The JW Marriot Hotel in Mumbai is home to two Michelin star chef Sergio Arola’s restaurant “Arola”. A tapas style restaurant offering the contemporary flavours of Spain to the foodies of Bombay. It also boasts the cities first and only “Gin” bar; offering an extensive collection of gins from across the world.
When you arrive, you are greeted by a wall with Arola emblazoned in large gold letters confirming you have arrived at the right place. Which was a good thing as the hostess didn’t seem to be present and it wasn’t until we reached the bar that we were noticed by the service staff.
We decided to have a pre drink at the bar as I was excited about the Gin bar and the artisan tonic water that they had been boasting since the opening as their unique selling point. This hope was soon dashed when I discovered that they were now only pouring “Schweppes” tonic or the far superior “Fever tree” for an additional cost. The selection of gin was still great, although only showcasing 6 different labels, all were of a premium quality. I enjoyed two from Spain, the Mohan and Gin Marie; the later was definitely my favourite. The bar staff expertly peeled a slice of orange skin. squeezed it to extract some of the oils, before igniting it and plunging it into the drink. This process really took me back to my time in Barcelona! My only criticism would be that the flavour of the gas lighter seemed to carry on through into the drink which somewhat took something away from the subtle gin flavour.
Whilst at the bar we were recommended to try their signature bread. This was a Naan bread with a Spanish twist. The twist being that it was served with cloves of raw garlic, tomato, olive oil and sea salt. I know exactly where they were going with this. A popular Spanish breakfast is crusty bread rubbed with tomato, and a slice of Manchego cheese. However, the naan itself was only average and the fact that we were in India; I could walk into any Indian restaurant and get one that is 100% better at a quarter the price.
It is not something I expect to be served in an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant. I feel that this is a common mistake with many restaurants. They tend to dilute their concept trying to please everyone. Soon we have a city of restaurants all serving the same thing…………
The restaurant itself was aesthetically very pleasing, with a mixture of tables and booths. The chairs and cushions, while looking amazing, didn’t offer much comfort.
Upon moving to our table, we were presented with menus in the form of Ipads. This was actually pretty cool! It offered pictures and menu descriptions as well as the ability to bypass the waiter and order directly to the kitchen. A great concept but one that requires a little polishing as a lot of what we ordered was mixed up due to a lack of communication.
The came the food. First off was Arola’s signature and another modern take on a Spanish classic – “Potatas Bravas”. In this version Sergio cut the potatoes into cylinders, then hollowed them out before filling them with tomato sauce and topping them with aioli.
I found the food to be only average at best. I have heard great reviews of the “Arola” experience when Sergio himself is in town, but the food that was served to me was nothing spectacular. Nothing was bad in the sense that it would have to be returned to the kitchen; it was just that nothing really stood out in terms of flavour or presentation to make me want to return.
The evening overall was marred by server errors. I would like to think that with time these silly mistakes could be ironed out, but the fact that this restaurant has already been open for more than six months; is that likely to happen…………