An immense red heart mounted on the front of Villa 69 – the illuminated white building – demands my attention, with its titillating placement of the numbers of 6 and 9 to form ‘Villa 69’. The name: a tribute to the uh, pleasures of love, has been sung in the most elite social circles since its inauguration.
Striding into the bar, I am dazzled by everything – the impossibly white furniture, the dark angels of cupid dancing the walls, the decadent chandeliers – it looks like the set for a rap video.
Honey Singh, take note.
Stepping outside, I am greeted by a buzz of sights and sounds, the most attractive being the LED electric blue lights which irradiate the sporadically placed ivory chairs and tables.
The soundtrack: seductive notes of lounge music which gently waft through the summer air, permeating my ears. Its as if a fuse has shortcircuited and imploded in my brain and left me disoriented; I am in Ibiza, on a beach, yet somehow in the middle of Juhu.
The immense outdoor area is strewn with a mix of lounge chairs, coffee tables, bar tables and high chairs. People are sitting relaxed in front of a sweeping projector, watching the cricket.
To one side is an authentic stone wood-fire pizza oven with an open kitchen. I am informed that one pizza takes exactly six minutes to cook at a temperature of 318 degrees.
Note to self: Order the pizza. And do not place hand in oven.
Back indoors, I survey the wine list, a commendable mix of offerings from Italy to France to South Africa. I am recommended the strawberry basil martini, comprising just three ingredients: two of its namesake, the third, vodka.
The result is a pleasingly smooth rendition of what is usually considered to be a ‘girly’ drink – the subtle pepperiness of the basil offsets any overly saccharine tones usually had by a beverage of fruity origin, creating a balance of flavours.
The mellow undertones of the alcohol make it hard to believe the vodka used is a relatively common brand.
The second drink I try is a ‘Chatka Mary’, something I percieve to be a Bloody Mary with a twist. It wields a fiery blow on first sip thanks to a glass lined with salt and chilli powder.
The thick sweetness of guava juice is cut with sour piquant tones of tobasco and freshly cracked pepper, which is again offset by the tangy sweetness of the malt vinegar in the Worcestershire sauce.
A whole green chilli floats lazily in the middle as a garnish.
I’m almost on fire, but in an exciting way.
Clearly in a bid to get me drunk, I am served the vodka-flambed prawns as a starter. I am greeted by an earthen pot housing large prawns bathing decadently in a garlic butter sauce.
Showered in fresh parsley and chilli flakes to counter the sweetness of the orange reduction, juice explodes in my mouth as my teeth pierce the flesh, which holds the light residue of the vodka it was prepared in.
Definitely off to a great start.
The mustard paprika fish arrives resting on a bed of crunchy, snail-shaped puff pastry which cracks resonately when hit with a metal spoon, yet is tough on the teeth when chewed. Squiggles of pimento coulis sauce decorate the plate as the fish waits expectantly to be sampled.
The browned exterior contrasts sharply with a slightly squishy interior,
where the mustard flavour which has not carried through.
Perhaps a tangier version of the pimento coulis could have been utilised to give the dish more energy.
I am eager to see just how well the wood-fired pizza oven works, so I request the Boscaiola pizza. Even though the variation of toppings on this pizza are scanty, the actual quantity of toppings served are not.
My tastebuds experience an enjoyable journey to the land of Italy with a fantastically sharp mozarella base, sundried tomatoes with the imported flavour of preserved olive oil, mushrooms and olives.
No meat needed for this bambino.
I have heard much about the lobster thermidor at Villa 69; being one of the few places that does offer this crustacean, I am eager to see how the dish has been executed. It is also apparently a favorite of Bollywood star Salman Khan.
Although it is on the smaller side, the lobster does look appetizing. The Parmesan cheese topping is grilled to perfection, giving way to an extremely creamy interior which admittedly left me hunting for existing lobster meat to ease the richness of the mustard sauce.
The accompanying chilli-garlic rice for me was redundant, however in hindsight could have been used to soak up the flavours. In order to visually engage in terms of presentation and act as a cleanser to the palate, the lobster could have perhaps been introduced on salad leaves with rice on the side.
For the price however, the meal is satisfactory.
Initially, I have low expectations of the final dish, a mushroom steak.
On first bite, I swiftly learn my lesson: this is a dish which scorns my existing perceptions of vegetarian food.With a smokey, robust flavour that reveals its char-grilled preparation, the mushroom truly displays all the elements of a fine steak.
The accompanying elements of mashed potato, broccoli and red and green peppers unite in a paprika cream mayonnaise which has addictive elements of spicy and sweet. The vegetables provide the dish with texture,
saving it from threat of becoming mushy.
This dish has caught my attention and held it, as the star of the night.
Villa 69 has a satisfactory mix of world cuisines, catering to a wide range of tastes. The descriptions on the menu are simple and no-nonsense, with each dish emerging a surprise.
The service was unreasonably frantic for the gaggle of staff present, with a marked discrepancy between individual waiters on attentiveness and efficiency. This is a shame, as service given by top level management is impeccable.
I am more inclined towards vegetarian cuisine at this restaurant, the chefs having observed a solid understanding of basics like pizza and pasta.
The drinks are the strength of this establishment, offering innovative, exciting interpretations of various cocktails and a large range of international liquor.
Ambience, 8.5. Food, 7.5.
Villa 69 is located at Paradise Banquets, opposite PVR Cinemas, Juhu Circle, Juhu.