors, and the exposed brick walls don't seem forced. The aromas from the small open kitchen spill out into all corners. Our fellow reviewer Tamara Amor instantly takes a liking to EM. "It could be any bar in Spain!" she tells us and transports us to her hometown, Madrid, with little anecdotes. "The old local markets of Madrid are filled with tapas bars, where you have a beer, eat a plate of their speciality and then hop to the next bar, right next door. No autorickshaw rides involved. This reminds me of them," she smiles. Amor is a travel manager, who will also soon collaborate with the NGO Mumbai Smiles to host heritage tours of the city in Spanish. Amor has been living here since December 2017. She regularly cooks to treasure memories of Madrid.

Gambas al ajillo

Amor loves the attention to detail — frames of popular Spanish bars, specials on blackboards and hand-painted tiles that give a 'moral'. "My favourite is the name of the street written outside on a tile, just like Madrid," informs Amor.

Tarta de Santiago

After a 10-minute wait, we get a table. Amor is keen on the Casa Lucio huevos rotos (Rs 261) and a classic tortilla (Rs 225). "Casa Lucio is a legendary restaurant visited by every big celebrity, from Will Smith to Bill Clinton," she shares. For tapas, we call for salmorejo (Rs 396), gambas al ajillo (Rs 361), and ham and cheese croquetas (Rs 293). It does get a tad difficult to draw our server's attention, though the dishes arrive on table in quick time. We start with huevos rotos. Amor isn't pleased. "This dish is served with French fries which are missing. The peppers aren't cooked enough, and the flavours don't come together. The tortilla could have been juicier," she points out.

Tamara Amor

The croquetas fare better. Amor, however, regrets not ordering the spinach version, as the cheese overpowers the flavour of the ham. The traditional shape, she says, is not round. Salmorejo wins her over. "Their version is thick, and they got the flavour right," she says.

Our favourite is gambas. The large prawns are soaked in a fragrant mix of chillies, olive oil and garlic. "I can't help myself from dipping the bread in the sauce, it's so good," says a pleased Amor. The paella isn't available as they prepare fresh batches that take half an hour to make, on order. We wish we were informed beforehand. For dessert, we pick tarta de Santiago (Rs 275), an almond cake that is traditionally dusted with powdered sugar and has an imprint of the Cross of St James or Santiago. Here, the cross and the sugar are missing. "It is supposed to be fluffier. This isn't traditional, but I like the flavour," says Amor.

Despite the technical glitches, Amor warms up to EM. We are sure to return for the paella and "only if there was wine," Amor smiles.

TIME: 8.30 am to 10 pm
AT: Sunbeam, Perry Cross Road, Bandra West.
CALL: 9137770978

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