How big a foodie are you?
For most foodies, this question challenges their foodieness, tests their very existence as foodies, and gets reactions that range from scratching their heads to a hurried rant to an incredulous ‘You’re joking, right?’
I am not here to tell you the answer – you have to figure this one out all by yourself But when looking for examples of people passionate about food, a few stood out amongst all those I have met on the Eaten Path and I’m going to talk about one such person and his pet food project here.
He’s called Atirek, which means surplus or abundance. And what he has in abundance is a passion for all kinds of food, a desire to experiment with taste and a will to follow his foodie heart into creating a place that pampers the taste buds of fellow foodies. So off he went to a B-school abroad to hone his young ambitions and smart ideas and came back to Mumbai to launch his dream restaurant, Apicius.
Sounds like Greek and Latin? It is… well, almost!
Apicius is an ancient text on gourmet food and luxurious living from around the 4th century AD, considered the first cookbook ever! So all those who thought cooking was invented by Cordon Bleu, think again! This bible of cooking existed long, long ago, and was compiled by a roly-poly Roman guy, who loved his food and all good things in life, and yes, probably looked a lot like one of the gourmand Romans depicted in the Asterix comics!
But the Apicius here in Mumbai is neither ancient, nor a caricature. It’s a sprawling restaurant and lounge nesting atop a high-rise in the busiest entertainment hub of Mumbai. With its soft colours and graceful chandeliers, this place offers a sober, classy comfort unlike most other flashy and loud eateries in the neighbourhood. Between Atirek’s wild foodie adventures and Chef Gomes’ vast culinary experiences at reputed city restaurants, they have put together a Mediterranean menu with an Italian slant, and somehow managed to keep the prices nice and low!
Of the various dishes on the menu, some items made an impression with their portion size, while others stood out for their clever flavor infusions. The Mezze Platter is definitely one to try, with Fresh Pita bread served with heaps of Tabbouleh, Mutabal, Labneh, Hummous and a handful of Falafals. The Pizza options here may be limited, but the Pasta options are quite varied and fulfill pretty much every pasta whim in terms of shape, sauce, flavours and add-ons. But the one that really stands out is the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli in a Walnut Mascarpone Sauce – fresh, creamy, and beautifully balanced, this one’s a winner! For entrees, the Pork Fillet in Sage and Mushroom, and the Porcini Risotto are nice but can do with a bit more punch.
For dessert, the Baklava is a revelation – delicate, flaky, rich and stuffed with nuts, it demands seconds… a rare achievement considering I don’t even LIKE Baklava!
For those interested more in guzzle than munch, the pub here is one of the few places in the country that serves up your favourite cocktails in Vegas-style yard glasses. Apart from making the fun linger on through the night, these really tall and colourful glasses are really cool things to be seen or clicked with! Speaking of fun, on the day we dined there, a Twilight Bazaar was set up where you could find quaint stuff like Nail Rings (yes, you wear it around your nail, not finger, who would have thought??) and foldaway sunglasses and chubby laughing Buddhas and aromatic soaps that look like delicious puddings… even a mysterious tarot reader! Very entertaining!
This, then, is the story of Atirek - a foodie who dreamed of satiating the insatiable appetites of food-lovers, at a place of his own. With no hospitality or culinary expertise, going through many months of very hard work and many hours of really tough negotiations (gathering ALL 52 permits for a new restaurant in Mumbai is no joke!), he has fought terrible odds to launch his dream project and is now running it successfully, in a cut-throat city like Mumbai.
So…. What would YOU do make your foodie dream come true?