It’s barely 7:30 on a Tuesday evening but Gigi on Bandra’s Linking Road is already buzzing with people waiting to get past the glass door. The valet is grappling with multiple abandoned cars while the hostess is struggling to read from the reservation list in the dimly-lit foyer. Barely a few days after opening, Gigi already seems to be luring in the fashionable Bandra crowd. But I can’t say I was totally surprised. Gigi comes from serial restauranteurs—Pawan Shahri, Dhaval Udeshi and Nikita Harisinghani—known for creating beautiful food and hospitality ventures (Eve in Powai, Kyma in BKC, and Demy in Lower Parel). For this particular venture they have partnered with Afsana Verma, and at 6000 sq ft, spread over two levels, Gigi is apparently the group’s biggest and grandest yet.
Reservations sorted, I am whooshed up a flight of stairs inundated with an army of posers. Understandably so. The swirling staircase is lit with softly glowing candles and accessorised with exposed brick walls, vintage frames, gilded mirrors, and ‘Gigi periodicals’. It’s the sort of stuff that can set your Instagram on fire. Gigi has been designed by co-founder Nikita Harisinghani into an architectural dreamscape.
There are chandeliers dripping crystal, moody lighting, and timber accents everywhere. It’s glamourous but in a lived-in, subdued way. Two private dining rooms and a glitzy island bar in the centre complete the picture. Gigi feels like an astutely put-together home of a wealthy, well-travelled person with impeccable taste.
Food matters and so does aesthetics. The menu straddles Japanese and European cuisines and even brings them together for some dishes. I start with Burrata ala Citron a pleasing salad high on summer exuberance, grapefruit, and candied walnuts. The ultra-creamy, rich, and smooth, burrata adds a touch of luxury to the simple salad.
The visually trippy salmon and tuna ceviche jolts my palate with its punchy orange and chilli marinade. Pizzas seemed to be a hot favourite among diners gauging by the speed at which the pies were flying from the kitchen. Thick and delightfully blistered they come with all sorts of toppings from artichoke to chorizo, prawns, and even fried nori sheets. But the stars on the menu are the meticulously crafted sushi. Chef Beena Noronha who helms the kitchen at Gigi uses two types of vinegar which makes the rice perfectly savoury and sticky with just a hint of sweetness. The stuffing includes everything from crispy tofu to tempura fried enoki, salmon, and soft shell crabs. I highly recommend the Dragon Roll which packs a prawn tempura with avocado, habanero sauce, and sriracha. It’s easy to eat a dozen and not realise it. Most of the dishes at Gigi have the ‘phone-eats-first’ visual sense. They are almost too pretty to eat. Flavouring is gentle but decisive across the board.
At Gigi, the drinks impress too. Meanwhile, the drinkers in my midst approve of the cocktails, most of which smack of having been shaken and stirred by a serious mixologist–in this case Fay Barretto. The drinks are backed with some heavy-duty research and span different eras from the pre-dawn to the prohibition, speakeasy culture, and molecular mixology. Particularly interesting is a Murakami-inspired Japanese cocktail that blends butter-washed whisky with basil. Another cocktail Spirited Away features white rum infused with slow-cooked pandan and toasted rice. Eclectic touches on classics such as a Bloody Mary rustled up with miso, negroni blended with umeshu and a clarified Piña Colada tossed with lemongrass take the drinks from mundane to magical. Barretto even makes the sodas, natural sweeteners, tinctures, and bitters in-house.
For mains, Noronha suggested a Purple Potato Gnocchi. The dish had the makings of a hit (soft, pillow-light pasta with no doughiness or raw floury taste) but a heavy hand with butter overwhelmed the textural beauty of the little potato logs and delicate flavours of the pumpkin puree it nestled on. After a few spoonfuls, the buttery creaminess starts to cloy. Also the quantity - so petite that if you make it your main course you will be rummaging through your refrigerator for a late-night snack.
But solace was found in a bowl of piping hot ramen studded with fried chicken, bean sprouts and pickled egg, and a judiciously sweetened chocolate mousse.
On my way out I wait patiently while a couple tries to get the perfect shot on the swirling staircase. This time I give in to temptation and pose for a picture amidst the glow of candles. You should too!
Address: Gigi, next to Tim Hortons, Supreme Headquarters, Near Link Square Mall, 14th & 33rd Road, Linking Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
Price for two: Rs 2,500 (without alcohol)