Neel Indian Kitchen & Bar (Powai, Mumbai)

Neel restaurant suffers from the classic Paradox of Choice. It’s a dual-theme restaurant along with Indigo Deli (which I have reviewed elsewhere). Neel does feel like an after-thought relative to its Continental cousin. We are only brought the menus for Indigo. “BETTER MARGINS, BETTER MARGINS” on the Continental food, I’m sure is the mantra being pushed behind the scenes here. After all, charging close to 600 INR for an Italian peasant salad “Panzanella” in Indigo is a gravy train relative to pushing small portions of Chole at 215 INR.

So back to the sad logic of most restaurateurs: more choice is what will bring the punters! Ironically though, it’s these sort of places that offer the least choice in the end. “Sorry the tandoori cauliflower is not available” the waiter informs us. Great! Sometimes, it would be nice to be alleviated of the choice, particularly at the Neel/Indigo duo, where wading through 2 menus seems like a gargantuan task. This is a far cry from those lunch-time French brasseries where daring to even consider anything other than the Plat du Jour (Dish of the Day) is dealt with utmost scorn and contempt by the tired, manically depressed waiter or in those delightful roadside Italian Trattorias serving hungry truck drivers where the “menu” will be recited like an order of service.

The fare just about meets expectations at Neel and is cheaper than the continental offerings, but nothing to write home about. The dark but mild, Chole whilst over-seasoned is acceptable. The Lotus Stem Kebabs (Nadru Ke Shammi) are rather bizarre; the overpowerful use of cinnamon and black cardamon didn’t really work. I enjoyed the coarser, rather than “puréed to death” Saag dish as I did the Ishtew Vegetable curry, but the the sweet aftertaste was rather irritating after a single helping.If we are being utterly candid here whilst there’s nothing drastically wrong with Neel, why would a purportedly successful European restaurant chain open an Indian restaurant on the same premises? Management might espouse the virtues of choice for their guests, but ultimately it comes from a lack of conviction and perhaps dwindling success  of the original concept :  Indigo.

Mediocrity is a frail master.

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