You've got to hand it to Sanjay and Rachna Narang. First, they started Jazz By The Bay, adding a new dimension to the city's night life. Then, to fill the afternoons, they introduced a soup and salad buffet.
Also, I understand, they are shortly putting in a separate pasta bar. Next, and which is what this piece is about, at Three Flights Up, the big-beat nightclub on Apollo Bunder Road, above the Cottage Emporium, they have started what is the world's longest buffet.
It extends along the entire length of the club, a spread of three types of cuisines, Indian, Oriental and Continental, two onspot cooking stations, one for tava items and other for pastas, 32 main dishes (counting the pastas), three soups, four types of pickles, five types of papads, a collection of breads and rotis, four desserts. It costs Rs.199. No, that would not be correct, it costs Rs.220, with taxes. And, at twice that price, it would still be a bargain, provided you can eat all that food.
If you are not a disco man (woman), you may not know Three Flights Up. Let me explain. The dancing is only in the night, and later the night, the more the dancing, some of the best music in town, definitely the best deejay in the country.
In the afternoon, it is a lunch place (the long biffet), the music soft, making pleasant noises in the background, the lights reasonably bright. It is situated, as mentioned earlier, on Apollo Bunder Road, the road that passes between the old Council Hall and Regal Cinema and leads to the Gateway.
You enter a psychedellic passage, black granite and blue floor lights, and climb up three flights. Actually, it is two flights, and thank heavens for that. The buffet is along one side of the room, the tables and chairs, bar stools, along another, some 250 covers, plenty of room for everybody.
The executive chef is Justus Philip, I have introduced him earlier, in context with Jazz, some of his food is very imaginative, and his repertoire is vast, as it would be if he has to daily prepare the longest buffet in the world. There is a set of four menus, each totally different from the other, and it changes daily, so it follows that there is no circulation of food, the bane of buffets. Everything is prepared for the day.
Lunch is noon to 3.30. So, shall we begin? I shall talk about the lunch I had one afternoon this week. The three soups for the day, bubbling in their tureens, were cream of spinach, dal shorba (masoor and mung), and a Shangai seafood soup.
I considered between the Shangai and the shorba, then decided to have both. A steward helped me take my soups to the table. The Shangai was very lemony, plenty of lemon grass, I could both smell and taste it. The shorba was less exotic, more substance. You should decide whether you are going to concentrate on the Indian cuisine or Oriental, then decide on you soup.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in mixing, and you could even have all three (soup options on other days are sweet corn and chicken, mushrooms, tomato, manchow, rasam, mine-strone, prawn and noodle). But I suggest you go easy on the soup's there is plenty to eat.
Next to the soups, there were three salads, tossed green, cucumber and dill, and chicken and pineapple. And next to the salads was a chef making pasta.
Well, what he was doing was, he had the pasta parboiled, fettucini (my favourite), spaghetti and macaroni. He dipped my fettucini in boiling water, with a touch of olive oil, made it al dente, and put it on my plate. From the three sauces on offer, I decided on the cheese sauce. It was a good decision, I thought. Also, six garnishes were available, take your choice: crushed peppercorn, chopped mushroom, chilli flakes, green chilli, chopped spring onion, chopped red paprika.
In the Indian section, it was my lucky afternoon. It was Goa fish curry day, the curry cooked the authentic style, with Goa vinegar, chunky pieces of pomfret. Between plain rice and jeera pulao, I chose the plain rice, naturally. The curry was nice and hot, not five-star bland.
Chef Philip should keep it that way. (I understand, on other days they have mutton biryani and murgh malai korma). The day I was there, with the fish curry there was bhuna gosht, and, for vegetarians, kadai mushroom, bhindi churrchuri, fried crisp and dry, and dahi aloo. There was also a tawaji, standing at a tawa, and making tawa murg. The tawa is the piece de resistance of the buffet, on various days it tawas kheema parathas, kheema paus, chicken katti kabab rolls.
Note, except for the single large bone when they serve the nalli gosht, the meat is boneless at Three Flights Up.
By now I had reached mid-way of the buffet table. I will rush through the Oriental section: chicken in hot garlic sauce, fish in oyster sauce, cauliflower manchurian, stirfried vegetables, vegetable hakka noodles, schezwan vegetable fried rice.
The Continental section included paprika chicken and fish orly, which was pomfret fried in a batter of milk and refined flour. The buttered vegetables and mashed potatoes looked particularly attractive, but by then I had had enough. The desserts ranged from gajjar halwa to lemon souffle, ice creams and fresh fruits. Total: Rs.220, all inclusive. VFM.
I do not know where they store such a long table, but in the night the buffet table is removed for the dancers. The menu is a la carte, and, though grilled food dominates, it has some interesting items. Favourites among the bar snacks include what are known as Maharaja Wings, which are chicken winglets, with the skin, marinated and cooked in the tandoor (Rs.100). Grilled jumbo prawns (Rs.150), cottage cheese sauteed in Schezuan sauce, and Rolly Polly Potatoes, which are your batata wadas in a bun.
I suggest you ask for Mainly Murg, it is chicken kebab, cooked on the seekh, but the seekh is removed in the kitchen, just before serving, and creamy cheese is piped into the hole that it leaves behind. The result is both meaty and cheesy, and the meat seems to be all the more tender because of it.
The rotis and dal makhani come free with the main course. Both the fish dishes are meaty and worth trying: a moist barbequed boneless fish, mildly spiced and with mint chutney, and a braised pomfret with mint and green chillis, and salad on side.
The grilled lamb chops come with mashed potatoes, and the pork chops are smothered in apple sauce and come with parsley potatoes. The pork is Mafco. There's a tenderloin steak, served with green pepper sauce and jacket potato. The rest is chicken and almost everything is Rs.150. Grilled breasts with rosemary sauce, grilled leg with RBI sauce, chicken with homous, chicken in yoghurt, with ginger. The chef's special is a burger made of 100 gms of meat and 20 gms.of kidney fat, with cellery, chillis, coriander, charcoal grilled and served on a bun. The chef says it is a combination of East and West.
For desserts, do not look beyond the steaming hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream. When god created both heat and cold, he had a purpose. And for drinks, the range moves from an original coke float to peach daiquiris.
I recommend Three Flights Up. Lunch or dinner depends on the kind of person you are.