Restaurant Review: La Mar, European But With An Indian Heart

The newest restaurant by Zorawar Kalra re-imagines, albeit loosely, European dishes with rustic muscularity and local ingredients. Watch out for live acts and musical nights

Published On Apr 04, 2024 | Updated On Apr 04, 2024


Whether you’re after some wholesome Italian, tantalising Mexican, sensational Asian or good old regional Indian, there are plenty of new restaurants worthy of your time and moolah in Mumbai. Adding to the litter of new restaurants in the city is La Mar (Spanish for ‘The Sea’) Zorawar Kalra’s ambitious new project that combines food with entertainment. 


I enter La Mar through a plant lined alfresco dotted with playful cabanas into a dining room humming with the chatter of families and friends. Spread across 18,000 sq. ft., La Mar is divided into three distinct zones. While the ground floor is marked for alfresco dining, the first floor decked out with curved walls and dancing lanterns is reserved for fine dining. A raised platform here has been marked for live acts and musical nights. A calligraphy strewn spiral stairway leads to a high octane bar upstairs for tapas and drinks. 


This is the official party space. La Mar is set in the iconic National Sports Club of India (NSCI) and has quickly become the ‘go-to’ place for its members who are serenaded with a 20 percent discount. The ambitious multi-level restaurant is the brainchild of High Bliss Hospitality, a JV between Percept, real estate developers Panchshil and serial restaurateur Zorawar Kalra of Farzi Café and Masala Library fame. 


La Mar in a way re-imagines European dishes with locally sourced ingredients. “While there are many modern European restaurants in Mumbai, we set ourselves apart by the use of local ingredients. So the olives we use are sourced from Rajasthan, the cheeses come from a local fromagerie like Eleftheria and Spotted Cow, chocolate from Mason & Co, and miso from Brown Koji Boy. Even the breads are craved from a mix of refined flour and locally ground atta,” says executive chef Mehul Sabharwal who suggests we kick off the evening with a string of tapas. 

The crispy potato stacks topped with Parmesan cream

A plate of calamari fritters freshened by togarashi dusted lemon wedge makes for a thrilling starter. The squids enrobed in a golden crust are tender and not grease-heavy or rubbery. A light drizzle of lemon juice is enough to make them sing. 

The crispy potato stacks topped with Parmesan cream make strong impressions, too. Sabharwal uses high in starch Talegaon potatoes which allow the layers to stick to each other naturally. Joyfully, both tapas are the perfectly balanced combination of home cooking with a luxurious twist. Next to come are the lightly grilled Jaipur olives bathed in warm olive oil and served with toasted cranberry sourdough. They make for the perfect savoury accompaniment for the cocktails. It's actually impossible to stop eating them. 

Yellowfin tuna ceviche 

By this time I realise that most of the tapas I have piled on come cloaked in a calorie-laden puffer jacket (read deep fried). So I correct that by ordering from the raw plates. Yellowfin tuna ceviche comes highly recommended by executive chef Yalcin Kaya a Turkish with stints in Russia, Dubai and Qatar. The ponzu and truffle oil bath perfectly coats the fish for freshness and flavour. Cubes of alphonso mango add an unexpected twist. 

Non-fish-eaters can try the watermelon tartare with chili, lime and cilantro. The humblest dish that stole my heart was a plate of silky hummus with a puddle filled with freshly sliced onions, olives and roasted aubergines (inspired by a dish that Kaya ate in Israel). It's a dish that delivers a rib-squeezing hug of warmth. 

Hummus and pita

But things quickly went downhill from there. Like the tenderloin carpaccio that died under the weight of balsamic, truffle oil and parmesan crisps to the point of no resurrection. The lamb chops surrender most of its juices to the grill and come with limp bok choy and a mash that lacks the anticipated creamy richness. Even the flat breads which seemed to be flying across the restaurant tables are too salty even for me, someone who often claims that the world is chronically under seasoned. 

Smoked Mackerel

La Mar also has legions of directionless staff, armies of managers wobbling about managing nothing. The servers are the chatty sort who were probably hired more for their energy than their polish, which is fine to a point; technical finesse is easier to teach than genuine warmth. But what annoys me are waiters over-zealously enquiring about my meal, sometimes even before my fork has moved from plate to mouth. Paying attention to diners is a good thing; hovering and interrupting, when guests are clearly engaged with one another, is annoying. Overall? La Mar is charming, but a tad unpredictable. Maybe like certain vintages, this one will make more sense if it is given time to develop. 

Address: NSCI, Lala Lajpatrai Marg, Lotus Colony, Worli, Mumbai
Meal for two: INR 4000 with a drink each
Timings: 12pm-1am
Note: Children below 12 years of age not allowed

Photo: Featured Restaurant; Nivedita Jayaram Pawar