The chic eatery has opened to diners in the heart of Mumbai’s heritage district. From the thoughtfully designed space to the delectable menu offerings, Smoke House Deli Colaba lives up to its iconic status and even manages to improve upon it.
With the city riddled with new constructions, of towering residential and commercial buildings, as well as civic infrastructure (including an ambitious new coastal route), it sometimes becomes a little difficult to remember Mumbai as it used to be in the yesteryears, when it used to be called Bombay. In the bylanes of Colaba though, the heart of the old city (town for locals), the din of construction can hardly be heard and the tree-lined streets and Colonial architecture all around transport you back to a simpler, more gracious time. It’s fitting then, that the latest outlet of Smoke House Deli, Impresario Handmade Restaurants’ iconic brand, has found pride of place here.
As I walked into the new Smoke House Deli, the thing that struck me first was how well designed the space is. Conveniently placed right next to the entry is the new ‘Goodness To Go’ takeaway counter, a collection of healthy juices, sandwiches, salads and various other offerings, all made in-house. Past the counter, there is the ground floor space, with two distinct seating areas, along with a counter that has the bar, juices, salads, and house-special ice creams. A neat little flight of stairs usher you upstairs with a couple more sections of seating areas. And everywhere, there’s a lot of natural light streaming in through the arched windows that have been carefully restored. The walls are decorated with cutesy graphics related to the city and its cultural heritage, nostalgic tech, as well as modern food culture, all hand drawn by illustrator Priya Dali. There are also little statuettes, figures and graphics of cats littered around the space, which immediately took me back to my own felines at home and I’m sure will appeal to every animal lover. What stood out about the cute little space most for me was how effortlessly heritage and contemporary design had been blended together, taking nothing away from either.
I say cute, ‘little’ space but there are a total of 70 covers, and all rather well spaced out, mind you. And given the kind of footfall I noticed in the couple of hours I was there, once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, I can see it being a bustling dining destination in the heart of Mumbai’s heritage district.
Having taken in the space in all its intricately done details, it was time to engage my senses in the gastronomy. We were started off with a couple of colourful martinis, watermelon and peach with plum. As vibrant as they looked and refreshing as they tasted on muggy Mumbai afternoon, the restaurant certainly isn’t shy with the alcohol and I’d wager you can make an evening (or afternoon) of it, with a couple. Then came the Orange Caprioska and Sangria. Again, well proportioned and delicious.
While we nursed our drinks, the starters arrived with roasted mushrooms on crisp flatbread, topped with a generous dollop of creamy burrata and chicken liver pate served with an assortment of house-made dips. The drinks having whetted my appetite, I dug in, much to the chagrin of our social media head, Shrushti, who wanted to get a few good shots in before I ‘damaged’ the perfectly presented plates.
The flatbread, crispy and topped with roasted mushrooms, fried onions and herbs along with the burrata was delicious. And although I had reservations about the pate, as the only liver pate I had had before came from animals much larger than chicken, I must say, I owe it to the fine folks at Smoke House Deli for the revelation that it was. It was creamy, sweet but not too much and the velvety mouthfeel was supremely enjoyable.
While the social media head and I jostled over the food and camera, out came the next course, with grilled chicken accompanied by mash and greens, and a new offering on the menu, the Smoke House Charcuterie. Thankfully, they had the good sense to limit portion sizes and didn’t serve up the full-fledged platter. What I got was four different kinds of sausages, including Polish kielbasa, rustic country sausages, and one with East Indian spices. And it came with a potato and chives salad and toasted bread with whiskey butter.
Since Shrushti doesn’t eat beef or pork, I let her have the chicken all to herself, taking only a ‘bite’ to taste. It was grilled to perfection and awash with a sauce that added a wonderful dimension to the flavours. She agreed with me, clearly, since she had put her phone down and was actually doing some eating. Eyes closed, little ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ escaping her lips, and phone completely ignored, the food had evidently swayed her over (momentarily) from fulfilling her duties.
Then it was time to dig into the charcuterie platter (all mine). The sausages, each of them made with meats from different portions, with varying fat content, not only had distinct textures and flavours owing to the many spices, but in them, truly reflected the skill in the hands churning out these marvellous delicacies in the kitchen. It takes real mastery to be able to present a platter of sausages but all with distinct characteristics, even to the most lay palate. So engrossed was I in the meat, that I had almost forgotten about the whiskey butter. But carbs have a way of drawing your attention, and soon, I was slathering generous helpings of the special butter on the crunchy bread. The flavour of the spirit is well entrenched, that some of you might be tempted to skip the cocktails entirely and just make do with a bread basket and gallons of the whiskey butter.
Then it was time to balance things out with the wild mushroom risotto, after all eating your veggies is important. Cheesy, with the beautifully textured rice and the deliciously chewy mushrooms, this was a new comfort food favourite. It was rather unfortunate that by this time, my stomach was at its limit, and I knew in order to save space for dessert, I’d have to share more of it than I wanted to with Shrushti.
And was I glad I saved space for desserts. We got a sampling of five house-special flavours – chocolate (India-sourced), dulce, coffee, strawberry sorbet and vanilla (also India-sourced). And a vegan chocolate mousse. Given that I’m partial to dark chocolate and coffee, those two ranked highest on my personal list. But the strawberry sorbet, vanilla and dulce made a mark on Shrushti, who is more of a milk chocolate person. What really took her by surprise was the vegan mousse. Its creamy consistency, which she, being something of a baker herself, appreciated, considering how difficult it is to achieve with vegan ingredients. Again, the team in the kitchen was marking new territory, winning over meat eaters onto the vegan side.
The elaborate meal done and dusted, all the cutlery cleared away, I took a pause to take in the place once more (and digest). As I saw the happy faces of diners, poring over menus, clinking their glasses together, taking photos of the artwork, or simply watching the quaint bylanes of Colaba through the majestic arched windows, I realised that this new outlet reflected exactly what Smoke House Deli 2.0 is all about. Delectable food, encompassed by great atmosphere.
If you can’t venture to South Mumbai yet, try ordering in some of their incredible menu offerings by ordering directly from the restaurant. I can vouch for the food and the atmosphere would be up to you.