All I know of Barrio is what I’ve garnered from word of mouth and social media: it has a pool and does ‘boozy brunches’. Being a water lover and somewhat of an alcoholic, it is enough to draw me in to review the a la carte menu on a weekday.
Situated inside a health club called The Inch By Inch Body Temple, the vibe at Barrio is decidedly idyllic – an entirely outdoor setting under a large canopy surrounded by plants, with a soundtrack of zen-inducing buddha bar tunes playing from speakers placed more strategically than the fans.
Cheery chalkboards loudly proclaim the somewhat cliched mantra of “eat, drink, love” in front of the open air kitchen, as paper lanterns sway dreamily in the breeze.
I check out the menu and am delighted to see a hearty breakfast spread, that too available all day – pancakes, bacon and eggs, French toast, waffles, toasties, fruit parfaits, you name it. I make a mental note to have Saturday night’s date bring me here for Sunday breakfast.
All said and done, I’m chuffed that there’s finally a semi-chilled out place to hang in Versova – that too, a Spanish-named cafe whose name loosely translates to ‘neighbourhood’.
The mini-salad is a steal at just 135 INR, yet does not look small by any standards. Rather it is literally brimming with ingredients, making it impossible to eat without the contents spilling over the side of the shallow bowl.
An explosion of flavours awaits: perfectly ripe, imported avocado wrestles with creamy chickpeas, while soft, fresh fetta waltzes around with sharp, zingy tomato. As an afterthought, a few leaves of rocket lie lonely beneath.
The most significant detail that hits me is the amount of olive oil used to dress the dish in a typically Mediterranean fashion which results in a salad that is smooth and well-lubricated, rather than crisp and crunchy.
The fetta, rather than being traditionally crumbly is soft and creamy.
The socca is a stuffed chickpea and olive oil wrap which sounds like it belongs in a healthy food catalogue.
Intrigued, I place and order and am introduced to a lightly oiled sheet of crunchy, flaky tortilla which houses a multitude of soft vegetables – mushroom, tomato and broccoli held together by a generous lick of hummous.
The accompanying tzaziki dip is in contrast sharp and bitey, although not as peppery as regular tzaziki. For this dish, the dip seems out of place and somewhat redundant, but nevertheless I have a ball eating it separately.
This dish has no need for meat, thanks to the range of flavours and textures used.
The German pizza with sour cream, caramelised onions and bacon has been calling my name.
When it turns up, I am half-impressed, half-baffled by the resounding healthiness of it all; strictly no cheese has been added and toppings are minimal, hence flavour is as such, save for the generous dollop of sour cream in the middle which is the saving grace of this dish.
I am devastated to note that what little bacon featured on the pizza is virtually tasteless, the caramelised onions making a tiny dent of impact on my tastebuds. My mouth wanted more excitement, more drama, that was just nowhere to be found.
The thin crust is authentically made thanks to a pizza oven on premises, but one does not expect the crust to be the best part of a gourmet pizza.
Those expecting a traditional cheesy number will be blown away, either in a good or bad way.
The baked rawas is the man of the match – a sizable portion of excellent quality, it is cooked to exact specifications so that the flesh inside is a coy shade of the lightest pink.
A gaggle of flavours perched on top of the lemon sauce soaked fish ensues in the form of salty capers and roughly chopped garlic, the latter which also features heavily in the accompanying wilted spinach and slick, chewy kale.
Flanked by a clumsy piece of bread which I ignore, this dish screams value for money, cheaper than even the German pizza.
I am given a complimentary dessert, which makes me smile. So few restaurants indulge in this largely international practice that it is a genuine pleasure when an establishment cares more about making the customer happy instead of making money.
The gooey cake bats its eyelashes at me; positively oozing with chocolate and topped by a thick layer of chocolate icing, it only takes a few spoonfuls for my sweet tooth to be sent packing.
The icing is probably not needed as it overcomplicates the dessert and lends an air of artificiality to the dish, likening it to the desserts available at most coffee chains.
Where the icing has not reached however – where the soft, warm crust of the cake sits quietly, taking in the world, this is the most enjoyable part; combined with the decadent sauce, it’s a stairway to dessert heaven.
The concept of Barrio is fantastic, just not entirely practical in the sweltering heat or dripping monsoons of Mumbai.
Flies are a problem and if you’re planning on using the pool, get in early as there are only three lounge chairs, plus separate pool charges. Be prepared to surrender your personal details if you want to take a tour of the facilities offered by Inch by Inch Body Temple.
The most exciting area of Barrio, near the main entrance has only one fan – not exactly conducive to cooling down a large group of people, especially those smitten by air conditioners.
The service at Barrio is good but on a highly individual basis – two waiters serving me were attentive and chatty, however the other waiters present took no responsibility for my needs whenever the former two were not around.
Much of the menu has the same ingredients in each dish – fetta, avocado, hummous and chickpea – both a blessing and a curse for those not exposed to traditional Mediterranean ingredients.
On a plus note, the cafe attempts to use organic ingredients for much of its fare and small, fine dining details such as fresh mint sprigs in the drinking water are observed.
The food is simple in its use of ingredients and cooked from the heart – just watch your stomach doesn’t suffer from the excessive use of olive oil.
Ambience 8.5, Food 8.5.
Barrio is located inside Inch by Inch Body Temple, Near D Mart, J.P Road, Versova, Andheri West.