The Artisan sandwich

Hardly three years old, the Sofitel Mumbai is home to many a discerning restaurant. I decide to try out the Artisan Mumbai, a Parisian-inspired, multi-dimensional culinary experience.

The interiors are indeed sophisticated – velvet decor seems to be the trend of the moment – while staff greet customers with a dutiful Bonjour Namaskaar, in keeping with the company culture of fusing French values with local flavour appropriate to each country.
A large centre table holds command, encouraging typical European communal dining. The entire space houses four elements during the day: a charcuterie for deli meats, a patisserie, a chocolaterie, and an a la carte menu with a small selection of salads, pasta salads and sandwiches.
The Artisan: Inside
The charcuterie holds a number of sausages and cured meats prepared in house, thanks to German chef Hans Hartman, who was flown specifically to revamp the somewhat flailing menu, training staff to prepare typically European-style sausages and cold cuts, with a local twist.
Admittedly the pale look of the meats on display do little to rouse my excitement – my critical eye has been conditioned to associate deli meat with fiery red and smouldering dark brown hues. Let’s hope the tastebuds disagree.
The Artisan: Charcuterie
The pork Neurenberg sausage makes me smirk – its more than miniature length and girth would surely fail to make an impact on anyone’s tastebuds.
I am mistaken – although small, this is an authentic pork breakfast sausage with a slight balance of sweet and pepper.
Coupled with the establishment’s home-made dijon mustard, this little guy shows me it’s not all about size.
I am elated to see a beef sausage for the first time in Mumbai at The Artisan Mumbai – I’ve been on a fruitless hunt for the past few years, to no avail.
More traditionally made with pork,  the establishment wanted to push the boundaries in terms of meat variety, so the thick, dark and handsome beef chorizo was born.
Woah. It’s spicy alright, with a peppery aftertaste which leaves the tongue scalding in a way that locals will relish.
I am coerced to try the chicken tikka sausage.
Not one to be inspired by derived forms of sausage, I reluctantly accept and am instantly cheered. So magical is the authenticity of flavour that if I shut my eyes, one would think they were eating whole chicken pieces fresh from the tandoor.It is nice to see experimentation which is playful, yet true to the flavour’s heritage.

The absence of the usual pork fat used to bind sausages does not detract from the dish at all.I finish with the Pork and Pistachio salami. Derived from the classic German recipe, the flesh is mildly sweet in flavour, however for my spice-obsessed palate, the lack of zing is sorely felt and is unassuaged by the interesting texture brought by the finely sliced pistachio.

The Artisan: Charcuterie selection
Initially I am here only to sample the charcuterie, however to make my story a little meatier (excuse the pun) I decide to sample a few from each of the Artisan sections and truly go the whole hog (okay, enough now).
The signature Artisan salad is like the nerd from high school who suddenly made it big – overdressed and soggy, lacking the vital crunch needed from a good set of greens. The fetta is almost tasteless, as is the duck, although good quality.
I spend the 30 seconds chewing looking for maybe a surprise pop of flavour, before miserably concluding that only some salads carry the cool factor.
The Jamon sandwich on the other hand is the captain of the football team, positively grinning with cheer. I bite into freshly toasted French bread which dissolves between my teeth in its warm doughy softness, bursting to the seams with Spanish Serrano ham well-lubricated with melting cheese and a fresh burst of tomato.
The heartiness of the sandwich makes the diner want to grin from ear to ear thanks to flavours which are unerringly European.

The Artisan: Jamon sandwich

I finish with a selection from the Chocolaterie.
What is lacking in architectural form, beauty and design makes up for in taste – the chocolate macaron collapses easily under my bite in a soft crumble, with a sweetness that is prim and refined.
The orange macaron is more dramatic – the concentration of sweetness and taste leads the diner to question if they are in fact, eating an orange thanks to the intensity of the chewy centre.
The tea and sesame white chocolate is a polite, subtle offering with nuances of green tea; the sesame, while undetected visually carries through the tastebuds.
The caramel chocolate is a punch in the face with rich dark chocolate and a smooth caramel centre where the concentration of flavour resides, while the slightly more conservative macadamia brings up the rear, rather obviously nutty in flavour which is balanced by the milkiness of the chocolate.
These two would be fantastic with an espresso or a red wine.

The Artisan: Macarons & chocolates

The Sofitel certainly adheres to stringent health standards: it is only five-star hotel in Mumbai which is ISO-2000 certified, the sausages are marketed as lacking the usual ammonia taste prevalent in other varieties found elsewhere. All components are used up within three days or thrown out. My cheeky question about freezing is met with a gasp. Mais, non!
I am pleased to see the prices are reasonably competitive for each of the cured meats – suitably in line with what one would pay at a local butcher – shattering the misconception that five star hotel deli food is solely the domain of the expat or the overly-discerning Indian.
The service differs from waiter to waiter – varying from genuine to patronising, with most staff difficult to catch hold of. Service is not about just being ‘nice’ – it is about identifying the needs of the consumer and catering to this.
On the whole, the Artisan Mumbai has recognised the need to offer more to the consumer in terms of taste and variety and has made a sincere effort to marry the charm of Paris with the spice of India in high-quality, thoughtfully prepared dishes.
With the revamped menu less than one month old, as of now one is yet to determine if this idea will resonate with clientele or just a novelty – let’s wait and see.
Food 8/10, service 7/10.
The Artisan Mumbai is located at The Sofitel Hotel, C 57, Bandra Kurla Complex. Bandra East.
Note: I tasted sample sizes of each dish – pictures are not indicative of actual dish size and quantity.

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