Restaurant Review: Arola
Unless you live in an isolated bubble, cut off from newspapers, magazines, and billboards, you couldn’t have missed the marketing blitzkrieg that preceded the launch of Arola, a Spanish restaurant and bar at the J. W. Marriott helmed by Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola. Just in case you did in fact miss seeing the flurry of interviews with the chef, and photos of him with his restaurant’s ambassador, actor Akshay Kumar, the hotel has pulled out all the stops to advertise the opening of Arola within its premises. As you alight from your car in the driveway, you’re first greeted by a splashy Arola signboard lit up by a row of glaring spotlights.
The restaurant is located in the lobby level of the Marriott, in a section of the hotel that overlooks the pool and the Arabian Sea. For drinks over sunset, guests can sit in the outdoor section of the restaurant and bar, furnished with high-backed woven sofas ideal for cozying twosomes. There’s nothing particularly Spanish about the décor of the dimly lit indoor bar and dining area, with dark furnishings, drum shaped lamps, and printed cushions. In fact, Arola looks like an unremarkable clone of other five-star lounges. No matter where you’re seated in the restaurant, you will have a view of the semi-circular bar framed by a glass display of an impressive array of over 30 varieties of gin.
In the manner of other feted chefs (Vineet Bhatia of Ziya and Ian Kittichai of Koh) with restaurants in other parts of the world, Sergi Arola will also flit between his properties and is expected to make a quarterly appearance at his Mumbai flagship. The kitchen has been entrusted to Manuel Olveira, a chef who has worked closely with Arola at the Sergi Arola Gastro in Madrid. We began our meal with Olveira’s translucent scallops carpaccio soaked in white vinaigrette, with a halo of tart mango yoghurt and a garnish of cherry tomatoes and microgreens. The dish had the remarkably clean flavour one generally associates with a palate cleanser. Our generously portioned order of sauteed gambas (prawns, which like the scallops you can also opt to have as a carpaccio) was made up of chunky prawns cooked in butter sparingly flavoured with garlic, parsley and red chillies, thus allowing the prawns to shine. The cylindrical patatas bravas topped with cloudy tufts of a light mayonnaise tasted a lot like potato chops. The potatoes weren’t crisp, and sadly the smoked pepper sauce spooned into the hollowed potatoes was overshadowed by the mayonnaise. A much better vegetarian appetiser is their baby artichoke hearts with lemon mayonnaise. The soft and fleshy artichokes had been chopped and lightly fried to retain the squishy centre, which tasted creamier still when dipped in the mayonnaise.
We found ourselves rhapsodising about Arola’s exquisite steak tartare for a few days after the meal. The Merlot-coloured raw beef was elegantly plated, with a garnish of crunchy onions and dried parsley, and crowned with a perfectly circular raw egg yolk. After pouring a flavourful soy sauce and wasabi infusion on to the hollow dish holding the sculpted steak, our server then went on to mix all the ingredients. We can rarely resist the charms of steak tartare and Arola’s was particularly fresh and tender. The baby lamb with a citrus salad turned out to be a lamb stew accompanied by greasy mini parathas. While the stew had imbibed the robust flavour of the meat, the lamb was a tad overcooked.
We concluded our meal with the crema Catalan, a Spanish take on the crème brulee. The layered treat of creamy cinnamon-scented foam, mandarin sorbet and a brittle sheet of caramelised sugar was mildly sweet but lacked texture and tartness. If you love variety, get the momento dulce, a trio of desserts. The white chocolate mousse with a subtle green apple granite scored on texture; the sinful dark chocolate soufflé was the perfect indulgence for chocolate lovers. The yoghurt and vanilla cream with rhubarb compote is best saved for last because it helps cuts through the sweetness of the other desserts. Sergi Arola had mentioned to us in an interview that at Arola Mumbai, he intends to serve food like it is prepared in his hometown of Catalonia. For the most part he has made good of this promise in that the integrity of the Spanish flavours and cooking has not been compromised. While the decor at Arola does not evoke Spain in any way, the food is likely to transport you there.
A meal for two without alcohol costs approximately Rs4,400. This review was conducted anonymously.Tags: Arola, JW Marriott, restaurant reviews, Restaurants, Sergi Arola
J.W. Marriott Hotel
Juhu Tara Road
HoursDaily, 5pm to 12.45am