You don’t need a map to find Nksha, Churchgate’s newest fine-dining restaurant that opened only a few days ago. Located on the ground floor of Rehmat Manzil, diagonally opposite Churchgate station and around hundred metres from Marine Drive, Nksha is part of a neighbourhood steeped in the history of the city. North Indian influences suffuse the food, drinks, interiors and more. But it also aims to bring back the charm associated with the fine-dining culture of Bombay in the ’50s and ’60s. The restaurant is the latest offering by culinary duo Pranav M. Rungta and Chef Vikram Arora (of Churchgate Hospitality Private Limited), who are also behind Tamak in Santacruz, Zao Cha House in Bandra and Sforno in Worli.
The location provides much charm, but the ambience is also quick to transport you to a different time and place. The dome motifs and rose gold accents reminded us of Rajasthani architecture. But the lavishness was uniquely understated, which is meant to hint at an influence from the Art Deco style, we were told. On the menu, we spotted authentic North Indian dishes as well as experimental versions of a few. The cocktail list featured drinks proudly inspired by the northern states, their heritage as well as natural bounty. We could not wait to get started.
Slightly heated mini kachoris were served as an amuse-bouche, which prepared our palates for the rich treats to follow. Before we came to more authentic appetisers, we were introduced to a Truffle, Cheese and Mushroom Kulcha. Served in the form of small, stuffed semi-circles, this starter was one of the highlights of our evening. Adorned with freshly grated white truffles on top, the kulcha was a divine combination of all three flavours in its name. The moments spent savouring it were pure bliss.
Next, we had the opportunity to try three experimental ‘Chaat’ items. The presentation of the Burrata Chaat made it almost reminiscent of a crown: baby burrata served on a tart base layered with hari chutney and tomato ki launji. We felt the base should have been softer, but otherwise, it didn’t disappoint. We also tasted the Norwegian Raw Salmon Chaat with jamun sirka, mirchi, peanut crunch and nimbu cheel. The addition of peanuts was a smart nod to usual chaat items. Our favourite, however, was the Chandni Chowk “Dahi Bhalla Papri Chaat,” containing an unusual ingredient: berries. We were fascinated by this addition, and the chef revealed that the inspiration behind this dish was the trend of yoghurt and smoothie bowls. To our surprise, the combination actually worked: with the berries providing the tangy hit usually given by tomatoes or tamarind in chaat.
Among the appetisers, a classic reigned supreme. We are still relishing the memories of the Shahjanabadi AKA “Old Delhi” Paneer Tikka. Seasoned with brown onion, garlic and yellow chilli, this tikka was yellowish rather than reddish in colour. Although cooked twice – once in the tandoor and later in a pan – the paneer retained its creamy softness to a delightful degree. More melt-in-the-mouth appetisers were to follow: a pan-fried Beetroot Shammi Kebab with a refreshing mouthfeel and a Porcini and Button Mushroom Galouti Kebab with kewra, rose petals and cream cheese. While delicious in its own right, it seemed slightly similar to the kulcha we tried earlier. Given a choice, we would opt for the kulcha. The Highway Chicken Tikka, cooked in mustard oil, bore a classic red colour. It was a bit tart to taste, without being overly spicy, which we were grateful for.
Mixologist Varun Sudakar has ingeniously curated the cocktails at Nksha. The signature ones pay homage to the flavours, ingredients, cooking practices as well as artistic styles of North India. We first tried the Hawa Mahal cocktail with rose-infused vodka and cold-pressed pomegranate juice. The lovely colour of the cocktail was truly reminiscent of the Pink City and the eponymous monument. The citrus was a tad overpowering, but the flavours were promising. We also sipped on The Foothill, made using Kashmiri lavender-infused gin, apple juice and kawa syrup. It was pleasing to get the hint of kawa as well as apple in a cocktail – and we were briefly transported to the Himalayas. We also liked the Desi Ghee cocktail – the name certainly caught our eye. Made using ghee-washed rum, umeshu, bitters and thumps up, the drink had a warming quality one could only associate with ghee! The mixologist explained that the cocktail was meant to reflect the culinary practices of North India – hence the addition of ghee as well as charred lime as garnish. Apart from options like these, one can also choose to pair their meal with classic cocktails, wines and non-alcoholic coolers.
Before we moved on, we feasted on sticks of jamun kulfi with black salt. It was meant to be a palate cleanser, but the richness of the jamun (and the absence of any sort of diluting ingredients) made it a treat in itself. We then prepared ourselves for the main course. An interesting discovery among the vegetarian dishes was the Rajasthani Gulab Jamun Ki Sabzi. The curd-based gravy with ginger, onion, coriander and hing bore small pieces of the popular sweet dish, and the result was quite satisfying. For a spicier option, we went with the Kacchi Mirch Ka Paneer with bhavnagari chillies and an onion-tomato gravy. We also liked the Daryaganj Chicken Changezi, which had a slightly similar gravy base and tender pieces of boneless chicken. However, this time again, a simple classic won our hearts: Dal Nksha. This is the restaurant’s version of dal makhani (or kali dal), containing onion, tomatoes, kasturi methi, but no garlic. Their flavours were very much present, along with the comforting creaminess of the dal preparation. To scoop it up, we had a tokri of rotis and naans to choose from.
The desserts, like the ambience, were exquisite but not overpowering. The Brioche Shahi Tukda had a subtle hint of pistachio and rose, and was luxuriously soft to dig into. The Mirchi Ka Halwa, made using capsicum and bhavnagari chillies, was just slightly sweet and boasted a vibrant green colour. No spiciness of course, but an interesting flavour for a halwa nonetheless. What we really enjoyed was the Coin Jalebi Rabri: mini circles of jalebis served semi-submerged in a rich rabri. The jalebis had a distinctive saffron flavour and were playfully crisp to taste.
Nksha impressed us with its ability to deftly balance theatrics with simplicity. It stayed true to its roots but also managed to show us a new way of appreciating dishes we have enjoyed all our lives. Complemented by its innovative cocktails and royal ambience, it promises a holistic fine dining experience in this beloved corner of the city.
Where: Nksha, ADCB Rehmat Manzil, 1A / 1B, Veer Nariman Rd, Churchgate, Mumbai.
When: 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 12 a.m.