At Karan Johar's Neuma, It's All About Loving Your Tastebuds
Image Credit: Facebook/@neumaindia

NEUMA, Karan Johar's restaurant in Colaba, South Mumbai, is reflective of the man himself: It's as ritzy as his social media persona, but also as familiar and comforting as the cinema he creates. An evening at Neuma entails sensory pyrotechnics followed by a deep-seated, lasting satiety, akin to watching a rerun of a good ol' movie by the man himself.

Opened in place of the iconic Indigo in a quaint Colaba street behind The Taj Mahal Palace, Neuma occupies a repurposed colonial bungalow, where there's a room for every mood (courtesy design maven Ashiesh Shah). There's The Garden Cafe if you want to sit outside under a mango tree, greeted by the Mumbai sea breeze. There's the Sun Porch, which is for anyone who'd want the best of both worlds — the cosy warmth of filtered sunlight and the comfort of air-conditioned seating. 

One of the most fascinating parts of Neuma is the Courtyard. It's designed for people watching — given that you're in a South Mumbai restaurant owned by arguably the most sociable filmmakers of our times, there's meant to be celeb-spotting, and star-gazing if you're lucky. Next to it is the Rose Bar, a romantic corner with tinted light and velvet sofas, transporting you to one of those intimate yet grand dream sequences in Johar's films.

For those who just want to enjoy a quiet dinner, there are several other options — Blanc and Verde downstairs, and Bawa plus Nautica Room upstairs. The last is a blue-and-white themed space, adorned by model boats collected from all over India. The ships on its shelves and its walls not only establish the seaside setting and the history of the area Neuma inhabits, but also encapsulate the beating heart of the filmmaker — vintage and always on-the-go.

The brand-new cocktail menu launched this year — “From Bombay to the World and Back” — is conceptualised around the various escapades of Johar and his fellow co-owners. There's an adventure in every concoction, but as characteristic of the filmmaker, there's also a lingering aftertaste of homecoming. Try their zesty and slick Highlife Diva, a refreshing mix of gin and kaffir lime that conceptually connects the skylines of Bombay Reclamation and Hong Kong. Or try A Tale of Two Peaks (Bombay-Worli Sea Link and Golden Gate Bridge), a balanced yet potent mix of mezcal, seaweed and galangal shrubs, angostura bitters, and orange zest. 

For those who prefer something smooth and tropical, there's Rizz Baby, a spiritual marriage between Marine Drive and Great Ocean Drive, California; it’s made of kokum, coconut-infused rum, pineapple juice, and lemongrass syrup. There's also the very aptly-titled Time Flies, which marks the ethereal union of Rajabai Clock Tower and the Big Ben. It is both earthy and effervescent, with jalapeno-infused reposado, agave syrup, citric acid and soda. 

And when it’s Johar we’re speaking of, can cinema and music be far behind? Clayman's Song combines tamarind-infused whisky, clove syrup and tincture from the terroir of Regal Cinema, with sweet vermouth, citric acid and angostura bitters from the Radio City Music Hall, New York. Finally, as Some Like It French, they could sip on this eponymous cocktail (a floral and flavourful mash-up of a lavender infusion, cardamom syrup, grapefruit juice, and sage leaf) thereby bridging the mystic gap between Gateway of India and l’Arc de Triomphe.

If you're mentally exhausted after all the mixological globetrotting, sit back and enjoy the delectable food. For non-vegetarians, there's the extremely tender BBQ Belgian Pork Belly and the rich Pan Seared Fish. Options for vegetarians are aplenty as well, and my recommendation would be the melt-in-mouth Truffle Baked Brie in crispy phyllo dough. Since Chef Hitesh Shanbag insisted I try the Ras El Hanout marinated chicken, I asked him if he could offer the vegetarian counterpart of that. He obliged, and I must admit that paneer never tasted better.

This culinary malleability to customise their classics as per the customer's preference is also what makes Neuma stand out. They go out of their way to make you own their dishes. It again circles back to the Johar-esque spirit that they're steeped in — there's something new and comforting for everyone. And it's all about loving your tastebuds.

At Garden Chalet, 4/6, Mandlik Rd, near Regal Cinema, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai. Call 070314 93333 for reservations.


(Neuma interior shots courtesy Atelier Ashiesh Shah, by Ashish Sahi. Food and drink images via Facebook/neumaindia)