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If you have grown up in Mumbai, then chances are you have frequented the Shamiana at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The nostalgic restaurant has been home to many joyous occasions and memorable meals and is very popular with hotel guests as well as local diners since its inception in 1973. This 24-hour coffee shop that has been a favourite for generations went into a bit of a revamp and has just opened its doors and reintroduced itself once again.
The new Shamiana has shifted its spot and moved to its original location in the lobby area, close to the Nalanda bookstore. Incidentally, the famous bookstore was also launched in 1973 to sort of complement the Shamiana as, at that time, reading was not the lost art it seems to be today and bookstores were slightly fashionable. The Shamiana has now morphed into an exquisite and all-day dining restaurant.
With classy chic décor including beautiful glass chandeliers and a wall full of elegant framed black and white photographs, the restaurant looks dramatically different from what it used to be. There is a small private dining table amid their wine library for guests to enjoy a quieter meal, as it can get a tad bit noisy when its house full. There is a pretty courtyard with open-air seating and, on a crisp clear day when the weather behaves itself, it is wonderful to be seated outdoors.
The menu is not cuisine centric and instead offers a wide choice of dishes from various cuisines and countries. From casual comfort food to wholesome meals, including some very interesting cocktails, the idea is to come and enjoy a leisurely meal with family or friends. There is an interesting section on the menu that they call the ‘Taj Autograph Collection’, which has signature dishes from chefs at the Taj properties world over. An absolute stellar dish of this particular Autograph Collection is the Fish Exotica from the Taj Exotica in the Maldives, which is a superb coconut-milk-based curry full of seafood and served with rice. It is one of the highlights of the menu.
The real USP of this new Shamiana – apart from the change in décor and menu – is their unique price point. In a bid to draw in an audience that can enjoy more at a competitive price, nothing on their new menu is priced above Rs 1,000. In fact, they pride themselves on the fact that everything is in triple digits, which means the most expensive thing will be Rs 999. The only exception to this rule is, of course, if you buy international wine or liquor and some of their sharing cocktails. The emphasis here is on ‘sharing’ because they are served in huge bowls and are meant for a table of three or more. When you divide the price of the sharing bowl, it still fits into their triple digit rule. Apart from that, they also do not levy service charge. This is not to be mistaken with service tax – all standard government taxes apply as usual – but there is no mandatory service charge; it is entirely up to the guest should they wish to tip their servers. This price point is very unlike a five-star luxury property and it will be interesting to see how it plays out, as they are now as expensive as popular neighbourhood stand-alone restaurants. While everyone seems to enjoy the new look and menu, there seems to be various thoughts on this new price point. Some feel that a luxury property needs to maintain a certain standard and price so as to not attract a certain crowd, while others warmly welcome the change.
The fact remains that the new Shamiana has created quite a buzz and, as far as interesting new restaurants in the city go, this one seems to tick all the right boxes.