As much as I endorse and support the anti-drink and drive ban enforced in Mumbai, I must admit it has put a cramp on my social life. Using public transport is made difficult courtesy recalcitrant cab drivers, which is another reason why I think twice before venturing south of Bandra. But when one hears that a microbrewery has finally set up shop in Mumbai one has a very compelling reason to make the uncomfortable trip to Lower Parel.
Situated in One Indiabulls Center’s parking lot, The White Owl is spacious, brightly lit and quirky. The concrete blocks on the wall are left untouched, lending a grungy feel to this bistro-cum-bar. There is a bicycle suspended on another wall, while a hanging lampshade supports a car tyre. The table tops are vintage smoked mirrors with spots where the mercury has faded out, and drinks are served in unusual glasses – our Sangria came in glass tumblers and cutlery placed in a ceramic coffee mug! We did mention The White Owl exudes a grungy vibe from the moment you step in.
Well spaced out, the 2500 square feet restaurant can easily accommodate 150 guests, with some room to spare, which is refreshing in space-starved Mumbai. You can choose to sit by the T-shaped bar, or at tables in a darkened alcove or in the main section. In fact, for a place that The White Owl’s promoters Javed Murad and Kunjan hope to develop as the go-to comfort watering hole, it is thankfully well-lit. However the lights are lowered around 10pm, so that people can enjoy the ambience of a bar.
Sadly, when we visited The White Owl, the microbrewery was not functional. So we decided to stick to Sangria. The Dictateur Sangria made of red wine is robust with big chunks of diced red apples, oranges and pear. We preferred the white-wine based Ninzcup though because the combination of ginger ale with fresh mint leaves was just what we needed to take the edge off that muggy summer night. On Javed’s recommendation, we also tried the Biddy, which had whisky, Triple Sec, chunks of orange, and egg white. The citrusy flavor of the drink perfectly complimented the sourness of the whisky and we highly recommend it.
The food menu is short and simple, with prices that inspire happy smiles. It also has dishes that make it easy to order. There are many options for shared plates, keeping in mind that people will be inclined to visit with their colleagues and friends to unwind over a drink and shared platters of food.
For those who want sheer comfort food, there is the Lamb Slider (375), an extremely spicy Chorizo Hot Dog (375) and even House Corn On The Cob (285). But if you like something exotic while sipping on your drink, you can choose from the Gourmet Potato Gratin (325), Roasted Pumpkin Risotto (375) or Pie Assiete (495).
We tried the House Lavash with three dips (285) – carrot cumin pate, labneh and hummus. The thin and crusty lavash was more like a flat elongated cracker. Since all the breads and dips are made in house, we presumed the baker took some liberties with the creation of that particular lavash. Of the dips, the thick and velvety labneh was what we liked best.
The Kingfish Chimmichuri (375) was dry, but the Argentine sauce of parsley, garlic and chili was so well spiced and flavorsome that we were willing to forgive this oversight. We expected the Cottage Cheese Chilli Verde (275) to be very fiery but it wasn’t. While the cottage cheese was soft and well marinated, the accompanying vegetables could have been blanched a bit more – they were almost as raw as the day they were picked.The Classic Grilled Chicken Salad (275) was fresh, healthy and well covered with chili-sesame dressing. The focaccia croutons added a nice crunch to the colorful mix of sprouts, arugula and red lettuce.
For the main course, we decided to try the Gingerale Chicken & Asparagus, which had grilled chicken steaks liberally doused with chilli and lime sauce and served with smoked potatoes and a couple of asparagus stalks. As with the previous dishes and the Pepper Crusted Rawas, the meat was like the understudy to the superb sauces, rather than being the opposite. In fact, we were happy to scrape the last trace of sauce from our plates, which is evidence of how tasty they were.The Grilled Green Apple and Raisin Pie (215) did not have the tartness one associates with green apples, but as apple pies go, it wasn’t bad either. The Fresh Alphonso Cheesecake (295) is a better bet – the right mix of sweet and tangy.
Launched on 31st May, 2013, The White Owl already has several things going for it. First is the promise of a microbrewery, which is still a novelty in Mumbai. Second, the service by helpful servers. Third is the price of the beverages and food as well as the casual atmosphere of the place which is so important for a watering hole. If the microbrewery takes off, and the establishment can manage to maintain the other attributes consistently, we predict The White Owl is headed towards becoming a well-frequented night spot.