I excitedly go to make a booking at Two One Two (a sophisticated establishment!) and am told to please call the other number for reservations. Can I please be connected? No, I am firmly told, call the other number. Call once, twice, thrice. The bookings line rings on and on into lonely oblivion.
On a Saturday night at 10pm, clearly no-one is home at this restaurant.
More out of stubborness than anything, I persist. After 15 minutes of fruitless effort, I ring back the initial number in vain, which at least showed some sign of life. Again I am told to call the bookings number.
Upon explaining that the other line is going unanswered, I am put on hold for what seems like an eternity before I realise nobody is coming back on the line to rescue me.
I call the bookings number one last time. A woman answers, with such sadness in her voice I assume I have called a home number by accident. No, it is the bookings lady. I angrily explain my predicament to her and ask what the delay was. She yells back just as vehemently that there is a problem with the booking line.
I make a booking and arrive at Two One Two to find my name still not on the list.
The restaurant looks very different to how it normally does. To one side, a giant screen has been erected, broadcasting the cricket. Sullen twenty-somethings are staring at the game, sipping their drinks mechanically. This is not the crowd I envisaged. Each table is dirty and needing to be cleaned.
The manager, a terribly preoccupied chap, presents our menus with affected, sarcastic delicacy and stalks off without so much as a welcome. He is tense, unreasonably so for a restaurant which is barely half-full.
Upon persual of the menu I discover this is a special seasonal menu to celebrate Food Week, where for a fixed price of 1350 INR per head plus taxes, one can choose an entree, main and dessert from a fixed menu. This explains the younger crowd.
I ask for an a la carte menu. The manager looks at me incredously, then grudgingly grants this apparent privilege. Unfazed, I swiftly order the mezze platter and antipasti
platter to start.
I ask the manager to recommend a full-bodied red. He appears confused, then recovers to confidently recommend an Italian tipple. It arrives, freezing cold. I question the staff as to the reason for this and am told indignantly that it has been stored to the correct temperature in the wine cellar.
I have my doubts. Upon pouring the sample, a thin trickle of blood red liquid splashes into the glass. This is not a heavy wine, by any standards.
Again, call the manager. He looks personally offended, tries his best to convince us that this is a great wine, but looks blank when I quietly mention the fact that we had requested a full-bodied variant.
His demeanour turns sulky; what can he do if he brings another wine, opens it and we reject it? Clearly it is our fault for being so picky.
I reluctantly accept the similar-bodied South African variant offered to me as consolation.
I spy the mezze and antipasti platters approaching our table.
The waiter starts to handball one dish to his colleague, then at the last minute changes his mind as it leaves his grasp. Both Laurel and Hardy dive for it while I look on, aghast. By some stroke of luck, the platter manages to not end up on the floor.
The mezze platter consists of hummous, baba ganoush, labneh, grilled pita, spanakopita, falafel and pickles. All elements on the dish are beautifully presented. I am somewhat mollified.
The hummous has just the right consistency of olive oil to lubricate the tastebuds, as does the baba ganoush. Both have strong, authentic flavours of chickpea and aubergine, with the appropriate amount of sour doled out by the lemon.
The labneh is rightly thick and sour, while the spanakopita serving is miniscule. I was expecting a proper slice of spinach and feta and was disappointed with the two tiny triangular offerings.
The falafel is unpretentious and welcoming, flattened into kebab-style portions and placed neatly within pita bread.
The antipasti platter contains a satisfying assortment of Spanish and Italian cured meats: jamon serrano, proscuitto, pancetta, champagne and roasted ham, lounging on a bed of salad leaves and two pillows of crusty bread. The fetta has a slightly creamy and authentic tang to it, while the olives are small, cheery explosions of saltiness.
These vital backup players, I am pleased to note, are the real deal.
While we are eating, a waiter takes my order for the main course: lamb chops, served medium.
After 10 minutes, the manager approaches and regretfully informs us that we will have to order our main course as the kitchen is closing. I reply that I have already given the order. The signature blank look returns and he hurries off, only to return three times within 15 minutes to clarify the order.
The chops arrive quickly after that, almost too quickly. Steak knives are provided without prompting, which is a plus. Slicing into the flesh, the ruddiness of the meat is revealed: this is a dish which has been cooked to rare, not medium as requested. The quality of the meat however is superior and appears to be of New Zealand origin.
The onion marmalade and basilico jus serve as a perfect lubricant without the need for ordering additional sauce. These are the best chops I’ve tasted in Mumbai in terms of flavour and meat quality.
It would have been nice however, to have one extra piece of meat to justify the menu price of 2300 INR.
After dinner, I head to the small humidor to check out the cigars. To my disappointment, the range is limited to a single brand. I was anticipating puffing a Cohiba or a Romeo y Julieta, but no such luck. The cigar on hand however is of excellent quality and has been properly stored, to my relief.
The outdoor area is handy for smokers and appropriately furnished, however the ambience was affected by the model of what must be a fine ship, bubble-wrapped and displayed on a ledge.
To one side, a glass window reveals the kitchen, complete with wood-fire pizza oven. This is a great way to engage diners and provide an insight into how their dishes are prepared.
The standard of the food at Two One Two is undoubtedly exceptional, however it is a shame that the service did not mirror this. As the girl in a party of two, I was largely ignored and my requests met with faint, disdainful surprise by the manager.
The waiters spoke politely yet were dejected in their work, not bothering to meet my eye or even stopping their current task to attend to me towards the end.
It is no secret that attentive, well-informed service should be ingrained into top level management, who set an example for the rest of their staff.
With largely flawless dishes, I fervently hope that this establishment can lift its standard of service to mirror the cuisine and make it a happy place for staff and hence diners.
Ambience 4, Food 10.
Two One Two is located at Hornby Vellard Estate, opposite Nehru Centre, Worli.
Photo credits: burp.in, thedrinksbusiness.com