Each month the OCC holds court in a new restaurant to cast its critical eye across their offerings, it holds court to enjoy the wonder and love of all things Indian and curry… and so the OCC headed towards Mumbai Darbar in high anticipation to hold court at the “Royal Court of Mumbai”.
Mumbai Darbar is the newly launched North Indian Restaurant and Bar by friends Sulliman Ali and Negi Bijandra. You may know Sulliaman from his 15 years of supplying Shanghai’s finest gentlemen with suits, for now though he is focusing on Darbar. The restaurant is located in West Shanghai, forming part of the food court offerings at Xingfanfhui Plaza.
The restaurant is located inside one of China’s many modern plazas which sparkle elegantly as you enter, as you ascend through the floors to reach Darbar a myopic dystopia of darkness clouds your vision though. Sparkles are replaced by quite, dark floors, somewhat similar to a Peterborough industrial estate, and so on the 3rd floor the OCC hesitated in what felt like a large scale petri dish as we tried to locate our Darbar. As hope was fading, there in the corner a light appeared, barely showing itself at first, then flickering, growing stronger enticing curry enthusiasts. Like a president to UV light we moved slowly, gaining confidence with each step, brighter, lighter, moving faster and then at hast, until we finally made it. The OCC were outside a very bright Mumbai Darbar.
The restaurant has a feel of simple hawker center with easy access to a refrigerator full of drinks and a kitchen poking meals though an open hatch. The white décor magnifies the lighting, with three paintings illustrating the social side of Indian culture brightly adorning one wall and a TV set perched high upon another mixing songs and movies as if you in KTV room with Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan. These are observations not criticisms, the restaurant is exactly what it is; a simple, social place to sit down and enjoy your food. You can do this with your favourite Bollywood stars and a healthy supply of drinks within reaching distance – this is ideal for many enthusiasts, yet basic. The atmosphere score was 5.2.
So let’s get to the heart of any restaurant; the kitchen. Swirling around like a possessed dervish is the co- owner Negi Bijandra who produces a large variety of Northern Indian cuisine at a quick pace. The menu doesn’t stray from the standard path yet there is an excellent balance of spice in the ingredients. This spice is not over powering yet it is there and appreciated given the shyness to spice by other chefs in the city
Our starters were three classics; Onion Bharij, vegetarian Samosas and a Tandoori Chicken. All good. The Tandoori was meaty and spicy, it impressed out of the three. Onwards to our main dishes; a Saag Panner which was very green and tasty, a fatty Lamb Rogan Josh which offered an undercurrent of spice and promise, a chicken Tikka Masala, and a watery yellow dal which split the members’ views. The chef’s speciality is a ginger lamb chop with a Kashmiri naan, the juicy lamb is grilled on charcoal. No one dish stood out although the Panner was the favourite amongst of the members. All of these were accompanied with an oily naan, Lacha Prattle, and rice the later arriving after the main dish. The quality score was 5.6.
The single chef waiter team supported our group providing meals and plenty of drinks. It is simple and effective and provides an authentic experience. Their customer service and customer care were both 5.9. The value score came in at 7.2 reflecting the OCC’s appreciation for a value deal.
Mumbai Darbar will not be a CHOTY winner, it probably doesn’t want to be, it is though, your local curry house with some flavoursome dishes at reasonable prices and thus decent value. The Royal Court of Mumbai perhaps achieves what it aims; you’ll be fed, watered and looked after in a simple and authentic environment. The unanswered question is, will it become a Royal Court of activity, time will tell.
Although not OCC approved this time, a few improvements could change this, we welcome Mumbai Darbar to Shanghai’s curry scene and wish them all the best