My colleague,Hersh, and I thought it would be fun to give Trabblr members an opportunity to share their tales of Indian travelsover a delicious Indian meal. As a social discovery platform, Trabblr is known for hosting unique, small-group activities; and a dinner designed to stir travel memories seemed like a greatfit for the site!The pressure wason to make this eventas flavorful and fun as possible, but fortunately we had just come across GourmetItUp, a new startup that offers exclusive dining experiences across Mumbai. We quicklygave them a call to see if they could help us find the perfect spot and menu for this Indian-themed event… and boy, did they deliver!
From the start,GourmetItUp recommended Neel, a chic but often overlooked restaurant at Tote on the Turf in Mahalaxmithat serves up Indian grille cuisine inspired from the old Muslim Nawabi families of Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Kashmir. A few conversations and clicks later and the event,Indian Tastes and Travels at Neel,was ready for sign-ups on Trabblr.com.
After looking at the menu, I quickly became not just a coordinator of the event but also an excited participant. Though I rarely indulge in Indian cuisine(I am a weakling when it comes to spice!),I was so enticed by the promise of delicious food and interesting company that I opted to venture beyond my comfort zone and join in the fun.
My evening at Neel began with a friendly greeting from the host. He escorted me straight to the Trabblr table, a walk that involved passing by a warmly lit outdoor seating area. The Trabblrgroup opted for an indoor spot, and I was immediately struck by the cavernous and cozy feel of the restaurant’s interior. After taking my seat I was handed a custom GourmetItUp menu, which made the already warm setting feel even more personal and inviting.
Soon the other threeTrabblr members arrived and – as expected – they were a fun, well-traveled bunch. There was Deep, who – though having traveled extensively through Australia and Europe – has his eyes set on seeing more of India, his home country.Then there was Sherry, who recently moved back to Mumbai after working in the startup space in the States for a few years. She wants to travel up north. After introductions, conversation quickly gravitated towards everything travel. Various stories were told,ranging from crazy tales of Indian train rides to brazen attempts to sneak across the Swiss-French border!
We all gushed over the customNeelmenu, which included a complimentary cocktail, a three-course meal, and Indian breads and dal. We were equally enthused by the value – all this carried a price tag of just Rs. 1,200all inclusive!Wemade the decision early on to share each dish‘family style’, quadrupling the flavors and fun at every course.
To kick-start the meal, we ordered drinks– a glass of sangria, two caprioskas, and a mocktail. The drinks were well-made and arrived in good time.For the first course – a choice of shorba or kebab – we opted for jaitunikhumbtikka (mushrooms), paneertikka, murghmalai kali mirchtikka (black pepper chicken), and ajwainirawastikka (fish). The mushrooms had just the right pinch of heat, and the fish was cooked perfectly. The highlight for me, however, was the chicken. It was incredibly tender and moist, and as a mild dish, it certainly passed my spice test!
For the second course each guest had his or her choice of a curry or a biryani. We all opted for curries (Hersh tends to feel narcoleptic at just the sight of rice!) and shared two vegetarian and two non-vegetarian dishes. The sebkisabziwas particularly unique and tasty, with a deep, tangy red sauce covering slightly firm slices of cooked apple. The Hyderabadihaleemwas thick, flavorful, and simmered to perfection. Though tender and tasty, I unfortunately struggled with the heat of the murgh-e-khaas, a chicken dish cooked in a rich tomato-based gravy. The paneer offered a nice cool down to the course, which was also accompanied by a selection of Indian breads and dal. I passed on the black dal, which looked a little heavy with dollops of cream and ghee, but very much enjoyed the crunch and flavor of the tandoori rotis. The overall portions were quite large and we ended up packing half of the second course to go!
The third and final course included a selection of desserts. We ordered agrekailaichijamun, kesarirasmalai,Neel rabdiice-cream, and jalebi. I was particularly fond of the jalebi, which had a great crunch and a rabdito accompany it.
While my fellow Trabblrs and Iwere busy eating and swapping fun travel tales, thewaitstaffat Neel remained alert and attentive throughout the meal, refilling water glasses without prompting and clearing plates just in time to bring on the next course. Their recommendations were also on point, which further helped us to navigate our spice, rice, and veg / non-veg constraints!
For me, this event was a series of positive introductions:to the warmth and outstanding service at Neel; to the wonders of Indian cuisine; to the excellent team at GourmetItUp; and to the incredible travel experiences of fellow Trabblr members.It was a genuinely fun and fulfilling Friday night, and I look forward to keeping in touch with these newly-found friends and to visiting Neel and GourmetItUp.com again.
Author: Jennifer O’ Brien, Business Development, Trabblr
Try the GourmetItUp experience at Neel