I’ve yet to find a really fantastic Greek restaurant in Mumbai, so when I hear the newly-opened Aqaba Lower Parel (pronounced ‘A-kaa-baa’, not ‘Aqua Bar’ as I’d been embarassingly calling it) specialises in Mediterranean cuisine, I hop on over to investigate.
I am struck by the sheer beauty of the place; gorgeous azure chairs and cushions, with a dazzling window display of the same shade peeking out of spectacular white cherry blossom trees sporadically placed as silent witnesses to conversations.
Immense 3D silver butterflies perch atop the main wall behind the bar, while the far window is imprinted with marine-inspired drawings in the same thematic blue.
There is some confusion regarding the wine list; none of the impressive wines on the Aqaba Lower Parel signature cellar reserve are available, which is only explained after 10 minutes of serious study and attempt to order on my part.
The management seems to have limited knowledge of what constitutes a good wine, subjecting me to Sommelier Sessions 101: “This wine is from France. All wines from France are good.”
By that logic, I stick to a little-known, upcoming Indian wine which has proved itself in reliability of flavour. Thankfully the establishment knows a thing or two about wine storage; no danger of refrigerated bottles here.
I spy the word ‘lamb gyros’ on the menu and move in for the kill. I have a strong suspicion that the meat is not chargrilled off the spit, as elaborated upon in the menu.
What appears is actually a good-looking dish admittedly rather short on meat, but the flavour that reigns does me proud; authentically Greek, resonating with just the right amount of salt and cumin.
The bread is fluffy and light, acting as the perfect neutraliser to the tangy tzaziki and red onion which at once clears up the sinuses.
The meat as suspected is not spit-roasted (gyros) but chunks of lamb which would classify the dish as souvlaki.
Nonetheless the meat has its own charm and is thankfully not made from processed meat.
The accompanying fries are phenomenal, sprinkled lightly with what appears to be paprika.
The mixed grill holds a little bit of everything – two pieces each of prawn, beef, lamb, fish and chicken.
The prawn holds a flavoursome mustard-style masala which compliments the chargrilled method of preparation beautifully.
The beef is dry and cumbersome, with flavours attempting to emulate traditional tandoori.
The lamb is uncharacteristically white and very soft, delicately spiced with pepper to give it a slight kick.
The chicken eats like a blander version of chicken tikka and does not hold my attention.
The fish is done well – marinated in yoghurt and pepper, it also carries tones of Mughlai cuisine but one can forgive this for the taste.
The accompanying potato gratin is fantastic; layered with cheese and wonderfully starchy, serving as a palate cleanser in between each course of meat.
For the 1100 INR price, one would expect to receive a little more than just two pieces of each dish.
The mixed seafood tagine is fantastic: burly Moroccan flavours immediately pounce on my hapless tastebuds, rendering them in a sleeper hold thanks to the slow cooking of the dish.
Tomato, yoghurt and broccoli lie sprawled across a territory dotted with chickpeas, while prawns, squid and fish chunks bob up and down in a tawny broth, heavily infused
In the centre, an island of rice holds fort to soak up the broth for a meal which is at once welcoming and hearty.
I end with another lamb dish, a kebab prepared in a different style.
I am thrilled to see a mountain of meat coming at me, complete with bone.
While the flavours are not as fiesty as the lamb gyros, the dish is still satisfying due to the sheer quantity of meat, which relies on the accompanying sweet, nutty sauce to enhance the flavour.
For the price, the size of this meal is fantastic.
Aqaba Lower Parel is a great place overall – enjoyable food, good vibe, ambience. Like many places, waiters may be lacking in knowledge but service is well and truly attentive.
The prices may be a little steep for the quantity of food served, but for the mostly business clientele, this will hardly be a dent on the hip pocket.
Service 8.5, Food 9.
Aqaba Lower Parel is located at the Club House, Level P5, Peninsula Business Park, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel.