It’s very hard to keep me away from Mangoes. Considering they make their hallowed appearance once a year and all the good ones are always exported – I always give them A-one priority on my list. So when Grand Mercure announced a Mango Festival (on till the 17th of May), where everything from drinks, appetizers, main course and dessert will be mango based, I was hard pressed to say yes. Considering the hotel is practically in my backyard, I even accepted a weekday invite. Anything for good mangoes I tell you!
A table under the stars was arranged for us (complete with organic mosquito repellent) and the blogger group got to work immediately. (By that I mean running around to find seats with the best lighting!). Drinks were ordered and we waited in anticipation of our first experience of the mango menu.
I ordered a Mango and Apricot Mojito and was pretty sure I made the best possible choice. The other options included a mango, rum and vanilla ice cream combo and the ever popular Aam Panna (non-alcoholic). The cocktail arrived and looked quite dashing under the lights, unfortunately it completely lacked punch. The apricot and mango pieces were floating around in the drink and it felt like they just poured in some alcohol and soda and called it a day. If they had just muddled the mango and apricot with some mint and got their flavor balance right – this drink could have rocked. For all my apprehension – the Aam Panna turned out to be great. Of course I requested for a shot of vodka on the side and tossed it into the drink. (Maybe they can offer this on the menu, yes?)
The Mango Caprese Salad is one of my favorite twists on the basic caprese salad. Come mango season and I pretty much do a mango, bocconcini and mint skewer for lazy lunches. So I was glad to see the chef dish out a beautifully plated version of the same. Plump slices of Alphonso mango served on a bed of rocket and lettuce accompanied by cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes and a soft ball of bocconcini dressed with balsamic reduction – the salad was a hit.
I was looking forward to the Mini Mango Poppadums’. The vegetarian option included falafel, mango and tzatziki while the non-vegetarian option included smoked chicken and mango. Both poppadums’ were dressed with micro greens and extra virgin olive oil. I preferred the vegetarian falafel version to the chicken. Somehow the texture of the fried falafel complimented the soft mango slices a lot more than the soft chicken. We all thought the salad as well as the poppadums’ could have used a little more seasoning to bring alive the flavors.
Raw mangoes – tangy, crunchy and a whole lot of fun. Asian cooking uses this in a lot of salads including the famous ‘Thai raw mango and papaya salad’ and the next offering seemed to take inspiration from there. We were served a Shrimp and Raw Mango salad with a soy chilli dressing. The shrimp was perfectly cooked and the salad was beautifully plated, but…..the dressing was hardly discernable. I requested for some extra dressing on the side and that seemed to do the trick. The dressing itself was a fabulous soy, peanut paste and chilli combination and I wondered why the chef had been miserly with it in the first place.
The salads instead of quelling our hunger just compounded it fourfold and we were rapacious by the time main course arrived. My first choice was the Grilled fish but since there were seven of us and six main courses on offer – we diligently ordered one of each, after promising to share!
The Grilled Fish with raw mango parsley piccada, roast baby potatoes and bean sprouts accompanied by mango tenders and coconut salsa sounded like a mouthful. I expected a veritable party on my plate but got something a lot less boisterous. The elements were all there – honestly, but when I took a bite, it didn’t seem to add up. So I checked (yes, I know it sounds obsessive!). Grilled Fish – one large fillet of basa – Check. Raw Mango Parsley piccada – green paste smeared on the fish – check. Roast Baby Potato – placed under fish – check. Bean sprouts – sprinkled over the fish – check. Mango Tenders and Coconut Salsa – in a circle around the fish – check. So in all fairness, the dish was complete but why didn’t I feel the magic? We then realized, the culprit was not in the addition but the deletion. By eliminating the sprouts (which honestly didn’t do ANYTHING for this dish), we were able to attain perfection. Quick rescue accomplished – check!
The Chicken breast stuffed with raw mango and mushrooms served with sweet potato mash and veggies in jus was a very well executed dish. The elements all came together and the portions were just right. If you want to play safe with just a hint of mango – this could be the dish for you.
The final non-vegetarian option, the Tenderloin steak with rock salt,olive oil baked potatoes, sautéed beans and mango jus sounded and looked divine. Unfortunately we could not even find a trace of the mango flavor and just for that, I would discount the dish.
The surprise package that night was the vegetarian main courses. The Thai Green vegetable curry with Mangoes was just what the doctor ordered on a rainy day. The spicy, tangy creamy curry is every spiceophiles (I’m sure the word exists) dream come true! Served with jasmine rice – it’s addictive and satisfying.
My eyes glazed over when I read about the Spinach, ricotta and Raw Mango Ravioliserved with mesclun greens in mango sauce. (*Mesclun – assorted small salad greens, originated in Provence). This was pure heaven on a plate. The mélange of the spinach, ricotta and the mango sauce is something I will definitely try to replicate at home! What concerned me however, was the portion size. Three ravioli is not what I would count as substantial for a main course. (Also at Rs.400/-++, it felt pricey). The chef assured us that this was tasting portions and if you ordered it off the menu you would be served five ravioli and this assuaged our skepticism. If what he said holds true – you must order this one. It won’t disappoint.
The Balsamic grilled Vegetables with Parmesan Mango Polenta and Pomegranate glaze was definitely a looker. But what set it apart was the beautifully cooked parmesan and mango polenta. I have always called Polenta the Mexican cousin of our ubiquitous Upma. Like an upma – you can either get it right or get it extremely, terribly wrong. This one was all things wonderful – soft, creamy, airy, buttery and tasty. And the mango, oh the mango that weaved itself into the polenta – just delightful with every bite. This got a repeat order and we wanted more at the end of it.
The day had to end with desserts. The Thai inspired Kaffir lime leaf crepe stuffed with fresh mangoes was the chef’s recommendation. The kaffir lime sauce is a great partner to the fresh mangoes but I would definitely put this in the ‘experimental taste bucket’. Some will like it and others will hate it. So go with your gut.
The Passion fruit and Mango Tart is a classic combination but with the addition of rosemary the chef aimed to bring something new. I liked it, yes, but wished the pastry was baked just a little more to get rid of the doughy feeling.
Finally we ended up with the Mango Panacotta with the Basil Raspberry Coulis. I find Panacottas boring – it’s like custard set with gelatin and hardly anyone makes it right. It’s either gloopy or hard and not wobbly which negates it being called a panacotta. This went into the gloopy bucket. But it tasted really good with the basil raspberry coulis and the pieces of fresh mango, that I forgave its identity crisis.
A clever child at the table asked the chef if she could get a plate of freshly sliced mangoes. ‘That would be all’, she decreed, and they could not resist her sweet request. The rest of us of course settled for the other desserts, though secretly wishing for a plate of the juicy mangoes ourselves!
Verdict – I don’t think anyone is doing anything adventurous with mangoes this season, so Grand Mercure deserves some praise for at least trying. Pairing fruit with savory dishes is quite a task and you can tell that they have put in a lot of effort to develop the special menu. The many disparate elements come together quite well on the plate and the salads and vegetarian main course can attest to that. And they do source a mean Alphonso Mango – so that gives them Brownie points in my book.
12thMain, 3rd Block,
Ph: +91 80 4512 1212
Parking: Valet available
Cost: Rs.2500/- ++ for a meal for two for the special menu.