Mango imprint

 A taste of fine-dine Mangi Ferra in casual settings… at Mumbai’s Mangii Café..

Shoppers trawling the brand stores or looking for high-on-style, low-on-cost accessories at Mumbai’s most-expensive shopping strip, Linking Road in Bandra, now have a great place to rest their tired limbs.

Tucked away in a little lane off the bustling shoppers’ paradise is Mangii Cafe, celebrity restaurateur Prashant Chaudhri’s first venture into the casual dining space, after two very popular fine-dining options — TTaxi in South Mumbai and his flagship Mangi Ferra restaurant in upscale Juhu.

Chaudhri says this restaurant was the result of enthusiastic prodding from the loyal community of diners at Mangi Ferra, the lovely restaurant serving authentic Italian food under a magnificent mango tree in Juhu galli.

“Mangi Ferra is a bit on the expensive side and I know any number of youngsters and foodies who don’t want to dent their wallet every time they eat out. So I decided to take the Mangi brand name and develop a more economical destination where you get to eat the same food but in a more casual setting in the heart of town," says Chaudhri.

Mangii Cafe delivers on all fronts — with its rough-textured white walls, warm orange and yellow tones, and floor lamps that throw a cheery glow on the walls, it seems like a haven after the noise and bustle of Bandra in the evenings. It also offers value-for-money food in an area that has developed into a foodie’s paradise and serves up everything from designer donuts to fine dining options.

At Mangii Café, drop in for a delicious Lobster Bisque for Rs. 205; a velvety, champagne-infused Risotto with asparagus and porcini mushrooms for Rs. 285; and a deftly made Lobster Thermidor for Rs. 595, which is a steal if you compare with what the five-star hotels in the vicinity charge for the same.

For those in a hurry, there is an exhaustive list of salads and anti-pasti in vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices, including Dello Scoglio, stir-fried calamari, and shrimp served with crisp romaine lettuce, sun-dried tomato drizzled with thousand island dressing. I opted for the intriguing Halloumi Bruschetta, which turned out to be a starter with a middle-eastern twist — halloumi cheese with chopped jalapeno and olive oil drizzled with balsamic reduction. While the starter menu also has the usual chicken favourites, do try the Rawas Chimachuri — marinated rawas fingers wrapped in tortilla crust and served with jalapeno. For vegetarians there’s the unfailingly consistent jalapeno and cheddar popper, which is the ultimate soul food on rain-drenched Mumbai evenings, or roasted mushrooms with spiced cottage cheese served with chilli aioli.

The main course is also an Italian-food lover’s delight, with the chef even bringing in the rustic polenta in an upscale avatar with assorted vegetables and olives in a blue cheese sauce. The Lavender Steak comes highly recommended by people who’ve tried it and gone back for more — it is steak grilled in lavender pepper, wilted spinach, pearl onions and baked potato. Other choices include Prawn Provencal — marinated king prawns in provencal sauce served with flavoured risotto, and Rawas in homemade Harissa — rawas marinated in harissa (spicy sauce), grilled and served in fresh tomato confit with couscous and sautéed greens.

No visit to Mangii — either the fine dine or the café — is complete without a slice of their trademark Napolitano wood-fired oven pizzas. It was what got the crowds into Mangi Ferra, and it’s working its magic here too in this cosy cafe with a tiny bar. I loved the thin-crusted Quattro Formaggio — mozzarella, gorgonzola, caprini and parmesan cheese; and the Mediterranean with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives and basil. The non-vegetarian pizza selection features Gamberoni — flamed king prawns, rocket salad, cherry tomato and fresh basil; and Al-Salmone — buffalo mozzarella, smoked salmon, capers, fresh basil and rucola (an edible plant). The pizzas range from Rs. 300 for a basic veggie to Rs. 475 for the Al-Salmone.

For dessert choices, Chaudhry and team have included their best-selling Tiramisu as well as the rich Belgian chocolate mousse with a hint of jalapeno.

The place has a great selection of coffee, tea and spiked coffees that go well with the dessert menu. You could walk in to Mangi Café post-dinner for a steaming cup of coffee and dessert. While the original Mangi is a fine-dine restaurant and you ought to be elegantly dressed if you don’t want to be embarrassed if you, oh! joy, run into Big B (he is known to come here late night for private parties) or Shahrukh Khan. Mangii Café, on the other hand, is laidback and has a mixed crowd of youngsters, the modelling crowd and those on the lookout for new eating destinations. Go early if you mean to have a leisurely evening as the place is small — only 45 cover — and soak up the music, watch a game on their large screen and chat up the friendly staff. Who knows, someday you might want a table to take a special someone to, and they might just help you wrangle that precious corner seat — behind a strategically placed pillar. And throw in a dessert on the house!

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 30, 2009)

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